Press to make lawyers important workers
Defense lawyers are calling for lawyers to be key workers so the courts can reopen.
ATLANTA – – Most courts are closed because of COVID-19, which has put the lives of millions of people on hold. Defense lawyers said it was time to return to the courtroom.
They said the services they provide do not do their clients justice when done virtually and that closed courts compromise the constitutional rights of their defendants.
Because of this, a Georgia attorney wants Governor Brian Kemp to view criminal defense lawyers as an essential workforce so that they can get the vaccine and get back to work for the public.
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The Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys argues that a pandemic should not violate constitutional rights to legal assistance.
Courts have been keeping their doors closed for months to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Now the cases are pending, awaiting trial and other serious proceedings.
“Things don’t move that fast without set deadlines,” said Lawrence Zimmerman, president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Georgia is currently in the first phase of the vaccination schedule, which includes healthcare workers, workers in living facilities and those over 65 years of age.
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The Ministry of Health of Georgia announced shortly that Georgia will enter Phase 1B, which will treat non-health workers. However, there are no specific mentions of criminal defense lawyers.
Zimmerman said the return to the courtroom is long overdue and the criminal defense association believes the vaccine will help get the legal system back on track.
“This incredible backlog is going to take three or four years to dig from below, and you can’t do that until you have the other side of the courtroom where the defendants’ lawyers are,” Zimmerman said.
They said that the services they provide do not do their clients justice when done virtually, and that closed courts compromise the constitutional rights of their defendant.
“I firmly believe that first responders and the vulnerable should certainly be the first people to be vaccinated. We are not trying to replace anyone,” he said.
“The sixth amendment specifically mentions defense lawyers. It states that the defendants have the right to counsel. So I would say that we matter just because we’re on the Bill of Rights,” Zimmerman said.
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