The Fulton County Conflict Defender, Inc. was incorporated on January 23, 1996, pursuant to the provisions of the Georgia Nonprofit Corporation Code. The Board of Directors consisted of three members of the Fulton County Indigent Defense Committee, Rees R. Smith, Robert G. Rubin and William E. Smalley. The Board appointed Paul H. Kehir, Director of the Corporation. Tax exempt status under section 501(a) was applied for, and granted by the IRS on July 12, 1996. Our current Board of Directors is composed of Crystal Gaines, Brian Steel and Tom Wardell.


The Fulton County Conflict Defender , Inc. is designed to provide legal services to indigent defendants charged with felony offenses in Fulton County, Georgia. It is our mission to be more effective and efficient and enhance the legal representation offered to indigent clients through a combination of vertical representation philosophy and advanced support services.


The FCCD is funded through a combination of state and county funds. The state funds are those funds appropriated by the Legislature to Fulton County through the Georgia Indigent Defense Council. Fulton County supplements state funding. The Superior Court allocates a part of its indigent defense budget to FCCD for operational costs.


The FCCD is a not-for-profit criminal defense organization which, essentially, has contracted with Fulton County to provide representation to indigent citizens facing felony prosecution. We are proud that our effort to provide quality representation has been recognized – see the excerpts from "The Spangenberg Report."

The FCCD is not an agency of the County, and was developed to take cases which the Fulton County Public Defender was unable to handle. It evolved from the "Felony Trial Project" of the Georgia Indigent Defense Council [GIDC].

The FCCD is appointed when the Public Defender already represents one defendant in a case, and would therefore have a conflict if appointed to represent another defendant in that case. Our clients include juveniles being prosecuted as adults because of the serious nature of the offenses.

The FCCD has also agreed to take representation in other cases simply to help relieve the huge caseloads in the Fulton Superior Court.

Finally, the FCCD is equipped to handle death penalty cases; the Public Defender does not handle such cases. We presently have three active death penalty cases.

Our staff has a broad range of experience, and expertise in multiple areas. One of the elements of representation, which we emphasize, is alternative sentencing. We do thorough reviews of our clients’ backgrounds, including mental health issues: one of our senior attorneys is also a licensed mental health expert, and one of our interns is trained in forensics social work.

Our paralegals operate our "jail project," which allows us to begin representation of clients even before they appear in Superior Court.

The FCCD has developed this website, managed by its Appellate Division with the assistance of an intern with computer expertise, to help all attorneys who represent clients in Fulton County. []


The FCCD’s main office is located at Suite 400, The Carnegie Building, 133 Carnegie Way, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. The main phone number is 404-614-0304. The Fax number is 404-614-0554. The firm has an 800 number, 800-226-1075, and a dedicated line for the Internet. The EMAIL address is

There is a satellite office at the Fulton County Justice Center, 185 Central Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. The phone number at the satellite office is 404-651-7077. The satellite office has a computer that is on-line with the central office on Carnegie Way.

FCCD is composed of two divisions and two support service networks. The two divisions are the Superior Court and Major Case Divisions. Support services are organized under the Legal Administrator and the firm’s Chief Investigator. The Director has the overall responsibility for the planning, operations and management of FCCD. However, the firm has in place a Management Team that assists in carrying out these responsibilities.

The Management Team consists of the Director, the Supervisors of the Superior Court and Major Case Divisions, the Legal Administrator, and the Chief of the Major Case Division's Appellate Section. Together, they formulate policy and administer the corporations’ activities. Input from individual staff members is welcomed, and committees of staff and management are formed to address various issues as they arise.

The Superior Court Division is responsible for the representation of indigent clients appointed to the firm by Superior Court Judges and Magistrates at regular court calendars. The Superior Court Division also represents every third SB440 client (juveniles charged with felony offenses prosecuted in Superior Court by legislative mandate) prosecuted in Fulton County. SB440 appointments are usually made by magistrate judges at the time of the child’s first appearance hearing. This Division is also responsible for representing clients appointed by the Superior Court Administrator’s Office at the Fulton County Jail. The Superior Court Division, composed of eight attorneys, handles most of the firm’s cases. The Superior Court Division is supervised by Janet S. Willy.

The Major Case Division was established in March of 1997 to assist attorneys in complex criminal litigation matters. This assistance is offered in two forms, direct and indirect representation. The Major Case Division staff undertakes direct representation in a limited number of capital felony cases. Direct representation means that MCD attorneys act as lead counsel. This occurs in the more complex cases that require extensive investigation, specialized pretrial preparation and experienced counsel. This class of cases includes death penalty cases where our firm has been assigned to sit first-chair. It also includes most, but not all, homicide cases, certain sex and violent crime cases, and other high profile matters.

The Major Case Division also provides indirect representation on other selected felony cases. Indirect representation means that MCD staff provides assistance to Superior Court Division attorneys. This assistance could take many forms depending on the charges, the nature of the defense, and the complexity of the litigation. It may be that MCD assists an attorney with trial preparation. They may prepare motions and develop a theory for the defense or assist in exploring sentencing alternatives. In some instances, MCD staff may assist lead counsel at trial. The Major Case Division is staffed by three attorneys, two with extensive trial and appellate experience and the other with expertise in mental health and sentencing alternative issues. In September of 1997, MCD obtained the services of a part-time forensics intern from the University of Georgia. There are two legal interns assigned to the Major Case Division.

