Calcasieu Public Defenders' Office trying to rebuild

Calcasieu Public Defenders' Office trying to rebuild

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The Calcasieu Public Defenders' Office is in ruins since Hurricane Laura, and now, they are struggling to get things up and running.

The Calcasieu Public Defenders' Office looks as though a bomb went off.

“It was devastating, I walked into my office and I had to take a few deep breaths, because I wasn’t prepared for what I saw inside, even though I had seen pictures of the exterior of the building.”

Felony attorney, Carla Edmondson, says the devastation extends beyond just the structure.

“There is not a file, a book, a document that has been unaffected. There’s a lot of mold and mildew already growing in the office."

Edmondson says the building, owned by the parish, is considered a total loss, and they expect it to be demolished.  Meanwhile, they will have to find a temporary place to get up and running.

“It’s very serious, we represent a large portion of people who are accused of crimes in this parish. Their lives are hanging in the balance,” Edmondson said. “Even though the courts are shut down presently, we need to get back up to speed, and those clients need to know that we are here for them, we are still working on their cases. We’re taking steps to try to get set up in a space so that we can get a phone line set up and continue working on the files.”

Even though it’s uncertain when court will resume, Edmondson says it’s important that they attempt to confer with clients, those incarcerated and those whose whereabouts are not known.

“This is something that really affects the community as a whole and public safety, because if you can’t get people who are accused of crimes and presumed innocent a lawyer, then you can’t prosecute them,” Edmondson said. “You can’t hold them indefinitely in jail.  So it’s really to the community and everyone’s advantage that we get back up and running as quickly as possible.”

Clients are encouraged to contact the office through a special email:

A spokesman for the parish says the building appears to be a total loss, and no decisions have been made yet on what to do with the property.

Copyright 2020 KPLC. All rights reserved.