NOLA Judge Jails Public Defender
This is absolutely astonishing.
The chief judge in the city’s juvenile courts had a top public defender arrested Tuesday in a bizarre escalation of a fight over changes in the city’s troubled program for representing indigent defendants.
The judge, David Bell, was upset that no public defender was in his courtroom when he was ready to start this morning, and he drove to the defender’s office and waited outside for Stephen Singer, the chief of trials, to arrive.
The judge took Mr. Singer to his courtroom, where he found him in contempt for not being prepared to provide representation and ordered him jailed for 36 days, three days for each of the 12 items on Tuesday’s docket. Mr. Singer then spent about five hours in jail before a state appeals court stayed the order.
The New Orleans criminal justice system has been in a heightened state of crisis since Katrina. If there aren't enough public defenders to go around, the state needs to increase the funding to hire more of them -- not blame the already overworked, overburdened current defenders who are doing more than their fair share of the work.
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