080306_tremearrest.jpgWith a criminal district judge threatening to release poor defendants due to a post-Katrina lack of funding for the public defender’s office, the search is on for volunteer lawyers to pick up the slack.

The Louisiana State Bar Association sent out a call this week to all Louisiana lawyers, even those who handle business, personal injury, and domestic matters: Volunteer to represent a criminal! “Without adequate and indigent representation for defendants,” says LSBA communications director Brooke Monoco, “due process rights are at risk and the state may be forced to release many defendants.”

So, you’re a lawyer but don’t know the difference between an arraignment and a preliminary hearing? You quit watching The Practice when Bobby Donnell left the firm? Not a problem. The bar is offering a free program to “refresh” civil practitioners on criminal law.

Fellow counselors, we owe it to the community to volunteer. Without our pro bono efforts, these criminals will be back on the streets. If we do represent them, there’s at least a chance these criminals will stay in jail. Second thought, given most civil lawyers’ inexperience with the criminal justice system, there’s a very good chance of that. So don’t do it for the criminals; do it for a safer New Orleans!

Who will take Raymond Amison, 18, above, recently arrested for quadruple-murder? (By the way, it looks from his Astros baseball cap that he’s spent some time in Texas. Thanks again, Houston.)

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Louisiana Attorneys,

New Orleans needs your help. Because the primary source of funds to support the Indigent Defender Board is sorely under fuded this year and unable to provide the necessary level of representation to the estimated 3,600 detainees awaiting trial in Criminal District Court. Additional money may be forthcoming from the state, but the crisis is immediate. Without adequate indigent representation for defendants, due process rights are at risk and the state may be forced to release many defendants.

Please consider volunteering to represent a criminal defendant on a pro bono basis. Not sure you know enough about criminal procedure and substantive criminal procedure and substantive law to undertake criminal defense? The New Orleans Bar Association will offer a free 4.66 CLE program to refresh civil practitioners on criminal law Friday August 4. Learn tips from experienced criminal defense lawyers and law school professors. And at the end of the day, you can sign up for an appointment to OIDP. There is no obligation to sign up for an appointment, but if you do, OIDP will honor any requests for appointment to “less” serious cases for those who request it.

Earn CLE hours at no charge while learning skills to help maintain the rule of law in New Orleans. For more information go to LINK. To register for the CLE please contact pcotogno@neorleansbar.org.

If you have experience in criminal law and would like to volunteer as a criminal pro bono attorney please call Brooke Monaco at 504.619.0118 or bmonaco@lsba.org

Thank you for your consideration.

Brooke Monaco, Communications Director, Louisiana State Bar Association

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