Sunday, March 12, 2006
In response to New Orlean's struggling public defender system, Tulane CrimProf Pamela Metzger filed a suit last Thursday asserting that the state's method of funding indigent defense was unconstitutional. Louisiana is the only state to finance its public defender system primarily through traffic tickets and other court fines — a financing method criticized as unreliable and inadequate at the best of times, and only exacerbated since Hurricane Katrina.
Professor Metzger said that the system created "an irreconcilable conflict of interest" for the defender's office, violating defendants' state and federal constitutional rights to effective counsel. She said indigents' defense either "could aggressively pursue the imposition and collection of fines and fees in each individual case, thereby providing its office with additional and desperately needed funding," or the office could decline to pursue such fees, which "would provide zealous representation to the individual client but forsake funds vitally necessary" to the office's other and future clients. Story from LA Times [Mark Godsey]