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Case Name N.P. v. Georgia PD-GA-0008
Docket / Court 14-cv-241025 ( State Court )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Special Collection DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest
Attorney Organization Southern Center for Human Rights
Case Summary
On January 7, 2014, youth and adult criminal defendants filed this class-action lawsuit in the Georgia Superior Court of Fulton County. The plaintiffs sued Georgia, the Georgia Public Defender Standard Counsel (GPDSC), and several Georgia counties, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, for violations of the 6th ... read more >
On January 7, 2014, youth and adult criminal defendants filed this class-action lawsuit in the Georgia Superior Court of Fulton County. The plaintiffs sued Georgia, the Georgia Public Defender Standard Counsel (GPDSC), and several Georgia counties, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, for violations of the 6th and 14th Amendments, and for violations of the Georgia Constitution and the Indigent Defense Act of 2003, O.C.G.A. §§ 17-12-1 et seq. The plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights and private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the state to provide free and quality counsel to indigent defendants within three days of their arrest. The plaintiffs claimed that almost all convictions were obtained through guilty pleas from people who had not been properly represented.

Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the public defenders office was understaffed and underfunded; the public defender office had failed to create a juvenile division with attorneys specifically trained in juvenile public defense; judges misinformed criminal defendants about their rights; and indigent defendants were charged a $50 fee, even when public defenders did not appear for their trials.

On March 13, 2015, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted a Statement of Interest regarding the juvenile justice claims. Relying on In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, the DOJ argued that children have the same right to quality counsel as adults in criminal defense cases and that this counsel should be specifically tailored to the needs of juvenile defendants. The statement also referenced Hurrell-Harring v. New York State, 15 N.Y.3d 8, to argue that effective counsel requires more than simply counsel in name. Public Defenders, said the DOJ, must be properly trained to adequately address the needs of juvenile clients and have sufficient time to meet with clients and investigate their cases. The Statement further discussed the frequency with which juvenile defendants waived their right to counsel. Faced with the option of waiting for counsel, and thereby remaining in detention, or forgoing counsel and resolving the case immediately, many juvenile defendants waived their right to counsel. The DOJ argued that such waivers of rights must only be made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily after the juvenile had consulted with counsel. Such consultations are especially necessary in juvenile cases given the child's age and immaturity.

The parties in this case quickly settled, and on April 20, 2015 Judge Todd Markle approved a consent decree. The decree certified a plaintiff class for the purpose of the consent decree alone. It further stipulated that (1) the public defender office must add two additional full-time, salaried public defenders and one full-time, salaried investigator; (2) public defenders must interview indigent defendants within three business days of when the defendant is taken into custody; (3) the public defender office must maintain a Juvenile Division with at least one full-time public defender on staff with specific knowledge about representing children; (4) and all public defenders must participate in training. The decree was set to start on July 1, 2015 and to last for three years. Fulton County Superior Court maintained jurisdiction for enforcement purposes.

Gabriela Hybel - 06/05/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Hire
Training
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Fines/Fees
Juveniles
Quality of representation
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Ben Hill County
Crisp County
Dooly County
Georgia
Wilcox County
Plaintiff Description Adult and Juvenile Criminal Indigent Defendants
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 2015 - 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: 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 ]

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

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Remick v. Utah (2016)
By: ACLU of Utah
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2014CV241025 (State Trial Court)
PD-GA-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/27/2015
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Complaint for Injunction and Declaratory Relief
PD-GA-0008-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/07/2014
Source: State Court Website
Statement of Interest of the United States
PD-GA-0008-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/13/2015
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Consent Decree
PD-GA-0008-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/20/2015
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Markle, Todd Court not on record
PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bright, Stephen B. (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Gersch, David P. (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Hollie, Atteeyah Eshe (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Horton, Philip (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Jones, Jessica (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Kientzle, Michael Erich (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0003
Landon, Quin (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Luk, Arthur (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
O'Doherty, Kevin (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Owens, Elizabeth (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Primerano, Ryan (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Redd, Crystal (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Russell, Tiana (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Velez, Melanie (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0001 | PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Beal, Kim (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0003
Bingham, Derrick (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Calhoun, William W (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Gregory, William H (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Lightcap, Allen (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0003
Ritter, Stefan Ernst (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Sawyer, Toni (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0003 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Other Lawyers Foster, Lisa A. (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0002
Goemann, Richard C. (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0002 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0002
Hollis, James L. (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Jones, John Custer (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Jweied, Maha (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0002
Katzman, Jennifer (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Killebrew, Paul (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0002 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Moore, Michael J. (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0002 | PD-GA-0008-9000
NeSmith, William III (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Preston, Judy C. (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0002
Sherrell, Robert (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-0002
Snell, Bernard (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-0002 | PD-GA-0008-9000
Stanner, Andrew (District of Columbia)
PD-GA-0008-9000
Wright, G. Russell (Georgia)
PD-GA-0008-9000

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