New Study Spotlights Extremely Heavy Workloads in Louisiana's Public Defender System

On February 17, 2017, the American Bar Association and the Louisiana-based accounting and consulting firm Postlethwaite & Netterville released findings Friday of a joint study of workloads of state public defenders in Louisiana.
This is a reprinting of the American Bar Association press release. 

American Bar Association
Communications and Media Relations Division

Release:          Immediate
Contact:           Bill Choyke
Phone:              202-662-1864

New study spotlights extremely heavy workloads in Louisiana's public defender system

CHICAGO, Feb. 17, 2017 — The American Bar Association and the Louisiana-based accounting and consulting firm Postlethwaite & Netterville released findings Friday of a joint study of workloads of state public defenders in Louisiana.

The principal findings of the study are:
  • Louisiana's public defense system currently employs 363 full-time-equivalent public defenders. Based on the workload standards developed through the Delphi Method, 1,769 FTE public defenders are required to provide reasonably effective assistance of counsel pursuant to prevailing professional norms in Louisiana, resulting in a deficit of 1,406 FTE attorneys.
  • Louisiana's public defense system now only has capacity to handle 21 percent of the annual workload in compliance with workload standards developed through the Delphi Method.
The Delphi Method is a reliable and structured research method developed by the Rand Corporation in the 1960s, which has been employed across a diverse array of industries, including the legal system, to produce professional consensus opinions.

“This study demonstrates beyond question that Louisiana public defenders are daily put in grave jeopardy of violating their professional responsibility to provide competent counsel,” ABA President Linda A. Klein said. “When this occurs, ABA policy and well-established legal principles support public defenders in assertively seeking relief from excessive workloads. Courts, in turn, should provide relief when excessive caseloads threaten to lead to representation lacking in quality or to the breach of professional obligations. To do otherwise, not only harms individual defendants but our entire justice system.”

This is the ABA's fifth public defender workload study in three years. The first, “The Missouri Project,” was done in February 2014 in conjunction with RubinBrown, one of the nation's leading accounting and professional consulting firms. Additional studies are underway in Colorado, Tennessee and Rhode Island, and several others are planned.

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright extended the right to counsel to felony cases in state criminal courts and, subsequently, the Supreme Court extended the right to counsel to misdemeanor cases ending with the defendant being imprisoned. The ABA believes these studies, besides suggesting that excessive public defender workloads are endemic, call into serious question the accuracy of the phrase “equal justice under law” engraved on the front of the building of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The study was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and can be found here.

Postlethwaite & Netterville, APAC (P&N) helps businesses and individuals across the country shape clearer paths forward. Backed by 65+ years of experience, P&N is one of the largest CPA and consulting firms in the Gulf Coast region and the only top 100 U.S. firm based in Louisiana. Learn more at

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement on line. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews



December 15, 2018: Registration is now open for NAPD's Spring Events:
  • Executive Leadership Insitute (Frankfort, KY)
  • Train the Trainer (Frankfort, KY)
  • "We the Defenders" Investigators Conference (Biloxi, MS)
  • "We the Defenders" Social Workers/Sentencing AdvocatesConference (Biloxi, MS)
  • Team Mitigation Institute (Atlanta, GA)
Click on Events Tab for more info and to register.

October 30, 2018: NAPD releases a video about its achievements over the 5 years since forming in November in 2013. This films was coordinated by NAPD Steering Committee Member and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and debuted at the Racial Justice Training and 5 Year Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. You can watch the video HERE

July 1, 2018: General Registration opens for the “WE THE DEFENDERS” TRAINING CONFERENCE,  November 26-29, 2018, Indianapolis, IN

You can watch a video about the event HERE 

Due to overwhelming demand, NAPD will again offer this comprehensive Investigator and Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate training experience! The program will include one track for Investigators and a separate track for Social Worker/Sentencing Advocates.  Hear from nationally recognized experts who will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the work you do each and every day.  Network with other criminal defense practitioners from around the country and find your tribe. 

January 23, 2018: In response to US Attorney General Jeff Session's reversal of prior policy on the imposition of fines and fees for criminal defendants, NAPD submitted the following letter on behalf of the public defender community. You can read the letter HERE