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Case Name Cantwell v. Crawford PD-GA-0006
Docket / Court 09EV275M ( State Court )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Attorney Organization Southern Center for Human Rights
Case Summary
On April 7, 2009, plaintiffs, indigent pretrial detainees who had not been appointed counsel, filed this class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state statutory law against the State of Georgia in the Superior Court for the County of Elbert, Georgia. The plaintiffs, represented by the ... read more >
On April 7, 2009, plaintiffs, indigent pretrial detainees who had not been appointed counsel, filed this class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state statutory law against the State of Georgia in the Superior Court for the County of Elbert, Georgia. The plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights, asked the court for declaratory and injuctive relief, claiming that the failure to appoint counsel to them violated their constitutional rights. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that when the Northern Circuit Public Defender failed to renew the contracts for conflict attorneys, it resulted in no counsel being appointed to them at all, violating their Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as state law.

The plaintiffs were men who had been detained for various periods of time at county jails within the service area of the Northern Circuit Public Defenders (CPD) office. When a defendant qualified for a public defender, an interview was typically conducted. If the public defenders determined that the public defenders' office may have a conflict of interest in the case, they would withdraw from the case, and a 'conflict attorney' would be appointed. The CPD office had, from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, three attorneys contracted to handle cases in which the CPD had conflicts.

On July 1, 2008, CPD did not renew the contracts, and the conflict attorneys withdrew or ceased representing clients. The plaintiffs claimed that they languished in jail for months, until April 7, 2009, when the action was filed. The plaintiffs asked that the prosecutors be enjoined from proceeding against them, asked that they be appointed counsel, and that the CPD be declared in violation of the Sixth Amendment and state law.

On July 8, 2010, the Court (Judge J. David Roper) entered a Consent Order agreed to by the parties. The Consent Decree requires the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council to appoint counsel within one business day after being notified of the need for appointed counsel in a conflict case, barring extenuating circumstances. The Consent Order also places a cap on the number of felony and misdemeanor cases that a contract attorney can handle at any one time, as well as setting employment standards and experience qualifications for applicants for contract attorney positions.

The Consent Order was to last 30 months from the day of signing, and will end on January 8, 2013.

Blase Kearney - 05/30/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Conflict of interest
Quality of representation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) State of Georgia
Plaintiff Description Incarcerated indigent men accused of crimes who had not been assigned counsel because of conflicts with the state public defender office.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Center for Human Rights
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2010 - 2013
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PD-GA-0005 : Flournoy v. State of Georgia (State Court)
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Written: May. 07, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Written: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Verified Complaint 04/07/2009
PD-GA-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Consent Decree 07/08/2010
PD-GA-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Judges Roper, J. David (State Trial Court)
PD-GA-0006-0002
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Sealy, Brooke (Georgia)
PD-GA-0006-0001
Velez, Melanie (Georgia)
PD-GA-0006-0001 | PD-GA-0006-0002
Weber, Gerald R. (Georgia)
PD-GA-0006-0001 | PD-GA-0006-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Ritter, Stefan Ernst (Georgia)
PD-GA-0006-0002
Other Lawyers None on record

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