Rights group suing over public defender shortage
NEW ORLEANS - The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the New Orleans' and state offices tasked with defending people too poor to hire a lawyer after the office began turning down cases, saying it didn't have the resources to do its job.
In the lawsuit filed late Thursday in federal court, the ACLU took issue with how Louisiana pays to defend its poorest, saying it is "inherently unreliable and prone to crippling shortages."
The Orleans Public Defenders Office, already dealing with years of budget cuts, this year is facing a $600,000 budget shortfall.
It gets most of its money through fines and fees paid by defendants.
After warning last fall of serious budget problems, the city's public defenders' office on Tuesday began turning down some cases, saying they couldn't ethically represent them.