CORDELE, GA (WALB) - With information from the U. S. Justice Department-
A class action suit claiming that the public defense system in the Cordele Judicial Circuit is so underfunded and poorly staffed that indigent people are routinely denied their right to legal representation has been settled.
In March 2015, the Justice Department filed a statement of interest in the case, citing the need for children to consult with an attorney prior to waiving their Constitutional right to counsel.
One month after the department's filing, the parties, with the assistance of U.S. Attorney Michael Moore of the Middle District of Georgia, who served as mediator, resolved the case and submitted a joint consent decree to the court.
- The proposed settlement requires the representation of children in juvenile court to be by a lawyer who specializes in juvenile law. and childhood and adolescent development.
- A public defender from the juvenile division will have to speak to any indigent juvenile who seeks to waive counsel and let him know what services are available.
- No one arrested in the circuit will have to wait more than three business days to see a lawyer.
- The Cordele Circuit Public Defender Office will go from two full-time assistant public defenders to four, and from one full-time investigator to two. and they will get more training.
The case was filed in 2014 and brought by indigent adults and juveniles who faced criminal and delinquency charges in the Cordele Judicial Circuit.