Fri., July 9, 2010 3:28pm (EDT)

Poor Defendants Gain Faster Access to Lawyer
By Noel Brown
Updated: 4 years ago

AUGUSTA, Ga.  —  
A Superior Court judge in Augusta approved an order that gives poor people convicted of crimes faster access to a lawyer.
A Superior Court judge in Augusta approved an order that gives poor people convicted of crimes faster access to a lawyer.
The judge's ruling gives the Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council -- or GPDSC-- 1 business day after an arrest to appoint lawyers for certain indigent defendants. They are those who the local public defender’s office can’t represent because of a conflict of interest.

It comes in response to a 2009 lawsuit filed by the Southern Center For Human Rights alleging that hundreds in north Georgia were left without a public defender.

Melanie Valez is an SCHR attorney on the case.

"Certainly the consent order addresses one piece of the puzzle but the legislature and GPDSC will have to insure that there’s adequate funding for the indigent defense system as a whole," said Valez.

Since 2009 the Northern Judicial Circuit has seen its budget for poor defendants who can't be represented by public defender shrink from $130,000 to $37,000.