NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit over the practice of putting low-income defendants on waiting lists for public defense lawyers.
A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said Thursday that the issues in the lawsuit are moot. The opinion noted the Legislature’s re-allocation of money for indigent-defense cases that it says resulted in the elimination of waiting lists. The elimination of the lists means there is currently no “live case or controversy,” meaning the suit has to be dismissed.
The American Civil Liberties Union had sued the New Orleans and state public defenders offices over the issue in 2016.
The lawsuit was part of a long history of challenges to Louisiana’s indigent defense system, which critics say is underfunded and relies too heavily on fines and fees.