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New Orleans judge suspends trial of 98 indigents as DA fights release of 20

[JURIST] A New Orleans court suspended the criminal trials of 98 indigent defendants Monday, 20 of whom were released from prison. Judge Arthur Hunter [JURIST news archive] of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court [official website] told the defendants that while the charges are not being dropped, the defendants will not be further prosecuted [AP report] until they are able to retain lawyers. Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan [official profile] said that he will fight the release of the inmates, telling the Times-Picayune that "no one will be released."

Last month, Hunter suspended the prosecutions of 42 indigent criminal defendants [JURIST report] who had not been provided adequate legal counsel. New Orleans' indigent defense program, funded almost entirely from traffic court fines, shrank from over 40 lawyers to six in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. State Representative Daniel Martiny (R) (official website), a member of a legislative taskforce on indigent defense, has said he plans to submit a bill that would establish a statewide public defender's board to replace the current system of 41 separate local boards in an effort to standardize the quality of representation provided to criminal defendants in Louisiana. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has local coverage.

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