No money for a criminal defense? No prosecution.
Thatâ€™s how the Louisiana Supreme Court is reconciling a defendantâ€™s constitutional right to an attorney with the stateâ€™s failure to fund indigent defense programs.
The court said April 1 that trial judges could halt prosecutions of poor defendants until the state comes up with the money to pay for an adequate defense.
The report goes on to say
State officials hope it wonâ€™t come to that. On Wednesday, a state-appointed task force on indigent defense proposed a set of reform bills to be introduced in the next legislative session, which begins April 25. The bills would call on the Louisiana Indigent Defense Assistance Board to begin collecting data from throughout the state on caseloads, staffing and personnel matters in order to have more concrete data on hand before the 2006 legislative session. Another proposal would depoliticize, yet expand, the board, cutting down the number of political appointments and adding lay voices from other interest groups in the state, including the state bar, the Louisiana Interchurch Conference and law schools.
This isn’t the first state that this has happened in. See this report by the Spangenberg Group (scroll down to "Litigation Support").
Thanks to Skelly for the tip.
UPDATE: The link to the Spangenberg Group page seems to be down (in fact, the whole website seems to have disappeared), so here are some links to legislation in states.
- This is the ACLU’s press release after a settlement was reached in Rivera v. Rowland (CT).
- Green v. Washington, [pdf] ND Illinois (Illinois)
- Games v. State of Indiana