Constitutional Law

Murder Defendant Sues Ga. Judge Over Change of Counsel


A defendant in a capital murder case who was represented for more than a year by private lawyers paid for by the state of Georgia has sued his trial judge for replacing the private attorneys with public defenders.

Meanwhile, the salaried public defenders selected by Pike County Superior Court Judge Johnnie Caldwell to step in say they are too busy with other matters to handle Jamie Ryan Weis’ case appropriately, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The judge has now been sued by a third set of attorneys, Stephen Bright, Ed Garland and Don Samuel. They say Caldwell violated Weis’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel by suspending his longtime defense lawyers, Bob Citronberg and Tom West, and seek a court order requiring Caldwell to reappoint the two to represent Weis, the newspaper explains.

Caldwell said he removed the two lawyers from the case last year to prevent it from stalling if the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council ran out of money.

Lack of defense funding has also been an issue in other cases. As discussed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, there has been a furor, in particular, over Superior Court Judge Hilton M. Fuller Jr.’s insistence that the state agency had to pay seven-figure defense costs for Brian Nichols in an Atlanta-area courthouse shooting case that involves multiple victims.

Some considered Fuller a scapegoat for the state legislature’s failure to fund the defense agency adequately, while others said Fuller himself was the problem and even sought his impeachment. At this point, he is no longer on the case for other reasons.

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