ATLANTA (CN) – More than 1,800 indigent people will be without legal representation in felony and juvenile cases when the Metro Conflict Defender Office closes on the last day of the month, according to a complaint in Fulton County Superior Court. Plaintiffs call the June 6 firings of 16 attorneys and five other employees the “Friday Morning Massacre.”
The plaintiffs’ office represents clients in the Superior and Juvenile Courts of Fulton and DeKalb Counties.
The plaintiffs, who include the fired attorneys and their staff and clients, claim that Georgia Public Defender Standards Council Director Mack Crawford fired them without the legal authority to do so, and that the council did not approve the firings.
According to the complaint, Crawford’s decision to close the office was “based upon nothing more than a comparison of the percentage of conflict cases from one circuit to another, without an informed consideration of the difference between circuits or an accurate understanding of what constitutes a conflict in the representation of multiple defendants.”
Crawford found that 18 percent of Fulton County’s indigent cases are treated as conflict cases, compared with the state average is 6 percent.
Crawford then decreed that conflict cases may not make up more than 4.5% of the indigent cases in a circuit, and did so with no plan for “providing legal representation for clients of those fired,” the complaint states.
Plaintiffs demand a restraining order and injunction to maintain the office as staffed for 6 months, while the case is litigated.
Stephen Bright with the Southern Center for Human Rights represents the fired attorneys, staff and their clients.
Defendants include the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, its Director Mack Crawford, and individual members of the council.