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La. Const. art. 1, § 13 is unequivocal: At each stage of the proceedings, every person is entitled to the assistance of counsel appointed by the court if he is indigent and charged with a crime punishable by imprisonment. That assistance must be reasonably effective. Art. 1, § 13 also provides that the legislature shall provide for a uniform system for securing and compensating qualified counsel for indigents.
Defendant Leonard Peart, an indigent, was charged with armed robbery, aggravated, rape, aggravated burglary, attempted armed robbery, and first-degree murder. The trial court appointed a public defender to defend on all but the murder charge. The attorney had at least one serious case set for trial for every trial date during the period and received no investigative support for routine cases. The indigent defender program had no funds for experts, and their library was inadequate. The trial court found that the attorney was not able to provide his clients with reasonably effective assistance because of his work conditions and found that La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 15:145, 15:146, and 15:304 were unconstitutional for providing inadequate funding for indigent defense.
On appeal, the Court held that LSA-R.S. 15:304, 15:145 and 15:146 did not unconstitutionally burden the state's political subdivisions by requiring that they fund the indigent defender system. While the trial court might question the political wisdom of requiring political subdivisions to fund the system, the statutes themselves were not unconstitutional. However, in light of excessive caseloads and insufficient support with which their attorneys must work, the Court found that the indigent defendant was generally not provided with effective assistance of counsel.