• Judge Constance C. Russell of Fulton County Superior Court didn't like the answer she received from the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council last spring when she wondered why Darryl White, an indigent man convicted of murder, had not been assigned a lawyer for his appeal.

    Russell wrote that “the Court has been advised that Mr. White is number 105 on the Council's backlog list awaiting appointment of counsel. The Council is unable to even estimate when Mr. White is likely to be appointed counsel.”

  • ATLANTA — Budget problems across the country mean many states are struggling to find a way to pay for indigent defense.

    In Georgia, another lawsuit has been filed against the state for failing to provide lawyers for poor defendants. Filed Tuesday morning, the lawsuit claims 200 poor inmates are without lawyers to help them appeal their convictions.

  • ATLANTA — Georgia has failed to provide lawyers for nearly 200 convicted criminals who can't afford attorneys but claim they're innocent and want to appeal, according to a lawsuit filed today against a host of state officials.

    Two of the lawsuit's six plaintiffs said they've waited more than three years for a state-appointed lawyer to represent them in an appeal, while the other four have waited more than 10 months, according to the legal challenge filed in Fulton County Superior Court.

  • Almost 200 convicted felons are without lawyers to file their appeals because there is no money to pay for them,  according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday. Some inmates have been waiting more than three years and more than half have been waiting at least a year for appointed appellate counsel, said the suit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court. It seeks an order requiring the state public defender system to provide lawyers for these inmates.

  • Sara Totonchi, the longtime public policy director and media strategist for the Southern Center for Human Rights, will become the prisoner rights group's new executive director on Jan 1.

    Totonchi will be the first non-lawyer to run the group, taking over from Lisa L. Kung, who joined as a staff attorney in 1999. Stephen B. Bright, the center's driving force for 27 years, tapped Kung to replace him as executive director in 2006, to free him up for more lawyering and teaching.

  • A national gay rights group filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department on behalf of 19 people who say they were illegally searched and detained during a late-night raid on a crowded gay bar.

  • Maybe nowhere else is the saying "money talks" more true than in courts such as Richmond County State Court.  Someone who can afford to pay off fines assessed for traffic and other misdemeanor offenses can usually walk out of court a free person. Anyone who can't pay might find himself entangled in the system with a financial debt that keeps growing as he faces the prospect of either paying the court or going to jail.

  • The Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday in a Richmond County case that pits the government and a private company against a pro bono attorney hoping the court will end the use of private, for-profit probation companies.

    Earlier this year, Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet reversed Lisa Harrelson's misdemeanor conviction and ordered Sentinel Offender Services to return the $500 she had paid in fines and fees.

    Sentinel and the state, through Richmond County State Court Solicitor Harold Jones, appealed the ruling.

  • ATLANTA -- The wheels of justice in Georgia are grinding more slowly each day.

    Cuts in spending for the state court system have led to fewer court dates available for hearings and trials, creating a growing backlog of cases. With serious criminal matters being heard first, delays are stretching to months for many civil, domestic and minor criminal cases.

  • Critics of Georgia's public defender system filed a lawsuit in April contending that hundreds of poor defendants in northeast Georgia were languishing in jails without seeing attorneys. They returned to court Thursday to tell a judge that there is still much work to be done.

    There are still dozens of lawyerless indigent defendants in northeast Georgia sitting in jail awaiting an attorney, said Gerry Weber, an attorney for the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed the lawsuit.