In January 2016, after years of budget cuts from the state legislature combined with mounting caseloads, the public defenders office in Orleans Parish announced they would no longer take serious felony cases or alleged crimes where defendants face decades behind bars. The people working at the Orleans Public Defenders office claimed they do not have the resources to adequately defend a client anymore. Since their January announcement, when an indigent client charged with a serious crime has come their way, the attorneys have refused to take it on, aware that the alternative—accepting the case and not giving it their all—could deprive that client of justice.
I spent a day at the Orleans Public Defenders office in New Orleans for Vice, making portraits of the staff as well as documenting the office where they work. The published version is here.
Orleans Public Defenders Office Staff Attorneys Tina Peng and Will Snowden stand for a portrait. The pair were law clerks together and were hired together. At right; a woman leaves Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
Orleans Parish Public Defenders Office Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton. At right, second-hand clothing used by clients of the Public Defenders Office for court appearances.
Case law books in a conference room at the Orleans Public Defenders office; at right is staff attorney Jimmy Miller.
Orleans Public Defenders Office staff attorney Barksdale Hortenshire Jr. at work at the Orleans Public Defenders Office. At right, Mr. Hortenshire standing for a portrait.
Orleans Public Defenders office client advocate Elise Benus. At right, a desk and chair in a vacant office at the Orleans Public Defenders office. The attorney who used the space left, and his position has not been filled due to budget reasons.
Law clerks at work in the Orleans Public Defenders office. At right, Orleans Public Defenders Medical and Mental Health Coordinator Virginia Ryan.
Orleans Public Defenders office client advocate Sonia Roubini. At right, paperwork strewn in an office in the Orleans Public Defenders office.
Orleans Public Defenders Office staff attorney Lauren Anderson. At right, messages in support of the Orleans Public Defenders adorn a wall in their office.