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Case Name Allen v. Edwards PD-LA-0005
Docket / Court No. 655079 ( State Court )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Attorney Organization Lawyers Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law
Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
On February 6, 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and several private firms filed this class action in the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge Parish. The suit had thirteen named plaintiffs and the class was comprised of all ... read more >
On February 6, 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and several private firms filed this class action in the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge Parish. The suit had thirteen named plaintiffs and the class was comprised of all indigent adults in Louisiana charged with non-capital crimes that were punishable by imprisonment. The suit alleged that Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Public Defender Board, and the state’s chief public defender were denying indigent clients their constitutional right to counsel by failing to establish an effective statewide public defense system. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the state’s practices violated the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Section 13 of the Louisiana State Constitution. The plaintiffs requested an injunction prohibiting defendants from maintaining a public defender system that failed to provide adequate representation, and a declaration that the plaintiffs and class had been denied due process, equal protection of the law, and the right to counsel. The suit also requested a monitor be appointed to supervise the public defense system until a statewide reform solved these constitutional failures.

The complaint included several studies demonstrating how a defective statewide system, a dwindling budget, and an ever-rising caseload made it essentially impossible for public defenders to adequately represent their clients throughout the state. At the time the suit was filed, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate and the second-highest wrongful conviction rate in the country. 70% of those incarcerated were African American and 85% of those accused of a crime in Louisiana relied on public defenders to represent them. The failing public defense system disproportionately impacted vulnerable African Americans throughout the state. Without timely appointment of counsel, the poor were denied any meaningful investigation of the prosecution’s case, advocacy during arraignments or bond hearings that could result in a reduction or dismissal of charges or release on bond, access to witnesses and evidence, and assistance with plea negotiations. If these studies were true, they clearly demonstrated that there was no way this population could be understood as standing “equal before the law” which is a right established by the Fourteenth Amendment.

On August 21, 2017, the defendants moved to have the case dismissed, arguing that the plaintiffs had no legal cause of action and that the suit should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On October 11, 2017, the court denied these requests.

Next, on June 12, 2018, plaintiffs motioned for their class to be certified and the court recognized that, as a matter of law, the criteria for class certification had been met. When a class is certified that signals that all members of this class have been wronged in a similar way by the same actor. This ruling recognized a class comprised of almost 50,000 Louisiana citizens whose constitutional rights had potentially been violated by the public defense system in Louisiana.

The defendants next moved for partial summary judgement on November 13, 2018, arguing that as state actors they were immune from being sued on this issue. On January 16, 2019, the judge refused to grant partial summary judgement and found that there were genuine issues of material fact that made granting partial summary judgement impossible.

The defendants then appealed the district court’s ruling in the 1st circuit of Louisiana’s appellate court. On February 6, 2019, the appellate court denied their appeal (2018 WL 735362). This case is ongoing.

Mary Book - 04/04/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Quality of representation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Governor John Bel Edwards
Louisiana Public Defender Board
State Public Defender
Plaintiff Description Individuals in Louisiana who are charged with non-capital criminal offenses and are represented by a public defender.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Lawyers Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law
Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PD-WA-0003 : Davison v. State of Washington (State Court)
PD-LA-0006 : Yarls v. Bunton (M.D. La.)
PD-MO-0001 : State ex rel. Missouri Public Defender Commission v. Waters (State Court)
PD-GA-0005 : Flournoy v. State of Georgia (State Court)
PD-LA-0001 : Anderson v. State (State Court)
Additional Resources
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  Allen et al. v. Edwards et al.
Lawyerscommittee.org
Date: Feb. 6, 2017
By: Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis Faculty)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
Date: 2009
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University Faculty)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class
PD-LA-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Date:
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Verified Petition for Class Certification and Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
PD-LA-0005-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/06/2017
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
First Amended Complaint
PD-LA-0005-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 09/18/2017
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Ruling on Plaintiff's Petition for Class Certification
PD-LA-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/17/2018
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
show all people docs
Judges Hernandez, Todd W. Court not on record show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Angelson, Meredith (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002 | PD-LA-0005-0003
Barriere, Ashley (New York) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002
Carroll, Vanessa (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001
Clarke, Kristen M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001
Culotta, Jason (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002 | PD-LA-0005-0003
Cunningham, Mark A. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002 | PD-LA-0005-0003
Davidson, Jared (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002 | PD-LA-0005-0003
Greenbaum, Jon M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002 | PD-LA-0005-0003
Kee, Peter J. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002 | PD-LA-0005-0003
Kelley, Mateya (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002 | PD-LA-0005-0003
Kolb, Daniel F. (New York) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002
Lawrence, William (New York) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002
Magner, Michael W. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002
Magy, Daniel S. (New York) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002
Martin, Rebecca C. (New York) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002
Ryan, Hallie (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001
Toscano, David B. (New York) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002
Walker, Andrew Philip (New York) show/hide docs
PD-LA-0005-0001 | PD-LA-0005-0002 | PD-LA-0005-0003

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