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The Georgia Indigent Defense Act of 2003
By Marion Chartoff
Indigent Defense columns.
Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright,
the State of Georgia finally took a significant step towards making
Gideon’s promise of effective representation for the poor a reality with
the passage of the Georgia Indigent Defense Act of 2003. Responding to
voluminous evidence of the terrible quality of legal representation for
poor people accused of crimes and the threat of more lawsuits
challenging its failure to meet its constitutional obligations, the
Georgia legislature overwhelmingly voted to create public defender
offices in each of the state’s 49 judicial circuits. The passage of the
act was the result of a concerted effort by members of the judiciary,
the state bar, advocacy groups, and legislators from across the
For years, Georgia has failed to provide even minimally adequate
representation to thousands of poor people, a disproportionate
percentage of whom are African-Americans, accused of crime
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