Southern Center for Human Rights First Amendment Lawyer Bridge Project Pairs 40+ Clients in the Fulton County “Cop City” RICO Indictment
The First Amendment Lawyer Bridge (“The Bridge”) is the formalized lawyer pairing project housed at SCHR that provides compensation to attorneys representing people arrested while exercising their First Amendment rights. For decades, the Southern Center for Human Rights (“SCHR”) has provided this support to protesters and attorneys, but coordination has largely relied on the efforts of volunteers willing to take on representation pro bono.
As prosecutors and legislators across the country have increasingly attacked the right to dissent, the Bridge project will support zealous legal representation by working with partners to provide financial resources, structure, education, and thoughtful support to attorneys. Yesterday, Mawuli Davis, an SCHR board member paired with clients by the Bridge secured dismissals for two protesters in Fulton County State Court.
In addition to supporting attorneys for clients in other venues, the Bridge has confirmed representation for 42 of the 61 individuals charged in Fulton County Indictment 23SC189192, which alleges charges related to Racketeering Influence Corrupt Organization (RICO) laws. Many of those attorneys negotiated consent bonds and secured the release of their clients in advance of arraignment. Most attorneys on the case, even those not retained through the project, have participated in the project’s educational offerings. Attorneys have filed and joined motions since the November 6 arraignment, including but not limited to a motion to extend statutory speedy trial deadline, numerous general and specific demurrers to the indictment, and motions to adopt the motions of co-defendants. The general and specific demurrers include attacks on the indictment for improper use of the RICO statute, for the legal insufficiencies for alleging RICO, for the unconstitutionally overbroad and vague use of the Domestic Terrorism statute, and a First Amendment challenge to the RICO count, among many other challenges.
The Bridge is managed by SCHR Public Policy Unit Director Tiffany Roberts, Movement Policy Counsel Devin Franklin, and First Amendment Fellow Suad Abdel aziz. Community Justice Exchange (“CJE”) holds all funds raised for Bridge legal defense efforts and distributes them according to contracts executed by the Bridge, attorneys and clients. SCHR and CJE’s roles are limited to facilitation of representative pairings, compensation of attorneys, development and delivery of relevant educational trainings, and coordination of research support. Neither SCHR nor CJE are involved in individual or collective litigation strategies, which remain within the purview of protected attorney-client relationships. Media requests concerning the substance of the criminal litigation should be directed toward counsel of record for individual defendants.
The Southern Center for Human Rights is working for equality, dignity, and justice for people impacted by the criminal legal system in the Deep South. SCHR fights for a world free from mass incarceration, the death penalty, the criminalization of poverty, and racial injustice.