Dear Board of Public Defense,
I write to implore you to keep the Lafayette Public Defender’s Office intact. This office is staffed by a wonderful team of public defenders who have changed the criminal justice culture for the poor people of Lafayette Parish.
For several years, I taught at the public defender trial school in Baton Rouge. I saw how committed members of the board were to building a strong state public defender system. I can tell you from my personal experience with the Lafayette lawyers that you have succeeded brilliantly in that Parish.
I know that the public defender system in Louisiana is in a severe financial crisis. Unpleasant choices must be made. I believe, however, that the Lafayette office should be viewed, in many ways, as the flagship office in Louisiana. If dismantled, it will be impossible to resurrect the special nature of what they have created.
As a faculty member of Gideon’s Promise, I have trained all of the Lafayette lawyers. I’ve watched them grow from passionate new lawyers who wanted to change the world into a team that has changed public defense in Lafayette Parish. I know this because they have been active participants on the Gideon’s Promise google group. They have shared their challenges and their successes. They are deeply invested in their community and they care about justice for the poor people of Lafayette Parish.
As Chief Public Defender in Hennepin County (Minneapolis), I know how much talented, well-trained, passionate public defenders working as a team can change poor people’s lives. What you have in Lafayette is so special, I hope that you can find a way to maintain it.
Mary F Moriarty