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The Municipal Court Public Defender’s Office is charged with the responsibility of representing indigent defendants who are accused of violating any city ordinance for which a criminal penalty can be imposed, as well as certain misdemeanors that the court has concurrent jurisdiction with the State Court of Fulton County. This office currently has 12 Assistant Public Defenders who are assigned to all Municipal courtrooms on a daily basis. It is projected that these attorneys will manage a caseload of approximately 900 cases each for this year.
Our Office is looking for Corporate, Community, and indivdual volunteers to help our clients with housing code violations.
Housing Code Violations: The Housing Code provides for the identification and prosecution of individuals who may be in violation of housing regulations promulgated by the City of Atlanta. Charges range from dumping or storing trash or junk on the exterior of homes or properties to not maintaining safe and sanitary living conditions on the interior of properties. Representing an indigent individual who is charged with housing code violations requires a working knowledge of real property law in that ownership and title issues may be involved. It also requires a competent knowledge of probate issues wherein properties may be inherited by clients or others who do not claim any ownership interest in the properties at issue. It also requires the attorney be versed in contract law wherein disputes can arise concerning the clients’ efforts to correct code violations on their properties. Finally, the attorney must be knowledgeable regarding foreclosure issues, including the right of redemption laws and laws of statutory repose. Handling a housing code violations case can require title searches and many hours of investigation to determine proper owners. The attorney must also visit the property in question, interview code enforcement officers to evaluate the alleged violations and then seek out structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing advice when alleged violations are disputed. Once a legal analysis of the case is completed it is the responsibility of the attorney to prepare for trial or assist the client with correcting the alleged violations. The attorney contacts community organizations and private companies who can possibly assist clients with bringing their property into compliance. These agencies are approached for help in making repairs, cleaning, providing materials and labor to correct violations. Additionally, many clients in housing court are senior citizens that have mental health issues and physical limitations and disabilities that may be a contributing factor to the cited violations. With regard to the elderly, attorneys work with outside agencies that offer specific services for senior citizens, such as social security, Medicaid and Medicare. If any of these contributing factors are identified the attorney also seeks assistance with addressing these concerns as well in order to avoid future allegations of code violations.
- David Helweick
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