Jailhouses are rockin‘ in northeast Georgia, as hundreds of defendants awaiting trial are once again guaranteed an attorney if they cannot afford one. The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council this week settled a lawsuit alleging it had abandoned poor defendants in the five-county Northern Judicial Circuit. The judge signing the consent order concluded the state’s indigent-defense system is “fraught with a lack of accountability.”
Wildlife tag fees diverted Court ruling for indigent defendants allowed to stand
A judge Tuesday gave Gov. Sonny Perdue 30 days to hire attorneys for convicted felons who have gone as long as three years without them. The state is constitutionally required to provide the lawyers even if the responsible agency, the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, doesn’t have the cash to do so, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter ruled.
Nearly 200 criminal defendants have no state-paid lawyer as required by Georgia law to handle their appeals, according to a civil suit filed today. More than half have waited more than a year without an attorney. Budget cuts and a 2008 Supreme Court decision lie at the heart of the problem. “When our system of criminal justice does not itself comply with the rule of law, its integrity is fairly questioned,” said attorney Michael A. Caplan. “That integrity is what is at issue in this case.”