The abrupt decision by Georgia officials to close a 16-lawyer Atlanta public defense office this month is causing great concern in the state’s legal community. A chief judge said the plan is irresponsible and could cause a legal crisis, and the Fulton County District Attorney expressed concern about the cuts.
The Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council announced on Friday that it planned to close the Fulton County Metro Conflict Defender Office on June 30. The office takes on defendants when there are conflicts of interest with other public defenders, a common situation when multiple defendants are charged in a single crime. The council has another scheduled hearing next week where it will readdress the issue.
"This action by the state is irresponsible — any change in the current system should be carefully planned and coordinated so that there is no break in indigent defense representation," Doris Downs, chief judge of Fulton Superior Court, said in a statement on Monday.
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. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 06/10/08)
Underfunded and overburdened public defenders are a major cause of wrongful convictions.
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and review examples of cases in which inadequate defense led to a wrongful conviction.