Monday, March 12, 2007

Casey Cagle: Like you, the poor deserve inadequate counsel.

"Freedom isn't free," conservatives say, and they're right. Of course, when they say it, they think of the cost in terms of dead soldiers, and since those soldiers usually aren't them, they're okay with it. But when asked to think of the cost in terms of money, especially their money, they're decidedly less okay with it. Witness Casey Cagle, who is concerned that the right to council has become too expensive:

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle told 11Alive News he agrees with those who want to study whether to overhaul the state's new system of indigent defense and give the legislature tighter controls over judicial spending.

"The judge, in my opinion, has ordered a case that is very, very costly, very expensive, and the taxpayers are having to foot the bill," Cagle said. "Clearly, I think we need to look at public defenders."

Cagle said the current system, which is only three years old, may be broken. "It's wrong for an indigent to be getting better defense than an individual like you and I that would be paying for it."

For the moment, ignore that the current system is funded by fees paid by criminals themselves, not taxpayers as a whole, and that Casey Cagle, being a multimillionaire, could afford a defense at least as good as the defendant here.

Instead, note the problem identified by Cagle: not that you and I do not receive the best possible defense when accused of a crime, but rather that an indigent defendant might receive a better one. And thus his solution: ensure that an indigent defendant receives a defense no better than the questionable one you or I might.

Rather than ensuring that all Georgians - well, except the wealthy Georgians, like, say, Casey Cagle - receive an equally inadequate defense, perhaps the state of Georgia should work to ensure that all Georgians, regardless of income, can afford the best possible defense. Of course, it wouldn't be without cost, but freedom rarely is.