The Georgia Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court are located in the State Judicial Building in downtown Atlanta. (credit: Supreme Court of Georgia)

Attorney in APS cheating case asks court to reconsider conflict issue

A public defender representing six former educators in the Atlanta cheating case wants the appeals court to take another look at what he contends is a conflict in trying to represent multiple defendants.

Attorney Stephen Scarborough was hired by the public defender’s office to represent six defendants seeking a new trial in Fulton County Superior Court after they were convicted of racketeering in 2015.

Scarborough has worked on the appeal for more than two years. He recently asked to withdraw from the case, saying it was a conflict of interest for the same attorney to represent all six defendants. He has argued that he can’t ethically represent multiple defendants because his loyalty to each of them would require him to omit issues he would raise if he were representing a single defendant.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter denied his request to withdraw from the case in August. He then turned to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which declined in September to review the issue.

This week, Scarborough asked the appeals court to reconsider.

In his motion, he wrote: “should counsel’s six clients be marched through their motion for new trial litigation with conflicted counsel, the harms they would suffer would be distinct and irreparable.”

He wrote that requiring joint representation would hamstring an attorney and that the defense case presented would amount to “a shadow of what conflict-free counsel could have argued.”

“It is certain that concerns like these have left counsel, who has been practicing law for nearly three decades, stymied as to how, precisely, he can ethically fulfill his task in this case,” Scarborough wrote.

The prosecution has argued that the request is a delay tactic and contends the joint representation of six defendants does not present a conflict.

The state, in court filings, noted that all the defendants were convicted in the same racketeering conspiracy and that “the evidence against each was evidence against all.”

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