Case: Cantwell v. Crawford

09-00275 | Georgia state trial court

Filed Date: April 7, 2009

Closed Date: Dec. 20, 2012

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On April 7, 2009, indigent pretrial detainees who had not been appointed counsel filed this class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state statutory law against the State of Georgia in the Superior Court for the County of Elbert, Georgia. The plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the failure to appoint counsel to them violated their constitutional rights. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that …

On April 7, 2009, indigent pretrial detainees who had not been appointed counsel filed this class action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state statutory law against the State of Georgia in the Superior Court for the County of Elbert, Georgia. The plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the failure to appoint counsel to them violated their constitutional rights. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that when the Northern Circuit Public Defender failed to renew the contracts for conflict attorneys, it resulted in no counsel being appointed to them at all, violating their Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as state law.

The plaintiffs were men who had been detained for various periods of time at county jails within the service area of the Northern Circuit Public Defenders (CPD) office. When a defendant qualified for a public defender, an interview was typically conducted. If the public defenders determined that the public defenders' office may have a conflict of interest in the case, they would withdraw from the case, and a "conflict attorney" would be appointed. The CPD office had, from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008, three attorneys contracted to handle cases in which the CPD had conflicts.

On July 1, 2008, CPD did not renew the contracts, and the conflict attorneys withdrew or ceased representing clients. The plaintiffs claimed that they languished in jail for months, until April 7, 2009, when the action was filed. The plaintiffs asked that the prosecutors be enjoined from proceeding against them, asked that they be appointed counsel, and that the CPD be declared in violation of the Sixth Amendment and state law.

On July 8, 2010, the court (Judge J. David Roper) entered a consent order agreed to by the parties. The consent order required the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council to appoint counsel within one business day after being notified of the need for appointed counsel in a conflict case, barring extenuating circumstances. The consent order also placed a cap on the number of felony and misdemeanor cases that a contract attorney could handle at any one time, and set employment standards and experience qualifications for applicants for contract attorney positions.

In 2012, the case was dismissed. We have no information regarding the implementation or enforcement of the consent order during 2010-2012.

Summary Authors

Blase Kearney (5/30/2012)

Lauren Yu (9/4/2021)

Related Cases

Flournoy v. State of Georgia, Georgia state trial court (2009)

People


Judge(s)

Roper, J. David (Georgia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Sealy, Brooke (Georgia)

Velez, Melanie (Georgia)

Weber, Gerald R. (Georgia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Ritter, Stefan Ernst (Georgia)

Judge(s)

Roper, J. David (Georgia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Sealy, Brooke (Georgia)

Velez, Melanie (Georgia)

Weber, Gerald R. (Georgia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Ritter, Stefan Ernst (Georgia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket

Cantwell v. Lavender

Dec. 20, 2012 Docket

Verified Complaint

April 7, 2009 Complaint

Consent Decree

July 8, 2010 Settlement Agreement

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Georgia

Case Type(s):

Indigent Defense

Key Dates

Filing Date: April 7, 2009

Closing Date: Dec. 20, 2012

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Incarcerated indigent men accused of crimes who had not been assigned counsel because of conflicts with the state public defender office.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

State of Georgia (Royston), State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 2010 - 2012

Issues

Reproductive rights:

Fetus Identity

General:

Conflict of interest

Quality of representation