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Georgia Governor Roy Barnes urged Georgia’s young lawyers last week to become more involved in indigent defense because “the quality of criminal defense in this state leaves much to be desired.” Addressing a legislative breakfast for the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia on Friday, Barnes said it is “part of our duty” as lawyers to represent clients who cannot afford adequate counsel. Barnes notes that when he was a young attorney, “Every lawyer was expected to take some criminal defense work.” “Each of us has a responsibility to defend those cases,” he says. Indigent defense “has to be supplemented by lawyers because you’ll never be able to afford to have enough money” for public defenders’ offices in the state. Barnes says he’d also like to see more young lawyers running for the Georgia Legislature. Fewer lawyers are serving in the Legislature, he says, because their practices demand more time. The other reason is “folks hate lawyers.” He noted that perception didn’t keep him out of office, but he joked, “It only cost me about two million dollars extra.” On a more serious note, Barnes noted that child welfare will be one of his primary initiatives in this year’s session of the Legislature. Barnes hopes to encourage more lawyers to take on cases for the Department of Family and Children Services by increasing the rates it can pay lawyers. He’s asked the General Assembly to increase DFACS rates from $45 an hour to $60 an hour.

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