Class action claims Louisiana public defender wrongfully collects $35 fee

Michelle Massey Mar. 14, 2011, 3:31am


On behalf of criminal defendants, the Tulane Law Clinic has filed a class action against the Louisiana Public Defender Board for violating the rights of criminal defendants by collecting a $35 statutory fee.

Steven Bice, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated indigent criminal defendants, filed suit against Louisiana Public Defender Board on Feb. 28 in federal court in New Orleans.

The lawsuit claims that the statutory fee ("indigent defender fund") imposed by the Public Defender Board creates an unconstitutional conflict of interest. The $35 fee is only imposed if the criminal defendants are convicted after a trial, a guilty plea or nolo contendere or forfeiting bond.

Bice also claims the fee creates an attorney-client conflict between Louisiana public defenders and their indigent clients.

The plaintiff is asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment that collecting the statutory fee violates the rights of Bice and similarly situated individuals and to issue an injunction preventing the Louisiana Public Defender Board from accepting the fee. Bice is also asking for an award of costs and attorney's fees.

Bice is represented by Stacy Seicshnaydre and M. Lucia Blacksher of Tulane Law Clinic in New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:11-cv-00477

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