Gov. Perdue might be sued for legal aid funding

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ATLANTA -- A group of lawyers and policy analysts is recommending increased funding on legal aid even as a group of judges wants to sue the governor for cutting their current budget.

Friday, the Judicial Council, made up of all the state's judges, holds a called meeting to discuss whether to sue Gov. Sonny Perdue over his decision to withhold 25 percent of their funds allocated for the final month of the fiscal year. Perdue said he was forced to act because tax collections keep getting worse as the year wears on and earlier cuts haven't proven to be sufficient.

It comes in the middle of a two-year battle over taxpayer funding for criminal -defense attorneys for the poor.

In the shadow of the legal community's complaints about the current budget, a new report calls for more funding to help poor and middle-class Georgians get legal representation for cases other than a criminal defense when taxpayers already fund lawyers. The report, by Kennesaw State University for the Supreme Court of Georgia Equal Justice Commission, found the need for a lawyer is common for non-criminal cases, also known as civil disputes.

"The concept of equal justice for all is the driving force behind this initiative," said Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears of the Supreme Court of Georgia, ex-officio head of the Committee on Civil Justice. "We are all stakeholders in closing the justice gap. If the system does not work equally for all, then it does not work for any of us."

More than three of every five Georgians of modest income has a need for a lawyer at least once a year, according to the report. A family of four making less than $30,000 annually needs a lawyer for three civil matters yearly, and the same size family earning twice as much as an average of 2.63 needs.

The figures are based on a telephone survey which found the most common issues for the poor and middle-income were consumer issues, housing, health care, employment, public benefits, education and family matters. It also found that three fourths of those surveyed didn't realize a lawyer might be able to help them address those problems.

Sears is holding a day-long conference on the issue June 24, less than a week before she retires from the court.

Perdue's spokesman Bert Brantley said the current budget crunch makes additional state funding for legal aid unlikely.

"There are other priorities in the budget as well, such as education and public safety," he said. "There is no way to fully fund everything that every interest group wants at the level they're looking for."

The study asked lawyers why they didn't volunteer to help clients who can't pay, and 85 percent said they didn't have time.

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3headedbeast 06/04/09 - 10:28 am
See what transpired when

See what transpired when people elect a Republican for two-term.
Lets face the facts Republican can not manage money with out some kind of budget deficit occurring.

jack 06/04/09 - 10:59 am
Beast. this Republican is

Beast. this Republican is smart enough to know he has to balance the state's budget If you are smart enough to comprehend what the article says, revenues (tax collections) are falling just like every where else and he still has to balance the budget. This isn't the only areas that has to be cut. Econ 101, ( but taught in college where you obviously never went).

Ginette 06/04/09 - 11:38 am
Perdue's method of balancing

Perdue's method of balancing the budget is to get blood from turnips. He doesn't see any reason to cut his travel with 20 or so of his buddies on a trip to Europe, but he thinks it is just fine to suddenly cut out whatever percentage he deems necessary from state agencies. Balancing the budget is important, but doing it fairly, wisely and legally seems to be beyond his capabilities.

pointstoponder 06/04/09 - 01:55 pm
So Ginette would it be fair

So Ginette would it be fair to cut everyone but the courts?

gunnerhall123 06/04/09 - 04:25 pm
Take a look at how Perdue

Take a look at how Perdue views our judicial system. His spokesman Bert Brantley says this, ""There is no way to fully fund everything that every interest group wants at the level they're looking for." Does he really think that our judicial system is a freaking interest group? This guy is a whack job. Thank God he is out of office soon. Whoever wins cannot do a worse job.

Ionesco 06/04/09 - 08:10 pm
Pointstoponder--you make a

Pointstoponder--you make a good point. Everyone's budget needs to be cut. The problem is that the Court is a separate branch of government. Its budget is approved by the legislature. To give the Governor the power to cut its budget (as if it were a mere agency) is a dangerous precedent--violation of separation of powers. For the courts to be independent, they need to not be beholden to the governor's pen. Would he withhold more if they ruled against him?

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