The State Bar’s Indigent Defense Committee to Discuss the Future of Public Defense

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The Indigent Defense Committee of the State Bar of Georgia will explore the future of Georgia’s indigent defense system and other topics facing the public defender system in the panel discussion “Fulfilling Promises: The Next Decade of Public Defense in Georgia” from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday, March 4, at Georgia State University College of Law’s Marjorie and Ralph Knowles Conference Center.

The Indigent Defense Committee of the State Bar of Georgia will explore the future of Georgia’s indigent defense system and other topics facing the public defender system in the panel discussion “Fulfilling Promises: The Next Decade of Public Defense in Georgia” from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday, March 4, at Georgia State University College of Law’s Marjorie and Ralph Knowles Conference Center.

Former Chief Justice Norman Fletcher will give opening remarks, and a panel of indigent defense advocates will discuss the role of public defenders in rural and urban areas, public defender workloads, representation of juveniles, and innovations and opportunities that exist to fulfill the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright. Gideon is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that the Constitution requires states to provide a lawyer to criminal defendants without the ability to hire an attorney.

“Gideon’s promise is about more than just guaranteeing that defendants have a lawyer, it’s a promise of effective and meaningful representation,” said Lauren Sudeall Lucas, a member of the State Bar’s Indigent Defense Committee and assistant professor of law and director of the soon-to-be-introduced Center for Access to Justice at Georgia State. “This discussion will center around what Georgia can do to ensure that promise is being kept.”

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of Georgia’s statewide public defender system. Under the guidance of Gov. Nathan Deal, Georgia has become a leader in reforming the criminal justice system, Lucas said. She is hopeful the same spirit of reform might inform the discussion of Georgia’s indigent defense system.

“We are in a far better position than 10 years ago, but there is still progress to be made,” Lucas said. “This forum will examine the current state of the system and discuss what opportunities there are for change over the next 10 years. We hope this event contributes to a longer and broader conversation about the steps needed to truly fulfill the promise of Gideon.”

Panelists include Russell Gabriel, director, Criminal Defense Clinic, University of Georgia School of Law; Atteeyah Hollie, staff attorney, Southern Center for Human Rights; Vernon Pitts, Atlanta Circuit public defender; and Leisa Johnson, Dougherty Circuit public defender. There will be a question-and-answer session following the discussion. Bryan Tyson, director of the Georgia Public Defender Council, also will deliver remarks.

The event is open to the public and there is no cost to attend. Seats are limited; R.S.V.P. by Monday, Feb. 22, to GPDCat10(at)gmail(dot)com. Lunch is included.

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Leah Seupersad
Georgia State University
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