On September 23, 2004, nine clients of the Calcasieu Parish Public Defender's Office (PDO) filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against both the governor of Louisiana and the State Legislature, in the Fourteenth Judicial District Court in Calcasieu Parish, LA. The plaintiffs, ...
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On September 23, 2004, nine clients of the Calcasieu Parish Public Defender's Office (PDO) filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against both the governor of Louisiana and the State Legislature, in the Fourteenth Judicial District Court in Calcasieu Parish, LA. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought injunctive and declaratory relief from violations of their rights as secured by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, and by the Louisiana State Constitution. Plaintiffs specifically alleged that Defendants had failed to ensure that the PDO had sufficient resources to meaningfully meet with its clients, conduct substantive investigations, and adequately prepare for trial. Plaintiffs also alleged that Defendants had failed to properly monitor or oversee the indigent defense system.
There was some question as to whether the cause of action arose in the Fourteenth Judicial District, where the PDO was based, or in the Nineteenth Judicial District, where the state capitol is located. After a hearing, the trial court held venue was proper in the Fourteenth Judicial District. The state defendants then appealed to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana for the Third Circuit. On November 2, 2005, the Appeal Court for the Third Circuit (Judges John D. Saunders, Jimmie C. Peters, and Billy E. Ezell) held that, because the case had statewide implications, proper venue was with the court serving East Baton Rouge Parish, where the state capitol is located. The Appeal Court thus reversed the decision of the trial court and transferred the case to the Nineteenth Judicial District. Anderson v. State, 916 So.2d 341 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2005). Plaintiffs appealed the Appeal Court's venue decision to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which denied certiorari on June 2, 2006. Anderson v. State, 929 So.2d 1243 (La. 2006).
After the venue transfer, the Nineteenth Judicial District Court (Judge R. Michael Caldwell) held a hearing on Plaintiffs' motion to certify the case as a class action. The court subsequently granted the motion for class certification.
Defendants then filed a motion to dismiss the case as moot in light of the state's enactment of the Louisiana Public Defender Act of 2007. Plaintiffs opposed the motion on ground that it was too soon to determine the effect of the reform law. The court agreed with Plaintiffs and ordered a six-month stay. The stay has expired and, as of March 3, 2008, the parties are engaged in continuing discussions concerning how to proceed.
We have no further information on this case.Nick Niles - 07/11/2007