In 2004, two criminal indigent defendants filed suit in the 14th Judicial District Court, Parish of Calcasieu challenging the constitutionality of two Louisiana statutes in determining the source of funds for indigent defendants' counsel. They argued that because of the disclaimers in the statues, ...
read more >
In 2004, two criminal indigent defendants filed suit in the 14th Judicial District Court, Parish of Calcasieu challenging the constitutionality of two Louisiana statutes in determining the source of funds for indigent defendants' counsel. They argued that because of the disclaimers in the statues, stating that nothing in the statute should make the parishes of Louisiana responsible for the expenses associated with the costs of indigent criminal defense, they were deprived of their right to effective counsel due to a lack of funding. Plaintiffs were represented by public interest lawyers.
The trial court found that the two statues were unconstitutional because they prevented any suprlus money from being spent on indigent defense counsel. The Court ordered the parish police jury to make $200,000 available for attorney's fees. Both the state and the parish policy jury appealed.
On April 1, 2005 the Louisiana Supreme Court (Judge Victory) reversed the lower court ruling. The Court held that neither statute was unconstitutional and that neither violates indigent defendants' due process or equal protection rights, or the right to counsel. According to theLouisiana Supreme Court, the constitution requires only that indigent defendants are entitled to counsel and legislatures must provide a system for securing and compensating adequate counsel. The Louisiana statutes at issue met the constitutional requirements because they provided a process in which indigent defendants' counsel can seek funding. The Court also held that due to the separation of powers principle, a court cannot order the parish police jury to set aside funding for appointed counsel, however, the Court did announce that a court can stay prosecution until there is adequate funding for appointed counsel. The cases was remanded to the District Court.
We have no further information on this case.Dayna Frenkel - 03/05/2009