Public defenders to see cuts April 1

Public defenders to see cuts April 1

CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Cuts to Louisiana's Public Defender Offices are set to take place on April 1.

A public defender is an attorney who represents the indigent, those who can't afford to hire a private attorney.

Back in October, Alan Golden the head of that department in Caddo Parish, announced the program was going broke and would soon require cuts.

"We have to make personnel cuts," said Golden.

Tuesday, those cuts were announced as an initiative to help offset a projected $700,000 shortfall for next year.

"We're going to eliminate the misdemeanor panel, and the conflict panel, and secondly, I'm going to cut salaries and retirement benefits from across the board," said Golden.

His staff attorneys, like Rickey Swift, will not only be paid less, but will have a larger caseload, which he says will further diminish his focus.

"Because otherwise you're just a lawyer showing up and the record may reflect that you're there, but the person had a lawyer, but the question becomes 'was the lawyer effective,'" said Swift.

Golden says 200 cases a year is the recommended caseload for his attorney's but they handle about double that, and now possibly even more.

The reaction to salaries being cut starting April 1 could be attorneys leaving this office.

But Swift says he won't be one of them.

"I'm just going to wait and see. I'm fully dedicated to my clients and I want them to know that's not my focus right now," said Swift.

Louisiana funds its indigent defense program with a $45 court fee attached to traffic tickets. Golden says for whatever reason, that funding is down about 30 percent.

Golden will solicit funding from local sources such as the Caddo Commission, the Shreveport Bar Association and district judges.

Copyright 2015 KSLA. All rights reserved.