Almost 100 Lacking Counsel to be Released?

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With at least 82 indigent defendants in New Orleans totally unrepresented by counsel, Judge Arthur Hunter may make good on his threat to let them out of jail if public defenders aren’t provided, the AP reports.

The judge ordered 42 unrepresented prisoners released last month, but delayed implementation of the order until a hearing could be held.

Since then, “I’m up to an additional 40 people since March 26 who don’t have lawyers, period,” Hunter said. The pending hearing is expected to involve representatives of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, the Office of Indigent Defenders, and the state bar association, among others.

The court system has been struggling since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. During an earlier hearing, counsel for the public defender’s office said 12 public defenders in the Orleans Parish criminal district were handling at least 1,371 cases as of Nov. 9, 2006, for an average per-lawyer caseload of 114.

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