To the Louisiana State Public Defender Board:
I write to you today to echo both the expressed and unexpressed sentiments of attorneys all over the country urging you to do everything that is in your power to keep the doors of the Lafayette Public Defender’s Office open. The value the Lafayette Office holds to the State of Louisiana and justice system of our country cannot be quantified.
As a Houston private attorney, one may question how I can make such bold and daring statements. Well, I work in a system where I am personally acquainted with what it means to try and provide the constitutionally required level of representation, without the support of a public defenders office. It is practically impossible. Everyday is an uphill battle against a machine I am ill-equipped to face. Luckily, Harris County (the county that is home to Houston) has been making strives to fix that problem with its fairly new Public Defender’s office. What’s surprising to me is that Lafayette is trying to remove what Harris County realized it needed. To chose to remove a public defender’s office and maintain funding for correctional facilities instead of finding ways to protect and equip a group of advocates focused on helping and improving the community is something that I cannot understand.
However, a more important rationale as to why I make such daring statements, is simple: I’ve met the Lafayette Gideon’s Promise attorneys and that is honestly enough.
If you believe that my rationale is shaky or insufficient, I simply ask you—no, I challenge you, to do the same. Test my theory. Meet these exceptional attorneys. Talk to their clients. Hear about the hope they bring and the change they effect on a daily basis. Speak with Thomas Rimmer, Leo Costales, Jane Hogan, Clare Svendson, Jack Talaska, Lili Hangartner, Caitlin Graham, and the rest of the Lafayette office under Paul Marx’s leadership.
After speaking with the Lafayette group, reach out to people like me—individuals fighting to have what Lafayette has. What you will find is that the skill, passion, and sheer strength to do this work and fight for the privilege to continue cannot be found anywhere else.
These individuals uphold the constitutionally mandated right to representation and they VALUE it. They write the motions others don’t write. They ask the questions others won’t ask. They love the people, this world won’t love. I was so moved when I read these words from Caitlin Graham, one of the defenders/advocates/heroes, whose fate you hold in your hands:
This work that we do is an act of love. It is the work of love. The excruciating and uplifting work of love. The painful and profound work of love. It is the devastating devotion to a critical truth that lies at the heart of it all – that we are each of us bound by a common chord of humanity, that we are each of us responsible for one another, and that the only thing that lives on is the love, the kindness, and the compassion that we gave. This work is the conduit by which we convey our love to the world. And it is not easy.
But if all that is not enough, please consider the message you are sending the poor and the indigent in Lafayette. Your website states things like “serving the public,” and “equal justice for all,” however, what would the destruction of such an integral office say? Please consider what it means to tell the public you serve that we will not pay for people to represent you, but we will pay for cages to confine you. We will not pay to educate you, but we will pay to enslave you. We will not pay to care for you, but we will pay to ensure your demise.
I plead with the rest of our Gideon’s Promise community and all those dedicated to upholding the constitution and protecting the rights of indigent individuals today. Do not participate in the dismantling of years of investments in the form of time, energy, research, money, and skill. Do not let this office close on your watch. If you do, you will lose some of the best gifts Lafayette has ever had.
/s/ Temi O. Siyanbade
Temi O. Siyanbade
225 Matlage Way #2483
Sugar Land, TX 77498
Bar Number: 24090393