BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — On Thursday, the NAACP Baton Rouge chapter published a four-page letter speaking against East Baton Rouge Parish Chief Public Defender Lisa Parker.
Parker refuses to comment on camera regarding the multiple allegations made against her office, including those involving an ongoing state investigation. But, Parker said she wants to assure the public that she and her team are working toward change.
“I think a rest is necessary because coming into Baton Rouge, nobody knew me, And in the past year, there has been a lot of media coverage about what I guess certain people expected of the office,” said Parker.
NAACP alleges that 30 employees have left the office since Parker was appointed in July 2021.
“It’s constitutional, everyone has a right to defense for this country. Anything that disrupts that definitely hurts the Black and brown communities,” said Eugene Collins, president of the NAACP Baton Rouge chapter.
Parker’s spokesperson confirms that 17 attorneys have resigned since Parker took over. A statement from Parker’s office said those attorney positions have since been filled and since Parker took over no cases have been dropped, overlooked or neglected.
“Our office has always continued to represent our clients. That’s been our focus,” said Parker.
However, according to a letter from a staff member within the 19th Judicial Court, there were no public defenders working Wednesday because they weren’t getting paid and their office budget ran out of money.
Courtesy of NAACP Baton Rouge chapter
Parker’s spokesperson refutes that claim and said all court sections had a public defender on July 6th.
On Tuesday, staff were told they might be getting paid late because money from the state had not yet arrived in their account but they were paid on time Wednesday. The statement also addresses public defense not being properly funded as the core issue.
Parker’s office’s response to the NAACP allegations are available here:
Parker’s office held a community meet-and-greet Thursday. Collins criticized the low turnout.
“Why would you do it at Southern University law school if you want to get to the community? Why not call one of these council persons and do it at a community center where you can be near the people where this actually affects? This feels more of a PR move to me,” he said.
The letter from the NAACP states public defenders are handling caseloads “in excess of 300 cases at any given time with no increase in pay or any other compensation for this work.”
A spokesperson for Parker said, “Currently, one of our capable Public Defenders has 229 cases. That attorney meets with every client and has adequate support. The average attorney has at least 130 – 150 cases or less.”
Parker said she wants to regain the public’s trust.
“My goal has always been the same for the citizens of this community to be served and get proper representation,” she said.
The Louisiana Public Defender Board appointed Parker in July 2021.