GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Gwinnett County lawyers said they are facing struggles as many attorneys in the county struggle to combat the backlog of legal cases.
The number of lawyers the county relies on to represent the poorest defendants has slipped since courts shut down during the pandemic.
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This has created more stress on the system, attorney David Lipscomb told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson.
“We lost a good many lawyers,” Lipscomb said. “We have fewer lawyers, and we have that backlog of cases to attend to along with the continuing influx of new cases.”
Lipscomb is the chairman of Gwinnett County’s Indigent Defense Governing Committee. He told Channel 2 that Gwinnett County pays the lawyers on the committee hourly and not salaried, like many in other metro counties.
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The staffing is especially low in the Superior Court, where the most serious cases are tried.
Before the pandemic, there were 130 lawyers for defendants who couldn’t afford one. There are now 80.
“DeKalb and Fulton have public defenders, and they’re raised the salary rates and benefits so that they’re able to attract lawyers,” Lipscomb said. “We typically need probably another 20 or 30 lawyers so that the lawyers that we have aren’t overworked.”
Gwinnett County recently added $1,000,000 to the Indigent Defense budget to help recruit more lawyers.
Lipscomb said the team is recruiting as hard as ever while working to chip away at the pandemic backlog.
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