Orleans Parish Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton last week asked City Council to maintain the public defender's office's budget allocation. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's proposed 2013 budget cuts nearly every city department by about 10 percent. Bunton's portion of the city budget — funded through a grant rather than a departmental allocation — is slated to be cut by one-third, from $1.2 million to $800,000.
The office receives most of its $7 million annual operating budget from a combination of state funds and local court fines, but the local cut will mean the office — which represented about 80 percent of the city's criminal defendants in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases last year — will have to fire eight lawyers from its current staff of 55, Bunton said.
"We already have more cases than we have lawyers who can — ethically or within standards — represent," he said. — CHARLES MALDONADO