Public defenders cut back services due to funding

Public defenders cut back services due to funding

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Public Defender Mike Mitchell said his office is basically overworked and out of money.

Mitchell said that without additional funds his office will not be able to "provide competent legal representation for all of its clients and must begin service restriction." Mitchell made that statement in letter mailed to news outlets.

The Public Defender's office in constitutionally mandated to provide legal assistance to those who can't afford to obtain private legal representation. The office receives funding from the state, but says it is not enough and its attorneys are overworked.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore says he has confidence in the public defender's office, but something will need to be changed in order for things to continue to move forward without huge delays.

"I think you're going to see lawsuits filed, because their job is to adequately represent defendants like ours is to represent our victims and the State," Moore said. "It would be like me saying I am going to cut back and not take certain cases because I am overworked. That can't happen."

Public Defender Mike Mitchell did not return our phone calls Monday, but he said in the letter that they will need to lessen and redistribute their caseloads and may have to prioritize cases.

In the press statement, Mitchell said "placing a limit on caseloads is necessary as all attorneys are bound by the United States and Louisiana Constitutions, the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct, and the Louisiana Trial Court Performance Standards to provide competent and effective representation to all clients. This cannot be done when caseloads are so high that the lawyers cannot properly represent each individual client according to the facts of the case and the needs of the client."

According to the statement, this is a problem across the state, but it's worse in Baton Rouge because they have the most cases.

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