By LITTICE BACON-BLOOD
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Nearly 70% of Louisiana's public defenders offices ran deficits last year, requiring them to dip heavily into fund balances to keep operations afloat as they struggle to represent clients who can't afford attorneys.
According to an annual report issued by the state legislative auditor's office, 29 of the state's 42 indigent defense offices spent more money than they received for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012.
The report says parishes with shortfalls used available fund balances as a short-term solution during lean economic times, but that seriously depleted fund balances for local districts.
Officials say the problem is tied to the funding method for the offices, with the majority of money tied to traffic tickets. Officials predict that the financial situation could worsen.