Caddo public defender's office to operate in deficit

Caddo public defender's office to operate in deficit

Within the system of criminal justice several forces are at work. Two of those forces appear to work against each other, but some would argue that they work together.

The prosecutor tries the defendant, and the defense attorney represents the defendant.

If the accused has no money, it's a public defender, like Alan Golden who will step up or one of the 20 attorneys who works in the Caddo Public Defender's office handling about 40,000 cases a year.

"To make sure the innocent aren't wrongfully convicted," said Golden.

It's everyone's constitutional right to have representation, but that costs money. And like other offices across the state of Louisiana, the Caddo Parish Defender's Office is nearly broke.

"We'll exhaust our reserves by May of next year," said Golden.

If that happens, Golden says he'll be forced to lay off attorneys, which would increase case loads.

"But the problem is if we're spread too thin we become totally ineffective. My belief is that the only they worse than having no attorney is having an ineffective attorney," said Golden.

On Tuesday Golden met with public defender officials to look at options. He says he's been instructed to craft a restriction of services plan just in case. If that plan is put in place, a lot of Caddo parish court cases could be put on hold.

"We would tell the court that our office can no longer take additional cases," said Golden.

And since leaving an indigent defendant with no representation is unconstitutional, the courts could start appointing private attorneys.

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