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January 2, 2012

Ripples of burst housing bubble felt now on Georgia's death row

This story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains how "the steep decline in the real estate market and historically low interest rates are the primary causes" for funding problems impacting the representation of Georgia's death row inmates.  Here are the details:

This legislative session, the Georgia Appellate Practice and Educational Resource Center will ask for a boost in its funding to keep it from having to lay off lawyers and investigators.  The 12-person nonprofit, with spartan offices in the basement of an Inman Park pizza restaurant, represents or assists with the representation of most of the roughly 90 inmates on Georgia’s death row.

“If the resource center loses more employees, it will have to take fewer cases, and there will be some inmates who are unrepresented,” said Atlanta lawyer Rob Remar, chairman of the center’s board.  “The likely outcome is that the system will grind to a halt for those people who don’t have lawyers.”

State Rep. Jay Powell, who heads a key House budget subcommittee, said he is aware of the problem.  “My feeling is we can be penny wise or pound foolish, because if we don’t pay enough on the front end, we’ll pay more in the back end,” said Powell, a Republican from Camilla. “If appeals aren’t properly handled, the cases drag on.”....

For years, the Georgia Bar Foundation has provided grant money to the resource center and other programs, such as Atlanta Legal Aid and Georgia Legal Services.  The foundation gets its funding from interest-bearing trust accounts set up by lawyers to handle real estate transactions and other deals.

Because of the economic downturn, the foundation’s collections have plummeted from more than $900,000 a month in 2007 to about $60,000 a month last year.  Three years ago, the foundation gave more than $750,000 to the resource center, and that dropped to $186,917 last year.  This year, the foundation was unable to provide any funding.

The Legislature had been providing $800,000 to the resource center annually, but, faced with a budget crisis beginning in 2008, it cut the center’s funding by more than $200,000. In the upcoming session, the center will ask lawmakers to restore its funding to the prior $800,000 level.

January 2, 2012 at 02:19 PM | Permalink

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Comments

'A man can die but once.'
Or on death row in most states, a man can't die.

{At least not from the prescribed penalty.}

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 3, 2012 2:00:05 PM

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