Citing the pandemic, the legislature called on all authorities to cut their budgets. The cuts could eliminate positions for public defenders who can prove a trial or sentence was unfair, overturn convictions, or shorten a person’s time.
Proposed budget cuts for the Georgia public defense system could compromise prisoners’ ability to question their beliefs.
“My office may not be able to perform its client and court duties for the next month,” warned Brandon A. Bullard, the director of the Office of Appeal, in one letter to the Georgia Supreme Court.
“I am ashamed to tell the Tribunal that we may not be able to meet our obligations and even more that I cannot say exactly how the Council intends to meet its obligations under the Depth Defense Act,” he wrote in a letter dated Jan. June. The Indigent Defense Act of 2003 established the Georgia Public Defender Council, the state’s public defense system that represents people in court and on appeals who cannot afford a lawyer.
Bullard added that he had sent similar letters to every state Supreme Court judge, every appeals court judge, and every supreme court judge in the circles where the defense of appeal practices.
On May 1, the Chairs of the State House and Senate Appropriations Committee and the Director of the Office of Planning and Budget sent an, citing the novel coronavirus pandemic memo to government agencies asking them to propose cuts totaling 14 percent of their budget. Then this week, Governor Brian Kemp announced Budgets would be cut by 10 percent, the Associated Press reported.
In its response to the legislature’s request, the public defender’s office proposed budgets This corresponds to a reduction of 7, 10 and 14 percent. Both the 10 percent and 14 percent scenarios included a cut in appeal services of nearly $ 1 million.
The Appeals Department currently employs 12 full-time attorneys who represent more than 200 detainees, according to the Southern Center for Human Rights resists The cuts. Along with its proposal, the Public Defense Bureau requested a waiver, claiming that the “budget cut would serve to halt this recovery and hamper the agency’s ability to provide essential and legally required legal services.”
Prisoners in Georgia have a right to effective legal counsel both in court and when directly invoking their beliefs. Appeals courts can review evidence showing that a trial or sentence was unfair and overturn a conviction or shorten a person’s time. Since 1989, 38 people in Georgia have been identified as innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted National relief register.
Just last month did the Georgia Supreme Court overturned convicting a man who was handcuffed in court to find that, “The appearance of [Esco] Hill in handcuffs, a waist chain, and leg irons during his trial undoubtedly reinforced the impression that he was dangerous and framed the lens through which the jury was looking at Hill. ”
“We are very concerned about the possibility of the state moving from paid, dedicated lawyers who specialize in defense of appeals to part-time contract lawyers who are paid very little to represent people at one of the most critical points of their business lives, ”said Atteeyah Hollie, a senior attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights. “They question their beliefs and whether or not they should be free in the face of possible mistakes that have occurred in their process.”
More than 35 organizations have a letter to the governor and the State Assembly, asking them to increase revenue rather than cut funding. They suggested several ways to increase the Treasury, such as removing a tax break that benefits wealthier residents and increasing the tax on tobacco products.
“Deep cuts will disproportionately harm color communities and rural communities and limit the state’s ability to recover,” they wrote. “We cannot shorten our path to prosperity and ask you to look for new revenue to avert profound budget cuts that will affect generations.”
Georgia lawmakers can too Limit tax breaks for companies after Danny Kanso, a Policy analyst with the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, a signatory to the letter.
“Our state offers unusually generous incentives,” he told The Appeal. “The tax breaks that have been on the books in recent years and the lion’s share of the tax breaks we offer go to specific industries.”
Legislators are expected to vote on the budget this week and put it to Governor Kemp for approval. The budget will take effect on July 1st.
The public defenders budget has been attacked before Hollie from the Southern Center for Human Rights. In January, before the pandemic, Kemp suggested Cut funding for public defense departments – and increase funding for prosecutors – by more than $ 3 million.
“This is the latest in a series of recent attempts to reduce the budget of this agency that protects such vital constitutional rights,” said Hollie. “Budget cuts fall on the shoulders of people who have been cut by budgets all their lives.”