NAACP denounces chief public defender Lisa Parker

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) — After serving in the role for just over a year. Chief Public Defender Lisa Parker is called out by the NAACP for the way she runs things.

“People there are lost…and when they say they feel like they can’t competently reach all the customers they could because of some dysfunction,” said Eugene Collins, president of the NAACP Baton Rouge chapter.

Collins says he and the organization refrained from criticizing Lisa Parker’s performance as long as they could. But after hearing from attorneys in the office about some of the malfunctions, he had to speak out.

“I mean there’s a possibility for a litany of suits that could come for this office and that’s something this community as a whole deserves a more in-depth response to,” Collins added.

According to Collins, attorneys in the office tell him that their workload is tripled and that they even have to work weekends without extra pay. Preventing many of them from showing up in court in time to represent their clients. More than 80% of people appearing in EBR court need a public defender.

Collins says it’s a line in the sand that anyone can follow. This all seems pretty damning, so we reached out to Chief Parker’s team for comment on Thursday. She was working at an event at Southern University Law Center so I went there to see if she could talk to me, her team said she was unavailable to speak on camera.

“Yes, you cross those lines where you engage in civil rights abuses and that’s not something the NAACP can ignore. To be honest with you, we probably sat on the sidelines a little too long here…we probably should have said something sooner,” Collins explained.

Although Parker was unable to comment on camera, below is a statement she and her team released in response to the NAACP.

In response to the statement released by the NAACP, please find our responses to the key issues in question below.

“ representation by the East Baton Rouge Public Defender’s Office has rapidly declined

since Lisa Parker was named district defender.

Since Chief Lisa Parker took office, 17 lawyers have resigned. All positions have been filled. Most importantly, since July 2021, we have had no dropped, overlooked, or overlooked cases.

“The NAACP has been advised that the public defenders did not appear in court today. We were

informed by current staff members that the Baton Rouge Public Defender’s Office has

ran out of money and chef Lisa Parker couldn’t afford to pay them.

All sections of the court had a public defender on Wednesday 6 July. Every client had adequate representation yesterday. The public defender’s office has received funding.

A regular staff meeting was held on Tuesday afternoon. During the meeting, staff were made aware of the *possibility of late payment. When we met, the money that was to be received from the state had not yet arrived in our account.

Out of concern for her staff, Ms Parker updated them on the situation while acknowledging that funds were on the way.

The fiscal budget for July 2021 – June 2022 had been drafted and submitted before Ms Parker and her current administration took office. Public defense is not properly funded. This is the central question.

Despite the small budget, the office managed to stretch the funds and complete the fiscal year without falling into the red. On Wednesday, July 6, the funds arrived in our account. All staff and contract attorneys will be paid on time.

-While the previous administration had 4-5 public defenders in each section of the court at any given time, the current administration has 1-2 in at least some sections of the court.

Before Ms Parker took office, there were 4-5 public defenders in several sections of the court. Lawyers have since been assigned to specific sections. Currently, each section has at least 3 lawyers.

-The public defenders are handling caseloads “more than 300 cases at any given time with no increase in pay or any other compensation for this work.”

Currently, one of our competent public defenders has 229 cases. This lawyer meets each client and receives adequate support. The average lawyer has at least 130 to 150 cases or less.

-New clients assigned by the court to the public defender’s office are “now required to report immediately to the public defender’s office to pay a fee” and if they fail to do so, “staff will be sentenced at the next date client audience to ‘shred’ their information and tell their clients they can’t represent them.”

Clients have always paid a $40 performance fee. This fixed fee is a statutory law. This is a decision that should be made by lawmakers and state officials. You will see below that the law states that indigents “must pay a non-refundable application fee…”. It is a non-negotiable state law.

*The Office of the Public Defender has always represented clients who were unable to pay while in need.

SR 15:175

“(f) An accused person or, if applicable, a parent or legal guardian of an accused minor or an accused adult who is declared as a dependent on his parent’s federal income tax return or legal guardian, who applies to the district office certifying that he or she is financially unable to employ an attorney and requesting to be represented by an indigent defense attorney or a dispute attorney, must pay a filing fee not reimbursable forty dollars to the district office or its delegate, such fee being in addition to any other fees or If the board or other appropriate official determines that the person does not have the financial resources to pay the application fee on based on financial information submitted, fees may be waived or reduced. A defendant who is found to be indigent may not be denied counsel for non-payment of filing fees.”

-Some court-appointed lawyers now accept private clients.

We don’t have a rule that says they can’t. They are lawyers. Public defenders are, on average, the lowest paid members of lawyers.

Please refer to this statement from the Louisiana Public Defender Board:

“Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate of any state in the country. This statistic must be viewed in the context of Louisiana’s historic failure to provide adequate resources for its public defense function. Until 2007, Louisiana was the last remaining state to fund the majority of its constitutional obligation through court fees (a scheme that inspired the Washington Post to call it “the weirdest country”). of all defendants in Louisiana rely on a public defender and are processed through a criminal justice system that is so overburdened that trials are rare, attorney-client contact may not occur until months after arrest, according to Local public defense systems suffer high turnover and low morale, and wrongfully convicted people are released after spending decades in prison.

Since COVID, the justice system has been overloaded. Our public defenders fight daily to support the needy community in an already overwhelmed and underfunded system.

Chief Lisa Parker is more than qualified for her role as Chief Public Defender of the 19th Judicial District. She’s so qualified that the Louisiana Public Defender’s Board recently named her acting chief of the 23rd Judicial District in Ascension Parish.

Chef Parker’s passion is focused on supporting his staff as they support the needy community. Despite funding issues and the loss of attorneys, every client received fair and adequate representation. Again, each section of the court is represented by an appropriate attorney.

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