Public defender's office warns it's too poor to represent the poor
BATON ROUGE - The public defender's office in East Baton Rouge started warning judges of its inability to represent poor defendants in the criminal justice system.
The letter, which was obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit Wednesday, cites budget issues and warns of layoffs at the office beginning next week. Contract services will be cut, too.
Lawyers contracted to assist with cases in the 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge City Court and Zachary City Court will be suspended. The bilingual attorney under contract will also be suspended, Public Defender Michael Mitchell wrote to judges in the area.
Contract suspensions start April 15th, the same date as layoffs. Six investigators will be laid off from the staff and employees who keep their jobs could get pay reduced anywhere from 10% to 25%.
There will be an even greater loss of revenue in the next budget year, Mitchell warned, since state funds paid to the office will be cut by $933, 520. The state is dealing with a budget deficit in its current fiscal year and a greater than $1 billion loss in the next budget year, which starts July 1.
Some defendants will be given paperwork on how to handle their cases if a public defender cannot be appointed.
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