“You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you”: Scott Halperin named new Cobb Circuit Defender

Headshot of Scott Halperin in coat and tieScott Halperin (photo from the Cobb County website)

“You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”

If you watch cop shows on TV you have no doubt heard that phrase. It’s a line from the Miranda rights phrase spoken by police during an arrest. It doesn’t have to be worded exactly that way, but the meaning has to be clear.

In the United States everyone has a constitutional right to defense in criminal trial, and the office that manages defense for indigent defendants in Cobb County is the Circuit Defender’s office.

The Georgia Public Defender Council estimates that 85 percent of all people charged with crimes in Georgia are represented by public defenders.

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According to the webpage of the Cobb Circuit Defender’s office its mission is:

  • To maintain an indigent defense program as required by state law, and as specified by the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council for those persons who are not able to afford legal representation in criminal cases in Cobb County.
  • To determine eligibility of those individuals requesting a court appointed attorney with the use of an application which includes a financial statement of the defendant. Appointing attorneys to those individuals that qualify as set forth in the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council’s guidelines.
  • Maintain a list of qualified attorneys to serve on the panel.
  • Provide support services to the various courts and panel attorneys involved in appointed criminal cases.

Scott Halperin has been named Cobb County’s Circuit Defender to take the place of Randall Harris, who is retiring. Harris has held the office since 2004.

“I want to express the sincerest gratitude to Randy Harris for his steadfast dedication to this office and its mission,” Chief Judge Rob Leonard said for the news release announcing the appointment of Halperin. “I’m proud to say that Cobb offers the best indigent defense services in the state. That is due in large part to Randy’s leadership and can only improve with Scott Halperin at the helm.”

“We were lucky to have many qualified candidates for this position. That’s a testament to the strength, integrity, and heart for service of our local bar,” Leonard said. “Scott has spent his entire career serving the indigent and most vulnerable in our community. He has a heart for serving the indigent. He also has the respect of the bar and the bench, and he understands the importance of maintaining the independence of the office.”

Leonard said the vote was unanimous and was in consultation with the Chief Judges of Magistrate, State, and Juvenile Courts.

The Circuit Defender’s Office contracts with private attorneys to represent defendants who qualify as indigent.

The news release gave the following information about Halperin’s education and career:

Halperin earned his law degree at Georgia State University in 2001. His background includes years working with Legal Aid and serving as a Public or Conflict Defender for the cities of Doraville, Sandy Springs, and Roswell. In private practice, he focused on representing defendants in criminal and juvenile courts. Since 2020, he has served as the Circuit Defender’s Lead Advocate in Cobb Juvenile Court, representing children, parents, and others.

“I am looking forward to continuing the legacy of superlative representation that the Circuit Defender has always provided to the community,” Halperin said.

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