A public defender in Louisiana has been accused of practicing law in the state without a license. Ashley Crawford had been working as a staff attorney for the Orleans Public Defenders office and represented hundreds of clients during her tenure.
Crawford graduated from Loyola University in 2016, but her name does not appear in a directory of lawyers who passed the Louisiana bar exam. The New Orleans Advocate reports that she used another lawyer's bar number to file at least two motions with the court.
The District Attorney's office is leading the investigation, but Crawford has not been charged. Practicing law without a license can result in a fine of $1,000 and up to two years in jail.
"Our office has been made aware by the Louisiana Supreme Court that Ms. Ashley Crawford of the Orleans Public Defenders office has been falsely portraying herself for several months as a licensed attorney in Louisiana," Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said. "Practicing law without a license, as Ms. Crawford appears to have done on more than 100 cases across all 12 sections of Criminal District Court, is both a criminal offense and a grave violation of the public trust in the criminal justice system. We are investigating these allegations as a criminal matter and have requested that the Orleans Public Defenders preserve and deliver all evidence relative to this complaint. As this is an open case, we have no further comment at this time."
Officials have not said what will happen with the cases she handled as a public defender. Rafael Goyeneche with the Metro Crime Commission told Fox 8 that most of the clients Crawford represented were accused of low level, non-violent felonies, and misdemeanors.
“Those convictions and guilty pleas could be set aside in all that. There are more questions than answers right now,” Goyeneche said.
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