The Champion

November 2006 , Page 43 

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Bar Association Report Calls for Statewide Defense System in Louisiana

By Malia Brink

Read more Indigent Defense columns.

In late September, the Louisiana Bar Association and Louisiana Bar Foundation released a report on indigent defense in New Orleans entitled A Strategic Plan to Ensure Accountability and Protect Fairness in Louisiana’s Criminal Courts. The report was authored by the National Legal Aid and Defender Service based on the observations of 13 experts who made several site visits to the Orleans Parish to observe courts and interview relevant criminal justice system personnel. The report finds that the Orleans indigent defense system is in a state of ruin — grossly understaffed and underfunded. It concludes that comprehensive statewide reform is the only way to achieve meaningful change.

The report was commissioned to look at deficiencies after Hurricane Katrina, but begins by recognizing that Katrina was not solely responsible for the systemic collapse of the justice system in New Orleans. “The New Orleans justice system had long-standing, pre-existing systemic deficiencies that were unmasked

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