To Whom It May Concern:
I am a defense attorney in Houston, TX. I am writing to express my deep concerns over the potential closing of the public defender office in Lafayette, LA.
In Houston, we have a split system with a PD office and a lot of cases contracted out to private attorneys. I have worked for some of these private attorneys taking felony appointments. I have to say that a system that relies on contracted private attorneys for indigent defense DOES NOT WORK. The attorneys taking those cases are not concerned about their appointed cases like their retained cases. Clients are not visited, their choices are not explained, payment vouchers cannot be verified, and adequate representation is not given. In many of the cases through a contracting system, investigators are rare, research goes undone, and clients are overlooked. Corruption is bred and allowed with judges appointing cases based on campaign fund donations. These attorneys only do what the judge wishes, which is often move their docket. So, indigent defense is subjected to a plea mill. The defense attorneys convince every indigent defendant they are guilty, even when they are not, merely to get them to plea, and move the judge’s docket.
If for some reason a contract system seems to be less expensive, then you are deteriorating representation to well below constitutionally guaranteed levels. The attorneys in the Lafayette office are already underpaid. They do the work because they care and they believe in true justice. It should be considered an honor that such incredible human beings and lawyers exist to be giving you what you’ve got. I personally know the work many of them are doing through my involvement with Gideon’s Promise.
If you let the Lafayette PD office close, or require most the full-time attorneys to be fired, you are taking a HUGE step backward toward ensuring public safety and trust in the justice system. Proactive defense, like what the Lafayette office has started to provide, can take huge steps toward truly rehabilitating clients, which ultimately increases public safety and saves the government money. PLEASE DO THE RIGHT THING AND KEEP THE LAFAYETTE PUBLIC DEFENDER OFFICE ADEQUATELY FUNDED.