THE INVESTIGATORS: State representative calls for investigation into EBR public defender’s office

State representative calls for investigation into EBR public defender’s office
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 5:57 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 6:45 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - State Representative C. Denise Marcelle is calling for the East Baton Rouge Public Defender’s Office to be investigated.

”It’s just a whole lot going on in the Public Defender’s Office that I want them to look at,” said Marcelle.

She’s taking aim at the office and Chief Public Defender Lisa Parker, saying since she came in less than a year ago things have taken a turn.

“Once she came in, there was a lot of people leaving.. attorneys and secretaries and support staff and it caused me great concern but overall the moral of the office has gone down. There are certainly issues that I believes are trickling down to the indigent defendants and those are the people I believe we’re here to help the most,” said Marcelle.

In a letter she sent to the public defender board, the State Representative says 30 people have left the office since Parker took over. After those employees left the office, many of them wanted their earned vacation time paid to them and Marcelle alleges it was denied. Now some of those employees have filed lawsuits against the Public Defender’s Office, setting in motion a legal fight that taxpayers will be on the hook for. Marcelle also alleges that employees were intimidated in a private meeting where their jobs were threatened if they spoke publicly about the problems in the office. On top of that, Marcelle says as more of the staff inside the office run for the door it’s clogging up the court system and causing problems for the very people the office is meant to help.

“One of the things I’ve heard from some of the judges in the 19th JDC is they don’t have enough public defenders in their courts and when that happens then the cases are pushed back,” said Marcelle. “Many of those indigent defenders are currently incarcerated and so when they don’t get their cases heard before a judge or assigned properly and moving those cases forward. Many of them don’t have money and they don’t have bail and they’re stuck in jail.”

Marcelle questions the moral compass of the woman in charge at the Public Defender’s Office and is calling for a full investigation.

“What I am calling for is the board to look at the things and the complaints that have been filed against her in less than a year’s time and see if she is even capable of bringing the office back up to the standard that we are accustomed to in Baton Rouge,” Marcelle added.

WAFB reached out to the EBR Public Defender’s Office for comment on this report. The office was closed due to the threat of severe weather.

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