The title is correct. Ashley Crawford, who was until Monday (6/26) employed as a staff attorney with Orleans Public Defenders, has been accused of practicing law without a license. According to news reports, Ms. Crawford was pulled out of a courtroom on Monday after OPD was unable to obtain a letter of good standing from the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Full disclosure: I don't know Ms. Crawford nor have I had any cases where she worked as co-counsel. But this is a terrible, terrible look for the public defender's office on so many levels. First of all, the office is habitually short on funding, and I am sure that this is the last thing that they need on their hands right now. Furthermore, the status of a Louisiana lawyer something that can be checked in seconds by searching the state bar association's directory. According to articles that I have read, Ms. Crawford worked on approximately 100 cases in all 12 sections of court. If the allegations are correct, Ms. Crawford's conduct puts EVERY result of EVERY single one of those cases under jeopardy. It could also result in OPD's exposure to civil liability and Ms. Crawford's criminal prosecution for practicing law without a license.
Public defenders do yeoman's work and are often underappreciated and underpaid for the valuable services they provide. That does not change the fact that this is a black eye on the criminal justice system in New Orleans. There needs to be some accountability if the accusations are correct. Again, I do not know Ms. Crawford and I can only guess at her motivations. This is just something that was SO EASY to check on - but because OPD (apparently) did not do so, it and its leadership will be dealing with the repercussions of Ms. Crawford's conduct for years.