ATLANTA (CN) – Instead of closing at the end of June, the Metro Conflict Defender Office will close at the end of July. The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council voted last week to rehire seven lawyers of the 16 who represented more than 1,800 indigent people in felony and juvenile cases in Fulton and DeKalb counties, according to Stephen Bright, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights.
Georgia Public Defender Standards Council Director Mack Crawford announced on June 6 that the office would close at the end of the month due to a budget shortfall. Bright, who represented the fired attorneys and their staff, sued in Fulton County Superior Court on June 11 to try to keep the office open.
As a part of a statewide public defender system, the Metro Conflict Defender Office represents defendants in cases in which there is more than one defendant and conflicting interests.
As a part of a compromise, six lawyers will be assigned to complex cases in Fulton County courts, and one lawyer will be assigned to Fulton County Juvenile Court. In what Bright called an “absolute disaster,” lawyers will be hired on a contract basis to deal with non-complex cases.
As only three lawyers represented DeKalb County cases, the DeKalb County Public Defender Office and the DeKalb County judicial system will deal with those cases separately, according to Bright.