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Georgia Gov. Roy E. Barnes told listeners at the State Bar’s annual meeting, held on Kiawah Island, S.C., that more pro bono work can solve Georgia’s inadequate indigent defense system. But Barnes’ proposal seems to conflict with a plan by a Bar committee for solving the problem. “The political reality of it is that if we don’t do it and we don’t give our time, we will not be able to raise the competency of counsel,” Barnes said Friday. He urged his audience to remember why they became lawyers. It wasn’t to buy luxury cars or clothes, but because “the law was the tool that empowered those who had no power,” he said. “This is what we ought to do.” PANEL URGES THAT STATE PAY TAB But the governor’s proposal had little in common with another presented to the Bar’s Board of Governors last weekend: that the state should pay all indigent defense costs. The committee presenting the plan concluded that Bar members already have contributed their share for far too long at little or no pay. The proposal differs sharply with the present cost set-up, under which the state pays 12 percent and counties cover the rest. The Board of Governors is expected to vote on the committee plan in August. The state also should run the system, the committee concluded, adding that a statewide public defender system should supplant Georgia’s system of local control. That’s another point of disagreement with Barnes, who told the Daily Report in a recent interview that, “I am not for the state taking over in some uniform, one-size-fits-all formula.” Additionally, the committee’s platform holds that each public defender’s office should have parity of resources in salaries and staffing with the respective district attorney’s office. JUDGES’ COMPLAINTS The schism between Barnes’ proposal and that of the Bar study committee isn’t the only conflict in the debate over indigent defense. Many activists contend that state oversight and control are necessary to ensure a quality system independent of local politics. But some judges complain that state money comes with strings attached, including unrealistic and inflexible guidelines. The debate likely will intensify in the coming months. Newly installed Bar President Jimmy Franklin said he believed everyone shares the same goals of improving indigent defense. But, he added, “There is a great disparity on how we get there.” Franklin warned that “the rhetoric needs to not be overheated as we solve the problem.” The Bar’s indigent defense committee, chaired by C. Wilson DuBose, says that local control has been a “blueprint for failure” and has resulted in widespread disparities. One of the problems with local control, their report says, is that “[t]he persons and groups in whom primary or de facto responsibility for overseeing the quality of indigent defense has been vested often have fiscal, political or administrative interests that conflict with providing adequate representation to indigent defendants.” Those conflicts come, the report says, “when public officials attempt to balance the competing interests of cost efficiency and docket administration with the constitutional requirement of effective representation.” The Bar report recommends abolishing the contract defender system, claiming it often forces those defenders, who typically have other private clients, to balance their financial survival with the quality of representation for their indigent clients. And it says the primary responsibility for hiring the public defender or appointing and paying private lawyers for indigent cases shouldn’t rest with the judges or local government officials. Defense lawyers, the report concludes, “should not be concerned about losing their jobs or not being appointed to more cases if they take positions contrary to those of the prosecution or the judiciary.” VOTE DELAYED The report was to be voted on last weekend by the Board of Governors, but the committee withdrew that request to give Bar leaders more time to study the issue. DuBose says the committee wanted the Bar to take some action on the issue by September, when a supreme court-appointed Indigent Defense Commission was to issue its report. However, the commission has announced the report will be delayed. The Bar’s indigent defense committee report, however, may undergo changes from its current form before it comes up for a vote. Tommy Burnside, of the Bar’s Advisory Committee on Legislation, said the Council of Superior Court Judges and some prosecutors wanted to have input into the recommendations. Burnside’s panel recommended the board consider the program, but did not endorse its supporting language. DuBose told the board Saturday that his committee probably will revise some of the supporting language, adding that some have said it is “unduly harsh and needlessly critical.” DuBose apologized to anyone offended by the report, adding that it was not intended to make “gratuitous attacks on individuals. The problem is with the system, not with individuals.”

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