[JURIST] Judge Arthur Hunter [JURIST news archive] of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court [official website] Wednesday suspended the prosecutions of 42 New Orleans indigent criminal defendants who had not been provided adequate legal counsel and ordered 16 of them released without bail. Hunter first ordered suspension of the prosecutions [JURIST report] in March, but then delayed implementation of his ruling until a Wednesday hearing. Representatives from the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office, the public defender's office, the state bar association, and State Representative Daniel Martiny (R) (official website) attended the hearing. The charges against the defendants - mostly drug-related - were not dismissed.
New Orleans' indigent defense program, funded almost entirely from traffic court fines, shrank from over 40 lawyers to six in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Martiny, a member of a legislative taskforce on indigent defense, says he will submit a bill that would establish a statewide public defender's board to replace the current system of 41 local boards system now in place, an effort to standardize the quality of representation provided to criminal defendants in Louisiana. AP has more.