Last Modified: Saturday, October 27, 2012 7:16 PM
Because of the budget struggles of the Public Defenders Office, the 14th Judicial District Court has begun doling out cases to members of the local bar to be handled for free.
Two upcoming hearings will deal with how to cover the expenses that arise from those defenses.
Shane Hinch, the attorney appointed for Andrew Kyle, has filed a motion for designation of funding and stay of proceedings, which will be heard Tuesday. Kyle is charged with theft, simple battery and simple robbery.
A similar designation of funding hearing is to be held Nov. 20 in the case of Barbara Vincent, who is charged with second-degree murder.
Previous court hearings for both Kyle and Vincent have prompted lively debate about the issue around the bench.
Both Jay Dixon, head of the Public Defenders Office, and Glen Vamvoras, Hinch’s law partner and the attorney who stood in for him at Kyle’s most recent court appearance because of a scheduling conflict, declined comment.
In his court filing, Hinch quoted a previous decision: “In future cases it will therefore be the district judge’s responsibility to determine before he appoints counsel that funds sufficient to cover the anticipated expenses and overhead are likely to be available to reimburse counsel ... whether the funds come from the Indigent Defender Board, from the State, from one court or another ... or from any available source.”
If funds aren’t available, the judge “should not appoint members of the private bar to represent indigents,” the filing continues.
The questions of where the money for expenses will come from has been asked repeatedly by the private bar, including at an August meeting of the Southwest Louisiana Bar Association to discuss the appointment of its members to work cases pro bono.
The Calcasieu Parish Public Defenders Office announced in July that it was facing a $240,000 budget deficit that meant it would be terminating the contracts of four conflict attorneys and withdrawing from about 400 felony conflict cases.
Hinch, who asked in the filing to be withdrawn from the case, asked that the case be stayed “until such a time as funds have been sourced and designated and for all full, general and equitable relief.”