“Do those words simply mean justice is available if you can afford it, or does it mean justice for all?” Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Public Defender David Dunn asked.
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher, a former LaFayette attorney, was among the visitors congratulating Dunn, a Ringgold attorney, on Thursday at the grand opening of the LaFayette branch of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s office.
The public defender’s office in LaFayette is the first in the state except an office in Cordele that is operating as a pilot program, Dunn said.
“Providing adequate legal counsel for the poor accused of crime boils down simply to an issue of justice and fairness,” Fletcher said. “Clearly there was more certainty in the recognition of wrongs than there was in the prescription for their cure.”
Dunn was appointed to lead the office that will defend suspects who cannot afford an attorney.
In 2002, the chief justices commission on indigent defense concluded “the right to counsel outlined by the state and federal constitution was not being provided,” Dunn said.
The council then prompted the Georgia General Assembly to draft legislation that created a public defender’s office in Georgia’s judicial circuits.
Fletcher was instrumental in pushing the legislation forward, but credited providence for quick passage of the legislation.
Before the new office was implemented, “we had a ragtag, fragmented system that in all too many instances fell far short of our constitutional muster, resulting in a product that only vaguely resembled justice,” Fletcher said.
“(The statewide public defender system) is a great legacy for Justice Fletcher,” said Don Oliver, attorney for Walker County.
The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office serves four counties, and will soon establish offices in Catoosa, Chattooga and Dade counties.
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