Report: Louisiana needs 1,400 more public defenders to handle criminal case loads

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in court

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – The American Bar Association is the professional organization that looks out for lawyers, and the bar says the state needs more public defenders – a lot more public defenders.

We’ve heard about the problems in the Orleans Parish Public Defender’s Office before. It’s chronically understaffed.

Last year, the state’s budget crisis prompted 33 out of 42 public defender’s offices across the state – Orleans Parish included – to stop taking news cases, according to a recent report.

But the problem is a much larger one, the Bar Association says, one that needs almost 1,400 more public defenders to handle all the criminal cases in the state.

In all, Louisiana needs more than 1,700 public defenders. Right now, the bar association estimates that Louisiana has 363 full-time defenders with the capacity to handle 21 percent of the cases in the state – if they were following workload guidelines.

Read the full report here.