Last Modified: Thursday, April 04, 2013 7:40 PM
Judge Kent Savoie on Thursday ordered that three attorneys who filed Citizen motions on behalf of their clients be replaced.
Citizen motions are filed to determine whether to stay proceedings while indigent defense funds are sought.
Savoie ordered Jay Dixon, head of the Public Defender’s Office, to find new counsel for the defendants within five days.
Shane Hinch represented Ronalda Guillory, who is charged with drug possession and the creation of an illegal lab; Steve Sikich represented Kenneth Ellis, who is charged with distribution of cocaine; and Glen Vamvoras represented Michael Navarre, who is charged with possession of stolen things, possession of marijuana and three counts of distribution of marijuana.
Because of a lack of funds at the Public Defender’s Office, indigent cases have been assigned to members of the local bar association to be worked for free.
Hinch said previously that the money requested in the Citizen motion was for overhead costs.
Savoie told Ellis, the only defendant in the courtroom Thursday, that his purpose in the ruling was to get the case resolved in a reasonable amount of time.
“I’m trying to get someone in here who’s willing to do it and do a good job, but not charge you,” Savoie said.
He said the Citizen motions would pass without date.
Savoie told Ellis that had he granted the Citizen motion, Ellis would sit in jail “wasting your time, assuming you’re not guilty.”
The three defense attorneys, as well as Dixon and prosecutor Carla Sigler, said Savoie’s ruling was not what they anticipated.
“Our filing of these motions was not out of defiance,” Vamvoras and Hinch said in statement. “Our purpose is to force the legislature to appropriate the necessary funds to the local public defender’s office. To acquiesce, and work at our own expense, and without compensation only perpetuates the problem. It does not fix it.”
“We’re actually trying to get things moving,” Sikich said.
Hinch said the attorneys entered the courtroom Thursday “prepared to move forward with this because we believe it was in the best interest of our defendants and in the best interest of all the defendants involved.”
Although it was not the ruling she expected, Sigler said she had seen a similar decision before. In 2004, Judge Mike Canaday removed two of now-convicted killer Jason Reeves’ attorneys and replaced them with a public defender as a cost-saving measure.
She called Savoie’s decision an “elegant solution.”
“I think there are definitely defense attorneys out there that are willing to take on these cases free of charge and hopefully those are the lawyers that will be appointed to this case,” Sigler said. “Hopefully, I think, the effect of his ruling will be to actually resolve these cases much sooner than they would have been resolved otherwise.”
Last month, Judge Wilford Carter granted Citizen motions in several cases and ruled that the state’s timeframe of prosecution in each of those cases continues even while the cases are stayed.
Citizen motions originated out of a Calcasieu Parish case in which the state Supreme Court ordered a stay of proceedings in Adrian Citizen’s murder case until funds could be found for his defense.