Missouri isn’t the only state with public defender problems. The U.S. Constitution requires that all persons have the right to legal counsel and the Supreme Court has interpreted that mandate to mean that States must provide indigents charged with a crime legal representation. That requirement though, means that States have to fund their public defender programs, a need that ailing state budgets can’t handle.
In 2008, the Georgia Supreme court ruled that counsel must be provided for indigent prisoners who alleged on appeal that their lawyer was ineffective at their original trial. That mandate created a two-year backlog in appeals for indigents because the state defender system could not handle the increased caseload. This week, a Fulton, GA judge ordered the state defender system to provide attorneys to indigents on appeal within 30 days. The prisoners were also given class-action status to pursue their claims.
Read More from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.