ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia’s governor signed an executive order Tuesday to provide $4 million to cover costs associated with providing lawyers without conflicting interests for poor defendants.
The order signed by Gov. Nathan Deal moves money from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to the Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council.
The allocation comes after the state Supreme Court ruled last year that lawyers in the same public defender’s office cannot represent co-defendants in a criminal case if doing so would create a conflict of interest. The ruling effectively meant that many cases must be referred to outside lawyers.
Conflicting interests can arise easily in a multi-defendant case, such as when one defendant agrees to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a plea deal.
The unanimous high court opinion upheld a formal advisory opinion issued by the State Bar of Georgia in 2010. The high court found that if a single lawyer would have a conflict, that conflict would exist for all the public defenders in the office.
The Public Defender Standards Council had asked the Supreme Court to review the opinion, arguing that lawyers in the same circuit public defender’s office should be able to represent co-defendants as long as appropriate precautions are taken to prevent improper information sharing.
After the high court ruled last year, council executive director Travis Sakrison said the advisory opinion “could become an unfunded mandate that significantly stalls our momentum to the detriment of our clients.”
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Sakrison said he was grateful for the governor’s support.
“The funds provided from the Executive Order address the dramatically increased need for conflict attorneys as a result of (the State Bar advisory opinion),” Sakrison said.
The Atlanta Voice Backgrounder
The Atlanta Voice newspaper was founded by J. Lowell Ware in 1966 with a defined vision and mission which has been the publications’ motto and driving force ever since “A People Without A Voice Cannot Be Heard.”
The venerable, award-winning publication was born out of the refusal of the white-owned majority Atlanta media to give fair and credible coverage to the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. It was effectively and uniquely spearheaded by the legendary, and politically powerful, J. Lowell Ware, who when he died at age 63, had been responsible for publishing seven newspapers throughout the state of Georgia.
The paper was started out of the Movement, reports his daughter and current Atlanta Voice Publisher, Janis Ware, a dynamic and charismatic housing expert, business woman and community activist, who assumed the role and responsibility for fulfilling her father’s vision.
Janis Ware is a University of Georgia Business School graduate whose career has been steadfast in completing her father’s life long interest in publishing and community development. She has fulfilled her father’s vision by continuing the tradition of the Atlanta Voice as the unchallenged leader; the foremost provider of news and pertinent information to Atlanta’s African American community. The Atlanta Voice is committed to providing substance and credibility in the community.