Case: N.P. v. Georgia

14-cv-241025 | Georgia state trial court

Filed Date: Jan. 7, 2014

Closed Date: July 1, 2018

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On January 7, 2014, youth and adult criminal defendants filed this class-action lawsuit in the Georgia Superior Court of Fulton County. The plaintiffs sued Georgia, the Georgia Public Defender Standard Counsel (GPDSC), and several Georgia counties, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violations of the 6th and 14th Amendments, and for violations of the Georgia Constitution and the Indigent Defense Act of 2003, O.C.G.A. §§ 17-12-1 et seq. The plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Center for Human Right…

On January 7, 2014, youth and adult criminal defendants filed this class-action lawsuit in the Georgia Superior Court of Fulton County. The plaintiffs sued Georgia, the Georgia Public Defender Standard Counsel (GPDSC), and several Georgia counties, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violations of the 6th and 14th Amendments, and for violations of the Georgia Constitution and the Indigent Defense Act of 2003, O.C.G.A. §§ 17-12-1 et seq. The plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Center for Human Rights and private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the state to provide free and quality counsel to indigent defendants within three days of their arrest. The plaintiffs claimed that almost all convictions were obtained through guilty pleas from people who had not been properly represented.

Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the public defenders office was understaffed and underfunded; the public defender office had failed to create a juvenile division with attorneys specifically trained in juvenile public defense; judges misinformed criminal defendants about their rights; and indigent defendants were charged a $50 fee, even when public defenders did not appear for their trials.

On March 13, 2015, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted a Statement of Interest regarding the juvenile justice claims. Relying on In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, the DOJ argued that children have the same right to quality counsel as adults in criminal defense cases and that this counsel should be specifically tailored to the needs of juvenile defendants. The statement also referenced Hurrell-Harring v. New York State, 15 N.Y.3d 8, to argue that effective counsel requires more than simply counsel in name. Public Defenders, said the DOJ, must be properly trained to adequately address the needs of juvenile clients and have sufficient time to meet with clients and investigate their cases. The Statement further discussed the frequency with which juvenile defendants waived their right to counsel. Faced with the option of waiting for counsel, and thereby remaining in detention, or forgoing counsel and resolving the case immediately, many juvenile defendants waived their right to counsel. The DOJ argued that such waivers of rights must only be made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily after the juvenile had consulted with counsel. Such consultations are especially necessary in juvenile cases given the child's age and immaturity.

The parties in this case quickly settled, and on April 20, 2015 Judge Todd Markle approved a consent decree. The decree certified a plaintiff class for the purpose of the consent decree alone. It further stipulated that (1) the public defender office must add two additional full-time, salaried public defenders and one full-time, salaried investigator; (2) public defenders must interview indigent defendants within three business days of when the defendant is taken into custody; (3) the public defender office must maintain a Juvenile Division with at least one full-time public defender on staff with specific knowledge about representing children; (4) and all public defenders must participate in training. The decree was set to start on July 1, 2015 and to last for three years. Fulton County Superior Court maintained jurisdiction for enforcement purposes.

The case is presumed to be closed as there have been no updates since then, and the consent decree has expired.

Summary Authors

Gabriela Hybel (6/5/2017)

Averyn Lee (6/10/2019)

People


Judge(s)

Markle, Todd (Georgia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Beal, Kim (Georgia)

Bright, Stephen B. (Georgia)

Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia)

Gersch, David P. (District of Columbia)

Gregory, William H (Georgia)

Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia)

Hollie, Atteeyah Eshe (Georgia)

Horton, Philip (District of Columbia)

Jones, Jessica (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Markle, Todd (Georgia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Beal, Kim (Georgia)

Bright, Stephen B. (Georgia)

Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia)

Gersch, David P. (District of Columbia)

Gregory, William H (Georgia)

Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia)

Hollie, Atteeyah Eshe (Georgia)

Horton, Philip (District of Columbia)

Jones, Jessica (District of Columbia)

Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia)

Kientzle, Michael Erich (District of Columbia)

Landon, Quin (District of Columbia)

Luk, Arthur (District of Columbia)

O'Doherty, Kevin (District of Columbia)

Owens, Elizabeth (District of Columbia)

Preston, Judy C. (District of Columbia)

Primerano, Ryan (Georgia)

Redd, Crystal (Georgia)

Russell, Tiana (District of Columbia)

Sawyer, Toni (Georgia)

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Velez, Melanie (Georgia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Lightcap, Allen (Georgia)

Other Attorney(s)

Bingham, Derrick (Georgia)

Calhoun, William W (Georgia)

Goemann, Richard C. (District of Columbia)

Hollis, James L. (Georgia)

Killebrew, Paul (District of Columbia)

NeSmith, William III (Georgia)

Ritter, Stefan Ernst (Georgia)

Sherrell, Robert (Georgia)

Wright, G. Russell (Georgia)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Foster, Lisa A. (District of Columbia)

Jweied, Maha (District of Columbia)

Katzman, Jennifer (District of Columbia)

Moore, Michael J. (Georgia)

Snell, Bernard (Georgia)

Stanner, Andrew (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

2014CV241025

Docket

N.P. v. State of Georgia

May 27, 2015

May 27, 2015

Docket

14-cv-241025

Complaint for Injunction and Declaratory Relief

N.P. v. State of Georgia

Jan. 7, 2014

Jan. 7, 2014

Complaint

14-cv-241025

Statement of Interest of the United States

N.P. v. State of Georgia

March 13, 2015

March 13, 2015

Pleading / Motion / Brief

14-cv-241025

Consent Decree

N.P. v. State of Georgia

April 20, 2015

April 20, 2015

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated July 26, 2022, 3:02 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Georgia

Case Type(s):

Indigent Defense

Special Collection(s):

DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest

Key Dates

Filing Date: Jan. 7, 2014

Closing Date: July 1, 2018

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Adult and Juvenile Criminal Indigent Defendants

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit NON-religious organization

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

Georgia, State

Ben Hill County (Ben Hill), County

Crisp County (Crisp), County

Dooly County (Dooly), County

Wilcox County (Wilcox), County

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Equal Protection

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: 2015 - 2018

Content of Injunction:

Hire

Training

Issues

General:

Access to lawyers or judicial system

Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond

Juveniles

Quality of representation

Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)