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Orleans Public Defender’s employee is fired after accusations of practicing law without a license

District Attorney's office launches criminal investigation after she handled more than 100 cases

An employee with the Orleans Public Defender’s Office was fired Tuesday, a day after news broke that she handled more than 100 cases without a law license.

Ashley Crawford, who graduated from Loyola University College of Law, had worked at the Public Defender’s Office since October 2018. But the Louisiana Bar Association on Monday had no record of her being a licensed lawyer.

The Public Defender’s Office on Tuesday released a statement that said when Crawford was hired, she appeared to have been licensed.

“We check yearly to ensure our attorney staff remain in good standing and it was those administrative controls that revealed problems with her eligibility,” the office said in a prepared statement announcing Crawford’s firing.

Attempts to reach Crawford, who is now under criminal investigation by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, have been unsuccessful.

On Monday, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro issued a statement about the allegations, calling them “a criminal offense and a grave violation of the public trust in the criminal justice system.”

Eyewitness News legal analyst Chick Foret said that if the allegations are true, clients whom Crawford represented could well ask for their cases to be reviewed again. 

"Some of these cases will result in new trials for these defendants,” Foret said.

Crawford also reportedly used someone else’s bar number while conducting cases. 

In addition to the DA’s criminal investigation, Crawford is subject to discipline from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel if any trial verdicts are vacated. Crawford and the Public Defender’s office can also be held liable for the cost of any re-trial.

Crawford faces a maximum of $1,000 fine and up to two years in jail if she’s found guilty of the accusations.