Is the deck is stacked against juvenile defendants? - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Former public defender claims the deck is stacked against juvenile defendants

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CINCINNATI (FOX19) -

Radio talk show host Lincoln Ware turned over the microphones of 1230AM "The Buzz" (WDBZ-AM) at 11 o'clock this morning to a former attorney in the public defender's office who claims kids who end-up in court in Hamilton County aren't getting the legal representation they deserve.

"Given the obstructions placed before public defenders in many cases, I was prohibited from effectively representing my juvenile clients," said Susannah Meyer, who acknowledged being fired from the office in January.

She claims a former juvenile court judge and her supervisors in the public defender's office came down on her hard for filing motions seeking to compel the prosecution to turn-over evidence and instructed her not to appeal judges' decisions against her clients to higher courts.

"The reason I'm here," she told listeners and the television cameras, "is because the things that I see Judge (Tracie) Hunter being attacked on are the same things that I was attacked on."

Judge Hunter is under scrutiny for a backlog of cases and has faced health issues.

But the head of the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office, Ray Faller, denies that children who wind-up in court here are getting a bad defense.

"I can't stand that," he said. "It's not true. Our lawyers are the hardest-fighting lawyers in juvenile court that you will find."

He said he could not discuss details of Meyer's firing. But he noted she was among a group of people who were let go after he took over in August 2012. However, he did disclose that Meyer has filed an EEOC complaint against his office. Federal investigations into whether an employer illegally fired someone can take around a year to complete.

Meyer claims kids in Hamilton County are too often ending-up in detention centers rather than getting treatment due to ineffective counsel. Faller says one needs to look at the charges the juveniles faced before coming to that conclusion.

"But if they're being bound over, it's not because we're not fighting for them," he said at an afternoon news conference. "It's because of what the law allows or doesn't allow and the nature of the hearings."

Asked whether his office has enough money to go up against prosecutors, Faller said he wasn't prepared to discuss the size of his office's budget but that it can always use more funding.

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