Bloody Friday for Public Defenders

That’s a lot of fired lawyers.

In what one local defense attorney has termed the “Friday Morning Massacre,” 21 staff members of the Atlanta and Stone Mountain Conflict Defender Office—including 17 attorneys—were notified that, effective June 30, they will no longer have jobs.

Georgia Public Defender Standards Council Director Mack Crawford confirmed that the attorneys, who represent “conflict” defendants in DeKalb and Fulton County Superior Courts, as well as two juvenile court conflict defenders, have been notified that they will be terminated. He said he would release more details about the firings, and the plans to replace the staffers, later Friday.

The affected lawyers represent defendants when the local public defender’s office is already representing another defendant in the same case, to avoid a conflict of interest.

4 comments

  1. EAVDad says:

    I know some people will think this is a good thing — “after all why should we pay for these folks to have lawyers!”

    But, it probably costs the state more in appeals and retrials for defendants who didn’t have adequate counsel.

  2. Rogue109 says:

    Yeah, this is horrible. All this is going to do is cause more coordination problems for the courts.

    If we’re going to have a bloated PD system, let’s have one. If we are going to let counties handle stuff like this, let’s do that. But these half measures really only serve to harm defendants.

    These people are the ones who represent cases where multiple defendants are arrested. Once a PD is handling one of them, they can’t handle any more for fear that one client would accuse another client of doing the crime (which happens all the time). These conflict defenders help to make a crazy system a little more sane.

    All in all, justice loses on this one.

  3. The Comma Guy says:

    If Coke were to sue UPS both companies could not seek representation from King and Spalding. (I’m blanking on the name of a top-notch criminal defense firm in Atlanta) Why is it that we have rules in place to protect rich clients but not poor ones? Yes, the PD system has a some fat that could be trimmed (or perhaps some folks were a little too generous with their revenue predictions when they pitched the idea on how to fund Justice Fletcher’s pet project). But this is not the way to do it.

  4. wmo says:

    OK, a bit of different perspective on what’s going on here.
    Originally, counties were responsible for providing constitutionally mandated indigent defense. Some had good programs, some had terrible programs.
    So we got the statewide indigent defense system to provide (supposedly) uniform services in every county (except for a few that were allowed to opt out). These offices were set up by judicial circuit to mirror the district attorney’s office in that same circuit, staff and resource wise (number of attorneys, investigators, etc.)
    Recognizing that multiple defendant cases would definitely arise, a fund was set up to pay a reduced rate to private attorneys to handle appointed conflict cases. Appointments were made by the judges in the circuit, once a conflict was discovered, and the bills were reviewed by the Public Defenders Standards Council personnel. Oh, and the local head public defender had to approve which private attorneys were on the list for the judge to choose from.
    This system was working generally well in most circuits, but there was apparently not enough bureaucracy involved for the state office. They proceeded to establish these conflict defenders offices in nearly every judicial circuit in the state, regardless of whether there was an actual need for such an office. In some circuits, where the private attorney systems was working quite well, the local attorneys, including the head public defender and the superior court judges, learned of a conflict office coming to their circuit when job listings were posted to fill positions.
    Of course, if there are THREE defendants in a case, you still have to appoint private counsel, but since there is no money in the coffers to pay them, they never get paid for their time. And why is there no money (aside from the Brian Nichols case)? Because a needless second bureaucracy was created that suck up resources.

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