Finally, in February of 1998, an Appellate Section was organized as part of the Major Case Division. In addition to doing a limited number of direct appeals, the Appellate Section also coordinates in-house training, and outreach activities. The Major Case Division is supervised by Gary G. Guichard.

Paralegal and operations support are provided through the Office of the Legal Administrator. This support includes financial, human resources, information systems and facilities management. The Legal Administrator has a staff of four. One of our support staff professionals has been specially trained to assist attorneys in the process of jury selection. Support staff work under the supervision of our Legal Administrator, Belinda DeSaussure.

The Chief Investigator is employed to directly assist attorneys in the investigation of their cases and to oversee and direct the expenditure of funds for contract investigators. FCCD has a limited budget that is used for supplementing the services of the Chief Investigator. The Chief Investigator contracts for additional services as case requirements dictate and his budget permits. Marvin Dixon is the firm’s Chief Investigator.


The FCCD has an interesting history that began with the passage of the Georgia Indigent Defense Act of 1979, seventeen years before our incorporation. That Act placed the responsibility for operating indigent defense programs with local indigent defense committees. Committee members are appointed by the Supreme Court, the County Commission and the local Bar Association. Programs with indigent defense committees established under the 1979 Act are eligible for state funds distributed by the Georgia Indigent Defense Council (GIDC). GIDC distributes these funds, which support local indigent defense programs, pursuant to uniform guidelines. There are about 130 counties in Georgia receiving funds under the Indigent Defense Act.

In 1991, GIDC declined Fulton County's request for funds for failure to meet guideline requirements which require, in part, that the county's indigent defense program (the Fulton County Public Defender's Office) be administered by the Fulton County Indigent Defense Committee (IDC). Fulton County at that time did not have a

Fulton IDC. The County has taken the position that the Public Defender's Office, like other county departments, should be administered by the County Manager. Therefore, state indigent defense funds were withheld from Fulton County.

As a result of the withholding of Fulton County's appropriation, the Fulton County Superior Court Judges requested that GIDC establish a special project that would use the funds allocated to Fulton County for indigent defense. GIDC in turn established a Felony Trial Project as a division of GIDC. The Felony Trial Division was

also the first effort of GIDC to provide direct indigent defense services. Each year the Superior Court Judges had to reapply to GIDC for continued funding because of the interim nature of the Project.

The Felony Trial Project, originally a division of GIDC, was established as a temporary alternative for State-funded support for local indigent defense in Fulton County. The expectation was that Fulton County eventually would come into compliance with program guidelines so that state funds could go directly to the Fulton IDC. The Project was originally staffed by three attorneys and one part-time paralegal.

The Felony Trial Project embodied the philosophy that vertical representation the "one lawyer-client" model, was the best means of providing effective legal representation to indigent clients.

Originally, the Project undertook representation of indigent citizens accused of felony crimes in the municipalities not staffed by the City of Atlanta or Fulton County Public Defender Offices. Those municipalities were College Park, East Point, Fairburn, Hapeville, Roswell, and Union City.

During the calendar year 1994, the Felony trial Project expanded its role by undertaking representation of a limited number of non-death penalty, capital "conflict cases." These cases were assigned by the Administrator of the Superior Court, without regard to the place of origination.

Also, in May of 1994, Senate Bill 440 became law. This legislation granted the superior court exclusive jurisdiction over any child 13 to 17 years of age charged with any of seven felony crimes, to-wit, murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery or armed robbery, if committed with a firearm. The Project expanded its role by providing representation to every third indigent child charged under SB 440. The assignment of SB 440 cases was made by the Administrator of the Superior Court.

On September 21, 1994, the Council met and discussed the Felony Trial Project and the impact that continued funding would have statewide, if the county continued to be in noncompliance with GIDC guidelines. Specifically members of the Council were concerned that funding in the form of a special project, was being provided to a county that refused to comply with state guidelines.

GIDC appointed a subcommittee to explore the issues surrounding these concerns. The subcommittee's charge was to determine if the project should be discontinued and Felony Trial Project funds distributed to other counties in compliance with the State's guidelines; to see if progress could be made in getting Fulton County to comply with guidelines; or to suggest another solution to GIDC's dilemma.

After various meetings between subcommittee members, GIDC staff, and representatives of Fulton County's bar associations and Criminal Justice System, a plan was conceived that allowed Fulton County to receive State indigent defense funds. This plan called for the formation of a nonprofit corporation. This firm would be responsible for the continuation of the vertical representation philosophy of the Felony Trial Project and assume an added role of representing all indigent clients, charged with felony offenses, that the Fulton County Public Defender's Office was not able to represent.

The Board of Directors of the Corporation would be made up of three members. The Fulton County Conflict Defender, Inc., was created pursuant to this agreement. The signatories to the original agreement were Mary Whiteman, Chair, Georgia Indigent Defense Council, the Hon. Isaac Jenrette, Chief Judge, Atlanta Judicial Circuit, and Rees R. Smith, Chair, Fulton County Conflict Defender, Inc.

That agreement provided that FCCD would handle 1,200 felony appointments including every 3rd SB 440 case and up to 2 death penalty cases.

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