Louisiana's public defender's office is largely nonexistent so poor people just plead guilty


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/05/15/a-failure-to-communicate.html


#2

Working as intended?


#3


#4

Even where the system isn’t underfunded - I’ll leave this here (Wisconsin defense atty. talking about the system as he sees it) (emphasis my own)

Maybe. These are big cases, so you might be right. And my longest trial only lasted 5 days. (Probably 98 percent of cases last under a week.) But in my experience, the state has all of the lawyers, paralegals, secretaries, “experts,” and other resources to try any case. I’ve never seen the government concerned about money or resources. Its power is just too vast. Your thinking is logical, but may not be applicable in this case.


#5

Here In Houston TX, a federal judge ruled that County misdemeanor courts had to start releasing poor inmates who are in jail because they can’t afford the bail. The 5th Circuit stayed her injunction, unfortunately.


#6

The only surprising thing about this, to me, is that it took until now for someone to take Louisiana to court over how they underfund their defense attorneys.


#7

That right there is happening in the “greatest country in the world”


#8

“Healthcare is a right”
“Healthcare can’t be a right because you can’t compell doctors to work.”
“We have a right to an attorney, how is that possible?”
“Good point. We need to get rid of that attorney thing.”


#9

Can’t you contest that you are not getting a fair and speedy trial?


#10

Having a lawyer helps with such things.


#11

So the TGOP is doing their best to turn Kansas and Louisiana into the perfect Conservative paradises


#12

This is where rights either succeed or fail, and they are failing.

Jim Jeffries had a joke that Americans like to talk about freedom, but they have the highest incarceration rate. So statistically, it’s actually the least free country. I don’t know how people can live in and vote for this horror show.


#13

It’s not really a choice for most of us.


#14

What about handling your own defense? Normally not a good idea, but in the absence of alternatives. Or are the judges in on the system so they give harsher sentences just to discourage that sort of initiative?


#15

As seen in Mad Max films.


#16

The inability of people to effectively defend themselves was the reason why one has a right to an attorney in the first place. (see Gideon v. Wainright, or the TV movie Gideon’s Trumpet starring Henry Fonda)


#17

Also, most people don’t have access to a law library or any of the databases that hold them. Among many other reasons why.


#18

Piggy-backing on @Mangochin

If you’re well enough off to bail out, can afford to take all the needed time off from work to research and conduct your defense, and can present yourself in court wearing an expensive looking business suit, then yes.

Also, crucially, you should have no facial piercings, no visible tattoos, no facial hair, and be white.


#19

There’s no excuse for the lack of funding. Can’t we just enact a law that says “criminal courts have to provide just as much money to pay for public defenders as they do for prosecutors?”


#20

How dare you claim cases are “indifferently argued?”

I worked as a public interest attorney in Louisiana for years, and to suggest public defenders are in any way indifferent is a gross offense to these dedicated individuals. There is a level of caring and commitment unlike that of any other law office I’ve ever encountered, metered (and perhaps cemented) by the fatalism of knowing there simply aren’t enough resources, and likely to be fewer tomorrow.

It was a Louisiana public defender who first argued “ineffective assistance of counsel” on appeal, when he had been the counsel in question for the first case. At that time, the total amount of time public defenders were allotted per client was measured in minutes, and I’m sure it’s not much better now. This is an agonizing position for someone who is tasked with zealously representing individuals who, by definition, have no other resort, and those willing and able to assume that responsibility should be celebrated.

Competition for these underpaid, unappreciated jobs is fierce among new lawyers, driven by a desire to help others and to develop mastery of the courtroom. While I don’t particularly agree with Steve Singer’s decision to mostly hire recent Ivy League graduates, anyone who doubts the competence or commitment of these professionals is simply showing off their own ivory tower.

It takes a spectacular level of dedication to hold a job this Sisyphean, and to suggest one could perform it with any level of indifference is a slap in the face to the people, the program, and the clients.

Before you start chuckling about backwards Southerners and incompetent public servants, I invite you to check your own privilege. The attorneys who do this job are highly educated, hugely dedicated, and most certainly not indifferent, in court or in life. They deserve your admiration and support. The clients whom they serve have literally no other advocate.

This lawsuit is just another attempt in a very longstanding struggle to confront the grotesque and unforgivable indifference of Louisiana’s state and public when it comes to putting people in prison, often for years, without a fair hearing. To suggest complicity on the part of the victims of that indifference betrays your ignorance.