The right to legal counsel is one of the basic rights that are guaranteed by the U.S. Bill of Rights. While there are some who may argue that applies only to criminal cases, an attorney for at least six indigent parents who have been incarcerated in various Georgia jails says otherwise, a New York City Criminal Lawyer discovered.
A senior attorney with the civil rights group the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR), has filed a class action lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court on behalf of at least six parents that are currently sitting in a Georgia jail for being too poor to pay their child support payments. The suit further alleges that the State of Georgia has continued to incarcerate these parents in some cases for more than a year and has failed to provide them with the legal counsel they need to prove that they are indigent.
When contacted by a N York City Criminal Attorney, the Georgia Attorney General’s office had little to say other than they had not seen the complaint, nor have they reviewed any of the circumstances of the plaintiffs. Based on these factors, they had no further comments. However, the attorney who is representing those parents who are affected by this had many comments.
The SCHR attorney also told the New York Criminal Attorney that all of the parents that she represents made attempts to pay child support. One of her clients, she said, is an unemployed military veteran who has been unable to find a job. While another had a history of making his child support payments on time…until hard economic times caused him to be laid off from his employer. Soon after he found a part-time job, within four weeks, he was arrested for being behind on his child support payments and he has been locked away in jail since October 2010. She further added that had this gentleman have had legal counsel, he could have proved that he was indigent. Instead, he was forced to fend for himself and was jailed. He also cannot afford to pay the $250 fine in order to secure his release.
The attorney for the plaintiffs went on to add that “Children are not served when parents who are searching for work to support their families are repeatedly carted off to jail.”
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