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 ...
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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