Louisiana: Assembly Line Justice
A new report finds that Louisiana fails to reach 9 out of 10 indigent defense standards:
If you’re poor in Louisiana, you have no real access to justice. This is the inevitable conclusion of In Defense of Public Access to Justice: An Assessment of Trial-Level Indigent Defense Services in Louisiana 40 Years After Gideon, a report released today by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and researched by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA). Rather than constructing a “uniform system for securing and compensating qualified counsel for indigents” at “each stage of the proceeding” as required by the Louisiana Constitution, In Defense of Public Access to Justice documents “the significant extent to which Louisiana has failed to protect the rights of people of insufficient means faced with the potential loss of liberty in criminal proceedings.” (Report at p. 19).
Forty-one years ago, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court concluded in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright that the right to counsel in criminal proceedings is a fundamental part of due process and that state governments are responsible for providing a public defense system that ensures this basic right. In Defense of Public Access to Justice documents that Louisiana fails to meet nine of the American Bar Association’s well-respected 10 Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System – principles designed to provide guidance to policymakers as they seek to ensure compliance with the Gideon mandate. “The substantial failing of the system to meet these standards can only mean that the indigent defense system devised by the legislature in Louisiana delivers ineffective, inefficient, poor quality, unethical, conflict-ridden representation to the poor.” (Report at p. 56)
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