Click on a report title to read its summary and to access the report itself.
A report of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association
Summary: The New Orleans justice system had long-standing, pre-existing systemic deficiencies that were unmasked and accentuated by the catalyst Katrina. Pre-Katrina, the public defense system in New Orleans was not required to adhere to any national, state or local standards of justice resulting in public defenders handling too many cases, with insufficient support staff, practically no training or supervision, experiencing undue interference from the judiciary, all the while compromising their practices by working part-time in private practices to augment their inadequate compensation. NLADA concludes that the problems of New Orleans' public defense system cannot be fixed within the boundaries of the parish itself. Long lasting reform will necessarily take comprehensive statewide legislative action. The current indigent defense crisis is inextricably linked to the right to counsel struggles of Avoyelles, East Baton Rouge, Calcasieu or Caddo Parish. To uniformly fix all these crises, NLADA recommends changes to how the indigent defense services are administered and funded and offers a strategic plan to ensure accountability and protect fairness in Louisiana's criminal courts.
Click here to read A Strategic Plan to Protect Fairness.
A report of the American Bar Association
Summary: In 1963, the United States Supreme Court rendered one of its most important criminal justice decisions, holding that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution guarantee that counsel be provided to indigent persons accused of a crime in state felony proceedings. Forty years after that historic decision, this report by the American Bar Association examines whether this country has realized the noble ideal articulated in Gideon. The report spends considerable attention on a sample of states, including Louisiana. Findings include: Indigent defense in the United States remains in a state of crisis, resulting in a system that lacks fundamental fairness and places poor persons in constant risk of wrongful conviction; Judges and elected officials often exercise undue influence over indigent defense attorneys, threatening the professional independence of the defense function; Efforts to reform indigent defense systems have been most successful when they involve multi-faceted approaches and representatives from a broad spectrum of interests; Model approaches to providing quality indigent defense services exist in this country, but those models are often not adequately funded and cannot be replicated elsewhere absent sufficient financial support.
Click here to read Gideon's Broken Promise.
A report of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Summary: In direct violation of the state and federal constitutions, Louisiana government (both state and local) has constructed a disparate system that fosters systemic ineffective assistance of counsel due primarily to inadequate funding and a lack of independence from political interference. These two main systemic deficiencies produce numerous ancillary problems including a lack of oversight, training and supervision of those entrusted with the defense of the poor. When combined with the crushing caseloads public defenders are forced to carry, these factors prevent the state from securing justice for all, protecting the peace, and promoting the general welfare of its people.
Click here to read In Defense of Public Access to Justice.