Public defender: Forced representation could drop below 'ethical line'

Public defender: Forced representation could drop below 'ethical line'

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Orleans Parish Public Defenders Office assigned cases in its office Tuesday morning after a judge ordered the office to find the lawyers to represent people who cannot afford an attorney.

The office said it does not have enough lawyers for all of the cases nor adequate funding to provide the services they are constitutionally obligated to give to people who can't afford an attorney.

It is why the chief district defender, Derwyn Bunton, said his office was initially refusing to take on anymore clients until their funding issue was sorted out.

"Our situation has not changed and until we get away from our user pay criminal justice system it's going to continue to be inadequate, unreliable and unstable," Bunton said. "So what we have now is a court that has ordered us essentially to provide representation we think drops below an ethical line."

Bunton said the underfunding issue is not isolated to Orleans Parish and nearly two dozen districts across the state have the problem.

He believes it will continue until it can be addressed at the state legislature level.

Follow Deven Clarke on Twitter @DevenClarke

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.