After the U.S. Justice Department joined the case, the state of Georgia settled a lawsuit accusing it of providing inadequate representation to poor young people, NPR reports. The case argued that public defenders in several counties are so overwhelmed that defendants are routinely denied their right to a lawyer. U.S. Attorney Michael Moore of Macon says the settlement will ensure that young people accused of crimes are represented by lawyers with training and experience in adolescent development. He says people detained in jails, both children and adults, won’t have to wait more than three days to see a lawyer.
“A lawyer has to do more than simply occupy a spot in a courtroom, and this order and this consent decree really means that people who are in court in front of a judge have somebody there who’s invested in them and invested in their case,” Moore says. Civil-rights lawyer Stephen Bright, who filed the case, said the outcome “should make a great difference, particularly for children.” The settlement requires the public defender office to hire more lawyers and another investigator.