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Governor Sonny Perdue Encouraged by the Passage of Indigent Defense Legislation

Friday, April 25, 2003  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue stated today: "Now that indigent defense reform has passed, Georgia will have a system that provides for constitutionally adequate legal assistance of counsel for indigent defendants. Our state will no longer overlook those who lack the resources to supply their own defense in a court of law. Thanks to a spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship, our judicial system will be stronger and fairer than ever before.

"Senator Chuck Clay and Speaker Terry Coleman deserve special thanks for their leadership on this very important issue. I also want to thank Senator Charlie Tanksley, Senator Michael Meyer Von Bremen, Representative DuBose Porter, Representative Mary Margaret Oliver, and Representative Stephanie Stuckey Benfield for their diligent efforts in conference committee. I look forward to signing this legislation."

Summary Information Regarding Indigent Defense Legislation Under House Bill 770 as passed by Georgia's legislators:

  • The new system will be headed by an 11-member state board (Board) overseeing public defender offices in the state's 49 judicial circuits. The Board is expected to set standards of performance to ensure quality representation. It will also have the power to remove public defenders whose quality of representation fails to meet the standards.

  • The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, House Speaker, Court of Appeals and Georgia Supreme Court will each have two appointments for the 11-member oversight board. The final position will be filled by a public defender.

  • The bill assumes the state will greatly increase its share of funding. Counties are expected to supplement public defender offices. Legislators will work to find funding next year.

  • The bill allows counties to opt out of the public defender system if they can prove their current programs are as good as or better than the new one. Counties that opt out will not receive state funding.

  • Public defender offices will provide legal representation to indigents charged only in Superior or Juvenile courts. Counties will be allowed to contract with public defender offices to handle State Court cases.

  • The statewide system will begin operating in 2005.