NEW ORLEANS – When poor people are charged with crimes, is it unconstitutional to make them wait for public defenders?
The American Civil Liberties Union thinks so.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans scheduled arguments Monday in the ACLU’s challenge of the system New Orleans uses to legally represent poor defendants.
The group sued in 2016 on behalf of three defendants who couldn’t afford a lawyer. They were put on a waiting list by the Orleans Public Defenders office, which cited excessive caseloads and budgetary problems.
The ACLU wants the wait lists declared unconstitutional.
A judge acknowledged a “serious systemic problem” in Louisiana’s indigent-defense system, but said the issues should be addressed in the appeals process.
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