NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Just days after New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu unveiled his proposed 2017 budget the Chief Public Defender in Orleans Parish, Derwyn Bunton took to the steps of Criminal Court to ask for support.
"Today what we're going to say, what we're going to ask and demand, is that we have full funding for our Public Defender system, for our Public Defender's office so that we can continue to do our jobs."
The boisterous gathering of approximately 150 people brought out members of local churches, social aid and pleasure clubs and brass bands, for a rally and second line down Tulane and Broad Streets.
Marchers said the criminal justice system doesn't work if even one person is denied a proper defense because they can't afford an attorney. Bunton says if his office isn't fully funded, that's exactly what happens.
"I think the key takeaway- is that justice for poor people should be the same as it is for rich people."
Bunton also says the Mayor's budget shows a troubling disparity. The Mayor's proposed budget for 2017 calls for nearly $163 million for the police force, nearly $6.7 million for the District Attorney's office, and over three million for Criminal District Court. But only 1.5 million is proposed for the Public Defender's office. That's 600 thousand dollars short of what the Public Defender's office requested.
Bunton said, "So all of the resources are aimed at finding, catching and incarcerating with very few resources put (toward) making sure it's done right and within the law."
The Mayor's budget presentation indicated the Public Defender's Office could not be fully funded mainly because of budget cuts at the state level. The Public Defender's Office plans to make another pitch to the City next month for the full $2.1 million.