A lawsuit filed in January alleges that a public defender office in southern Georgia doesn't properly represent their clients, reports the AJC:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A South Georgia public defender office lets juveniles go unrepresented and processes adults through the courts in assembly-line fashion, a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges.
The lawsuit targets the defender office for the four-county Cordele Judicial Circuit. It contends the office is so grossly underfunded and severely understaffed it cannot provide effective representation for indigent people accused of crimes.
“The right to counsel — essential for fair trials, equal justice, reliable verdicts and just sentences — is routinely violated or reduced to a hollow formality in the Cordele Judicial Circuit,” the suit alleges.
Gov. Nathan Deal, the head of the state’s public defender system, judges, prosecutors and commissioners from Ben Hill, Crisp, Dooly and Wilcox counties are among the defendants in the case. The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of other juvenile and adult defendants prosecuted in the circuit under similar circumstances.
The suit was filed by mothers of four juvenile defendants and by four adult defendants prosecuted in the Cordele circuit. They are represented by lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and by the Washington firm Arnold & Porter.
This echoes what United States Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2012:
"Across the country, public defender offices and other indigent defense providers are underfunded and understaffed. Too often, when legal representation is available to the poor, it’s rendered less effective by insufficient resources, overwhelming caseloads, and inadequate oversight.
As a result, too many defendants are left to languish in jail for weeks, or even months, before counsel is appointed. Too many children and adults enter the criminal justice system with nowhere to turn for guidance – and little understanding of their rights, the charges against them, or the potential sentences – and collateral consequences – that they face. Some are even encouraged to waive their right to counsel altogether."