ATLANTA - Georgia's governor has signed an executive order to provide $4 million to fund conflict-free legal representation for poor defendants.
The order signed today by Gov. Nathan Deal moves money from the Governor's Emergency Fund to the Public Defenders Standards Council.
The move comes after the state Supreme Court last year upheld a State Bar of Georgia formal advisory opinion that said attorneys in the same public defender's office can't represent co-defendants in a criminal case if doing so would create a conflict of interest.
Conflicts can easily arise in a multi-defendant case, like when one defendant agrees to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a plea deal.
The director of the Public Defender Standards Council had said the high court's ruling could become an unfunded mandate.