Columbus Defense Bar picking up extra workload

Attorneys for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit already have their hands full scratching criminal cases off an ever growing backlog. With the recent death of an up and coming defense attorney and another lawyer disbarred from practicing law, the load is even greater.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 7:09 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Attorneys for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit already have their hands full, scratching criminal cases off an ever-growing backlog.

The load is even more significant with the recent death of an up-and-coming defense attorney and another lawyer disbarred from practicing law.

Defense attorney Anthony Johnson said the passing of up-and-coming attorney, 32-year-old Ralston Jarrett, and Michael Eddings’s disbarment is a big hit to the local defense bar.

According to Jarrett’s law firm, he had a caseload of roughly 300 criminal cases that will now have to be divided amongst his peers.

On top of that, Chief Judge for the local judicial circuit, Gil McBride, said they are still dealing with court cases that have been moved out of the circuit due to former defense attorney Stacey Jackson’s appointment as District attorney.

“All of us. Every single person, whether you’re a public defender or you’re in private practice, you’re drinking out of a fire hose.” “I can easily count on my hand about nine defense attorneys, between defense attorneys and nine public defenders who have left.”, said Johnson. “We’re talking about at least 1000 cases that now they need attorneys. We will be doing some form of assistance and we will anticipate that that’s most likely going to be pro bono.... some of the cases we’re going to pick up from Ralston Jarrett.”

In Jarrett’s case, officials from his law firm told News Leader 9 his caseload will be divided amongst colleagues like Johnson and others, although it’s up to the attorney if they plan to do the work ‘pro bono’.

“Normally, in this situation, a lawyer will have made some arrangements,” said Chief Judge for the Circuit, Gil McBride. “Right now, like I say, we’re focusing on Mr. Jackson’s clients. We’re having some special dockets as well for Mr. Eddings clients just to make sure they have defense lawyers going forward. I have been encouraging clients in my courtroom to at least check in with the public defender’s office to see if they qualify.”

Chief Judge for the circuit, Gil Mcbride, adds that there are plans to beef up staffing at the public defender’s office. The hope is the city of Columbus will grant a request to use American rescue plan funds to help aid in staffing the public defender’s office.

You can reach the Columbus Public Defenders Office at (706) 653-4301