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Lack of funding for public defenders means a backlog in court cases

Attorneys can remember the time when Lafayette Parish was efficient with cases and judges moved dockets quickly. But that efficiency seems to be wearing thin.

“Now because of this funding issue it’s starting to slow down and it’s starting to back up. It’s going to be a problem if we don’t get the funding.” said Attorney, Thomas Alonzo.

Louisiana public defenders are already few and far between and it’s not getting any better.

“They don’t have enough to handle the amount of cases coming in.” said Alonzo.

In 2012, the 15th Judicial District Public Defenders office handled more than 19,000 cases. And judges are trying to find ways to ease the growing case load through volunteers.

“Attorneys came forward big time we had like 150 attorneys” said 15th Judicial District Judge Patrick Michot.

Judge Patrick Michot reached out to attorneys on a volunteer basis to help manage cases coming in.

“Everybody has their own comfort level of what they wanna do in their profession in a courtroom, or in a criminal arena. But it didn’t always dovetail with what they were doing before, for some it was and some it wasn’t” said Michot.

“It’s better that they have public defenders with experience but these lawyers have stepped in and that’s kind of eased the back load. But still there’s a huge waiting list for people who need lawyers.” said Alonzo.

Alonzo says rarely has he ever seen someone plead guilty to avoid waiting for representation in Lafayette Parish. But, it also brings about a person’s right to a speedy trial.

“Delayed justice is justice denied. They’re entitled to a speedy trial and when that slows, it’s a hit on justice” said Michot.