Louisiana public defenders struggle financially
BATON ROUGE - More than 40 percent of Louisiana's public defender offices ran deficits last year as they struggled to come up with enough money to handle the cases of people too poor to afford their own attorneys.
That was the finding of an annual report released Monday.
The Louisiana legislative auditor's office says 17 public defenders' offices out of 40 spent more money than they brought in for the budget year that ended June 30, 2013. Those included offices covering Ascension, Assumption, St. James, East and West Feliciana, Iberville, West Baton Rouge, and Pointe Coupee parishes.
The audit noted that the 19th Judicial District Public Defender's Office in East Baton Rouge Parish was given an extension to March 14, but they still had not submitted their audit report as of May 7.
Of the 17 offices, Jefferson Parish had the highest deficit at $215,696.
To continue operating, districts dipped into reserve funds, a solution the report described as only temporary.
The number dropped from 29 districts, or nearly 70 percent, of public defenders' offices that were deficit-spending a year earlier.