On January 28, 1994, a man incarcerated at the Fulton County Jail filed a class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the Fulton County public defender program, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiff, represented by court-appointed counsel and attorneys from the Southern Center for Human Rights, sought declaratory and injunctive relief from violations of his rights as secured by the Sixth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Georgia Constitution. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Fulton County knowingly under-funded its indigent defense program, and that it denied indigent defendants access to counsel during critical parts of trial.
On June 30, 1994, the defendants submitted a motion to dismiss the case. On September 15, 1994, the District Court (Judge Julie E. Carnes on behalf of Judge G. E. Tidwell) granted the motion as to the plaintiff's state law claim, but denied the motion as to the federal constitutional claims. On November 29, 1994, the plaintiffs submitted a motion to certify the case as a class action. The parties engaged in several months of discovery on this issue. On December 21, 1995, the Court (Judge Tidwell) signed a consent order that allowed the plaintiffs to conduct interviews at Fulton County Jail as part of the class certification process.
On June 13, 1996, the District Court (Judge Tidwell) certified a class composed of "[a]ll persons charged with non-homicide felony offenses within Fulton County who are not released on bond but who, instead, are incarcerated at the Fulton County Jail, and who, during the period up to, but not including, indictment or arraignment, are denied access to counsel." On June 28, 1996, the defendants petitioned the Court for reconsideration of its order certifying a class, and asked that the Court certify the question to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Tidwell denied these motions on August 26, 1996.
Both parties filed motions for summary judgment on February 3, 1997. The District Court (Judge Tidwell) denied both motions on July 24, 1997. On August 15, 1997, the defendants submitted a motion for a protective order to prevent plaintiffs' counsel from interviewing class members in private; on September 4, 1997, Judge Tidwell denied this motion
The parties soon entered into a series of mediation conferences with Magistrate Judge John R. Strother Jr.
On May 21, 1999, the District Court (Judge Tidwell) signed a Consent Order of settlement, and administratively terminated the case. In the Consent Order, the defendants acknowledged the need to hire more attorneys and promised to make good-faith efforts to ensure that indigent, non-homicide felony offenders would be afforded speedy consultations by trained legal staff. The Order also established average annual caseloads for the public defender program. The Order included a three-year period of semi-annual reports to ensure that the agreement was being properly implemented.
All six reports were filed, and it appears that the case sat otherwise inactive in the intervening years.
On June 17, 2005, the plaintiffs submitted a motion to amend several paragraphs of the 1999 Consent Order to conform to the Georgia Indigent Defense Act of 2003, and standards promulgated by the Public Defender Standard Council, which afforded more comprehensive and specific rights to indigent defendants than the language of the 1999 Order. Fulton County responded that it had no objection to the motion, and the District Court (Judge Tidwell) granted the motion on July 27, 2005.
The docket indicates no further activity in this case.Nick Niles - 07/10/2007