RS 15:142     

§142. Legislative findings

            A. Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of Louisiana, in accordance with the state's obligation under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, provides that at "each stage of the proceedings, every person is entitled to assistance of counsel of his choice, or appointed by the court if he is indigent and charged with an offense punishable by imprisonment". Section 13 further mandates that the legislature shall provide for "a uniform system for securing and compensating qualified counsel for indigents". Accordingly, it is the obligation of the legislature to provide for the general framework and the resources necessary to provide for the delivery of public defender services in this state.

            B. In recognition of its mandates under both the United States and Louisiana constitutions, the legislature enacts the Louisiana Public Defender Act of 2007 to provide for all of the following:

            (1) Ensuring that adequate public funding of the right to counsel is provided and managed in a cost-effective and fiscally responsible manner.

            (2) Ensuring that the public defender system is free from undue political and judicial interference and free of conflicts of interests.

            (3) Establishing a flexible delivery system that is responsive to and respectful of jurisdictional variances and local community needs and interests.

            (4) Providing that the right to counsel is delivered by qualified and competent counsel in a manner that is fair and consistent throughout the state.

            (5) Providing for statewide oversight with the objective that all indigent criminal defendants who are eligible to have appointed counsel at public expense receive effective assistance of counsel at each critical stage of the proceeding.

            (6) Providing for the ability to collect and verify objective statistical data on public defense workload and other critical data needed to assist state policymakers in making informed decisions on the appropriate funding levels to ensure an adequate service delivery system.

            (7) Providing for the development of uniform binding standards and guidelines for the delivery of public defender services and for an effective management system to monitor and enforce compliance with such standards and guidelines.

            C. The legislature recognizes that the uniform application of statewide standards and guidelines to be established by the office of the state public defender is an important means of achieving a more consistent delivery of quality representation throughout the state. To that end, it is the express intention of the legislature that the Louisiana Public Defender Act of 2007 is designed, to the extent practicable and feasible, to provide for the delivery of public defender services which meet the requirements established by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984) and its progeny as adopted by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

            D. The legislature recognizes that the Louisiana Supreme Court in State v. Citizen, 898 So. 2nd 325 (La. 2005) authorized trial judges to halt prosecutions in capital cases, upon motion of defense counsel, until adequate funding is provided to ensure an adequate defense, and it is the express intention of the legislature to ensure adequate resources, consistent with the Citizen opinion, which allow prosecutions in such cases to continue to conclusion resulting in verdicts that are fair, correct, swift, and final.

            E. It is the express intention of the legislature that the Louisiana Public Defender Act of 2007 is designed to provide effective legal representation to criminal defendants who are unable to afford an attorney, consistent with the right to counsel in our criminal courts, mindful of the need for law and order and an appreciation of victims' rights.

            F. It is the express intention of the legislature that the office respect local differences in practice and custom regarding the delivery of public defender services. The provisions of this Part are to be construed to preserve the operation of district public defender programs which provide effective assistance of counsel and meet performance standards in whatever form of delivery that local district has adopted, provided that method of delivery is consistent with standards and guidelines adopted by the office pursuant to rules and as required by statute.

            Acts 2007, No. 307, §1; Acts 2008, No. 220, §6, eff. June 14, 2008; Acts 2024, 2nd Ex. Sess., No. 22, §1, eff. March 20, 2024.