Case: Allen v. Edwards

17-665079 | Louisiana state trial court

Filed Date: Feb. 6, 2017

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On February 6, 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and several private firms filed this class action in the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge Parish. The suit had thirteen named plaintiffs and the class was comprised of all indigent adults in Louisiana charged with non-capital crimes that were punishable by imprisonment. The suit alleged that Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Public Defender Board, and the state’s chief…

On February 6, 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and several private firms filed this class action in the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge Parish. The suit had thirteen named plaintiffs and the class was comprised of all indigent adults in Louisiana charged with non-capital crimes that were punishable by imprisonment. The suit alleged that Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Public Defender Board, and the state’s chief public defender were denying indigent clients their constitutional right to counsel by failing to establish an effective statewide public defense system. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the state’s practices violated the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Section 13 of the Louisiana State Constitution. The plaintiffs requested an injunction prohibiting defendants from maintaining a public defender system that failed to provide adequate representation, and a declaration that the plaintiffs and class had been denied due process, equal protection of the law, and the right to counsel. The suit also requested a monitor be appointed to supervise the public defense system until a statewide reform solved these constitutional failures.

The complaint included several studies demonstrating how a defective statewide system, a dwindling budget, and an ever-rising caseload made it essentially impossible for public defenders to adequately represent their clients throughout the state. At the time the suit was filed, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate and the second-highest wrongful conviction rate in the country. 70% of those incarcerated were African American and 85% of those accused of a crime in Louisiana relied on public defenders to represent them. The failing public defense system disproportionately impacted vulnerable African Americans throughout the state. Without timely appointment of counsel, the poor were denied any meaningful investigation of the prosecution’s case, advocacy during arraignments or bond hearings that could result in a reduction or dismissal of charges or release on bond, access to witnesses and evidence, and assistance with plea negotiations. If these studies were true, they clearly demonstrated that there was no way this population could be understood as standing “equal before the law” which is a right established by the Fourteenth Amendment.

On August 21, 2017, the defendants moved to have the case dismissed, arguing that the plaintiffs had no legal cause of action and that the suit should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On October 11, 2017, the court denied these requests.

Next, on June 12, 2018, plaintiffs motioned for their class to be certified and the court recognized that, as a matter of law, the criteria for class certification had been met. When a class is certified that signals that all members of this class have been wronged in a similar way by the same actor. This ruling recognized a class comprised of almost 50,000 Louisiana citizens whose constitutional rights had potentially been violated by the public defense system in Louisiana.

The defendants next moved for partial summary judgement on November 13, 2018, arguing that as state actors they were immune from being sued on this issue. On January 16, 2019, the judge refused to grant partial summary judgement and found that there were genuine issues of material fact that made granting partial summary judgement impossible.

The defendants then appealed the district court’s ruling in the 1st circuit of Louisiana’s appellate court. On February 6, 2019, the appellate court denied their appeal (2018 WL 735362). This case is ongoing.

Summary Authors

Mary Book (4/4/2019)

Related Cases

Anderson v. State, Louisiana state trial court (2004)

Flournoy v. State of Georgia, Georgia state trial court (2009)

State ex rel. Missouri Public Defender Commission v. Waters, Missouri state trial court (2010)

Yarls v. Bunton, Middle District of Louisiana (2016)

Davison v. State of Washington, Washington state trial court (2017)

People


Judge(s)

Hernandez, Todd W. (Louisiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Angelson, Meredith (Louisiana)

Barriere, Ashley (New York)

Carroll, Vanessa (Louisiana)

Clarke, Kristen M. (District of Columbia)

Culotta, Jason (Louisiana)

Cunningham, Mark A. (Louisiana)

Davidson, Jared (Louisiana)

Greenbaum, Jon M. (District of Columbia)

Kee, Peter J. (Louisiana)

Judge(s)

Hernandez, Todd W. (Louisiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Angelson, Meredith (Louisiana)

Barriere, Ashley (New York)

Carroll, Vanessa (Louisiana)

Clarke, Kristen M. (District of Columbia)

Culotta, Jason (Louisiana)

Cunningham, Mark A. (Louisiana)

Davidson, Jared (Louisiana)

Greenbaum, Jon M. (District of Columbia)

Kee, Peter J. (Louisiana)

Kelley, Mateya (District of Columbia)

Kolb, Daniel F. (New York)

Lawrence, William (New York)

Magner, Michael W. (Louisiana)

Magy, Daniel S. (New York)

Martin, Rebecca C. (New York)

Ryan, Hallie (District of Columbia)

Toscano, David B. (New York)

Walker, Andrew Philip (New York)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

No. 655079

Verified Petition for Class Certification and Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Feb. 6, 2017

Feb. 6, 2017

Complaint

17-665079

First Amended Complaint

Sept. 18, 2017

Sept. 18, 2017

Complaint

17-665079

Ruling on Plaintiff's Petition for Class Certification

Aug. 17, 2018

Aug. 17, 2018

Order/Opinion

17-665079

Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class

None

None

Internal memorandum

Resources

Docket

Last updated July 27, 2022, 3 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Louisiana

Case Type(s):

Indigent Defense

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 6, 2017

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Individuals in Louisiana who are charged with non-capital criminal offenses and are represented by a public defender.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Lawyers Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law

Southern Poverty Law Center

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Governor John Bel Edwards, State

State Public Defender, State

Louisiana Public Defender Board , State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Issues

Reproductive rights:

Fetus Identity

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Quality of representation

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

Race:

Black