October 23, 2003
(Cordele-AP) -- The NAACP is joining a lawsuit that contends that poor defendants in a four-county area of south Georgia do not receive proper representation.
The lawsuit in Superior Court claims that people who cannot afford their own lawyers after being accused of crimes routinely sit in jail for months without seeing a lawyer. The circuit includes Ben Hill, Crisp, Dooly and Wilcox counties.
The original lawsuit filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights names Governor Perdue and the circuit's judges, district attorney and committees that run the local indigent defense programs as defendants. Perdue is seeking to be dismissed from the case.
The suit says local defenders -- who are signed to contracts to represent the poor -- carry twice as many felony cases as recommended by the Georgia Supreme Court. The lawsuit says attorneys routinely allow their clients to plead guilty after only a few minutes' discussion.
County officials have denied many of the allegations and have said they should not be held liable. The NAACP says the new complaint also will name the Georgia Indigent Defense Council -- the state agency that administers funds to county programs -- as a defendant.
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