Panelists representing the 15th Judicial District Court will discuss the impacts of budget shortfalls on the Public Defenders Office at a Tuesday forum held at the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office complex on Willow Street.
District Public Defender Paul Marx, District Attorney Keith Stutes and Criminal Court Judge Marilyn Castle will participate. Former federal prosecutor Donald Washington will moderate the forum, titled “Crisis in Public Defense.”
After a number of public defenders were terminated because of budget shortfalls, with others facing indefinite furloughs, thousands of poor defendants may be left without representation, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release announcing the forum.
“This will have other financial repercussions such as our cost of longer incarcerations for defendants,” the release states. “Much of the progress made in the past few years to reform and improve the system is at stake.”
Marx, the chief defender, has estimated more than 600 defendants will be in need of legal counsel by July after contracts were canceled for 26 criminal defense attorneys, and after nine attorneys and two social workers who were full-time employees resigned.
The six remaining full-time employees took a 20 percent salary cut, Marx has said.
The forum begins at 1 p.m. at 1825 W. Willow St.