• The Southern Center for Human Rights is pushing a south Georgia county to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal administrative costs charged to criminal defendants by a state court judge who was suspended by the state judicial disciplinary agency earlier this year.

  • Any good criminal-defense attorney will tell you to say four words if you are about to be arrested for murder: I want a lawyer.

  • A federal judge in Albany has refused to dismiss a civil rights case against Cordele Circuit judges who have been accused of barring public access to criminal court proceedings.

    For the second time this year, U.S. District Judge Louis Sands has denied a motion by lawyers with the office of the state attorney general to dismiss the suit against the circuit's three Superior Court judges—Chief Judge John Pridgen, Judge Bobby Chasteen Jr. and Judge T. Christopher Hughes.

  • 50 years ago the Supreme Court said that even the poor deserve an effective defense. Up until the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, only federal courts guaranteed a lawyer to the accused if they couldn't afford it.  The states regularly put people away who didn't understand the nature of the accusations against them, until Gideon...or so we hope?

  • Habeas corpus, the age-old way for prisoners to challenge their detention, has never been more restricted than it is now.

  • Some say the Fulton County Jail on Rice Street has always been a problem — and an expensive one at that.The $48 million jail opened almost 25 years ago and was to solve the issues that plagued the old jail, such as overcrowding and dangerous conditions.

     But those problems remain today, critics say, despite the county being under a consent order that requires them to make significant renovations, limit the number of inmates and maintain an adequate staff.

  • The Cordele Judicial Circuit's Superior Court judges have told a federal judge in Albany that the constitutional right of public access to the courts does not extend to criminal arraignments.

    Attorneys with the state attorney general's office made those arguments on behalf of Superior Court Judges Robert Chasteen Jr. and T. Christopher Hughes and Chief Judge John Pridgen in motions asking U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands of the Middle District of Georgia to dismiss a suit that names them as defendants.

  • Judges across Georgia are closing courtrooms to the general public, citing as reasons a lack of space and security concerns.

    They are doing so even though the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2010 vacated a Georgia Supreme Court ruling that had upheld the closure of a DeKalb County courtroom and the removal of members of the public during jury voir dire. The U.S. justices said at the time that courtrooms should remain open to the public except in rare circumstances.

  • CHILDERSBURG, Ala. — Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.
    When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.

  • A half-century ago, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone too poor to hire a lawyer must be provided one free in any criminal case involving a felony charge. The holding in Gideon v. Wainwright enlarged the Constitution’s safeguards of liberty and equality, finding the right to counsel “fundamental.” The goal was “fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law.”