Times-Picayune report: Public defender's office starts cutting staff

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In our recent item on the Orleans Parish Public Defender's Office and its almost comically terrifying money troubles, we quoted Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton saying this:

... the office still faces a $1 million shortfall for the year and may have to lay off as many as 14 staff members, Bunton said. The office already has instituted a hiring freeze and suspended payments to contractors in an attempt to save money, but Bunton said those measures have only delayed more significant service restrictions ...

"We should expect those fairly soon, in the next 30 to 60 days, unless something drastically changes," Bunton said.

As it turns out, "soon" starts today. The Times-Picayune reports:

Pleading poverty, the Orleans Parish public defender's office has laid off about 10 percent of its staff of lawyers [note: 7 of 71] along with other employees in the latest move to trim a shortfall in the office's $9.5 million budget.

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Bunton could not be reached Thursday. But Frank Neuner, chairmain of the Louisiana Public Defender Board, said the layoffs were among the cost-cutting demands of the state board when it recently agreed to funnel another $500,000 to Orleans Parish to help it make payroll.

In short, if you can't afford a lawyer, remember that Orleans Parish can't either. Try not to get arrested.

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