Originally created 06/17/04

Added workload led to 4 new hires

Since the sons of the chief Superior Court judge in the Augusta Judicial Circuit were appointed public defenders for juvenile courts, not only did the salary double, but more attorneys have been hired to do the job.

Four more attorneys were needed because of caseload guidelines, said John "Jack" Long, a local attorney who is chairman of the local indigent defense committee.

"I think we will need to add more," he said.

The guidelines Mr. Long spoke of have been set for the new statewide public defender system that will begin Jan. 1.

Those guidelines limit a juvenile court public defender to a maximum of 250 misdemeanor cases or 60 child abuse or neglect cases in a single year.

According to 2003 reports, the most recent figures available, in Richmond County, Brendan Fleming and Charles Evans were appointed to 1,671 delinquency and 175 traffic cases.

In Columbia County in 2003, William Fleming and John Flythe were appointed to 500 delinquency cases. William Fleming was one of the attorneys paid $60 an hour in Burke County for 280 delinquency cases in 2003.

For Richmond and Columbia counties, the juvenile court public defenders' caseloads were higher than the guidelines' maximum.

The Standards Council, which will oversee the state's 49 public defender offices, intends to review the standards as soon as it is able to gather reliable statistical data of actual caseloads, taking into account the time different cases consume.

Mr. Long agrees with many who believe the guidelines' maximum limits are too low, but "we are not meeting the guidelines for juvenile court still, even with these new people."

Since Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr.'s sons were given the juvenile court public defender part-time jobs in late 2002, at twice the salaries paid to the previous defenders, four more attorneys have been hired - two last year and two more recently.

The two new attorneys, one each for Richmond and Columbia counties, are Willie Saunders and Kelly Brashear Kitchens.

As in the past, Mr. Long said the indigent defense committee did not believe it necessary to advertise the positions.

All the attorneys had been on a list of lawyers willing to represent poor people in other courts, Mr. Long said.

That is true for all but the Fleming brothers. According to the local indigent defense report prepared for funding requests, neither William Fleming nor Brendan Fleming had volunteered to represent poor criminal defendants in adult courts until 2003.

In Richmond County, the pay for public defenders is $36,000 for Brendan Fleming, $15,000 for Mr. Saunders and $19,992 for Mr. Evans.

In Columbia County, William Fleming is paid $24,996, and Mr. Flythe and Ms. Brashear Kitchens each receive $15,000 annually.

Mr. Long said the salary amounts were based on the estimated amount of time each attorney spends working on these cases.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.


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