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Friday, April 10, 2009

Recommendations for Overloaded Public Defenders

Here is what ethical rules clearly require public defenders and other court-appointed lawyers to do when they are subjected to the kinds of overloads that are described in the article:

• Decline to accept representation of any client beyond those that the lawyer can competently represent;
• Report to the appropriate disciplinary body any supervisor who directs a lawyer to take more clients than the lawyer can competently represent;
• Request permission of the court to decline any client beyond the number that the lawyer can competently represent;
• Report to the appropriate judicial disciplinary authority any judge who orders a defender to represent a client that the lawyer cannot competently represent;
• Put on the court record at the time of appointment that the lawyer is not able to give competent, conflict-free representation to the new client;
• Advise the client that the defender does not know enough about the case to advise the client regarding a plea;
• If the client nevertheless elects to plead guilty, put on the court record that the lawyer has not been able to competently represent the client regarding the plea.

In addition, as was done in Massachusetts, judges should order that any accused who has not been assigned competent, conflict-free representation be freed from jail.

These problems are not restricted to Georgia. They are country-wide. We will get reform of the system only if the things that are listed above are done. If not, the failure to afford competent representation to indigent criminal defendants will continue to be the most serious and wide-spread problem that we have in lawyers’ ethics.

Read it all here.

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