by Bill Quigley
New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter, a former police officer, ruled that seven people awaiting trial in jail without adequate legal defense must be released. The law is clear. The U.S. Supreme Court, in their 1963 case Gideon v Wainwright, ruled that everyone who is accused of a crime has a Constitutional right to a lawyer at the state’s expense if they cannot afford one.
However, Louisiana, in the middle of big budget problems, has been disregarding the constitutional right of thousands of people facing trial in its most recent statewide public defender meltdown. Judge Hunter ruled that the Constitution makes it clear: no lawyer, no jail.
In an 11-page ruling, Judge Hunter explained that since Louisiana has failed to adequately fund indigent defense it has violated the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and the 14th Amendment right…
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