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Case Name Cantwell v. Crawford PD-GA-0006
Docket / Court 09EV275M ( State Court )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Attorney Organization Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR)
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 ... read more >
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.

Blase Kearney - 05/30/2012
Lauren Yu - 09/04/2021


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
General
Conflict of interest
Quality of representation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) State of Georgia
Plaintiff Description Incarcerated indigent men accused of crimes who had not been assigned counsel because of conflicts with the state public defender office.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2010 - 2012
Filed 04/07/2009
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PD-GA-0005 : Flournoy v. State of Georgia (State Court)
Additional Resources
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  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis Faculty)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
Date: 2009
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University Faculty)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Court Docket(s)
State Trial Court
12/20/2012
2009000275
PD-GA-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: Supreme Court website
General Documents
State Trial Court
04/07/2009
Verified Complaint
PD-GA-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
State Trial Court
07/08/2010
Consent Decree
PD-GA-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
show all people docs
Judges Roper, J. David (State Trial Court) show/hide docs
PD-GA-0006-0002 | PD-GA-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Sealy, Brooke (Georgia) show/hide docs
PD-GA-0006-0001
Velez, Melanie (Georgia) show/hide docs
PD-GA-0006-0001 | PD-GA-0006-0002
Weber, Gerald R. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PD-GA-0006-0001 | PD-GA-0006-0002
Defendant's Lawyers Ritter, Stefan Ernst (Georgia) show/hide docs
PD-GA-0006-0002

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