St. John Indigent Defender program still short of funding
Published 12:00 am Monday, April 25, 2005
By MOLLY DRYMAN
LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Indigent Defender Board is continuing to face the problem of cutbacks due to a dramatic decline in their funding.
Last year the Defender Board had to let go two full-time lawyers and cancel several contracts, according to Chief Defender Richard B. Stricks of the St. John Parish Indigent Defender Board.
“We had a very dramatic reduction in our collection in 2003-2004,” said Stricks. “We had to dismiss two of our five lawyers. The remaining three and myself have received a 5 percent pay-cut.”
Income of the Defender’s Board has dropped $87,000. The annual income in 2003 was $403,000, and in 2004 it had dropped to $316,000, according to Stricks.
“This year we are not seeing any difference in the income,” said Stricks.
“We are barely covering our budget.”
Stricks said right now they are needing legislative action to increase the amount of money per case.
“The judges are already assisting with getting better reimbursements from clients,” said Stricks. “They have been very accommodating.”
The lawyers are now having to keep tract of what they do and how much their services cost for representation, according to Stricks.
The Defender Board is funded by the collections from traffic tickets when they are prosecuted and the money from the court cost goes to them. If court costs are not being paid, then the Defender Board does not get paid, according to Stricks.
“This is a result of traffic tickets not being prosecuted,” said Stricks. “This means people are not paying court cost. The Sheriff’s Office says they are issuing the same amount of tickets and maybe more, so what is happening to the traffic tickets not being prosecuted?”