State appoints Thomas Moffett Flournoy III chief public defender

Thomas Moffett Flournoy III leads the judicial circuit's indigent defense team

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 4, 2013 

As he represents one of two defendants in a murder trial in Muscogee Superior Court, Thomas Moffett Flournoy III will wear a new title along with his formal courtroom attire.

Flournoy has been appointed the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit's chief public defender, replacing Robert Wadkins Sr., who retired Oct. 1.

The son of Columbus attorney Thomas Moffett "Tim" Flournoy Jr. and grandson of former Columbus Recorder's Court Judge Thomas Moffett Flournoy, the 42-year-old was appointed to the job Oct. 25 by W. Travis Sakrison, executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council.

The position puts Flournoy in charge of ensuring indigent crime suspects get adequate legal representation in the counties of Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor.

A Columbus native, Flournoy is a 1990 Brookstone School graduate who got a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Georgia in 1994. During his college years, he worked for Columbus attorney David Grindle, and for nine months in 1994 and 1995 served as an investigator for the public defender's office here.

He graduated from law school at Mercer University in 1998, and went to work with his father until 2005, when he joined the public defender's office full-time.

From 2002 until 2005, he served as a contract public defender, serving clients whom the circuit public defender's office could not represent because of a conflict of interest.

Flournoy will be the Chattahoochee circuit's first fresh face as chief public defender in eight years. Wadkins, now 68, was the first to take the title after the Georgia General Assembly in 2003 passed the Georgia Indigent Defense Act, which established circuit public defender staffs paid market rates to represent indigent defendants full time.

A public defenders' council here chose Wadkins to create the circuit's new office in 2005, and he built and organized the office, which has 15 attorneys plus support staff.

Wadkins, who hired Flournoy to be his chief assistant in 2005, said Monday that he was "an excellent choice" for the top job.

Known for his serious and intense focus, Flournoy is able to sift through a deluge of detail without losing track of where the facts fit in a criminal case, Wadkins said: "He's like a good general surveying the battlefield. He can tell what's going on all over, and that's a great talent to have when you're doing what he's doing, running the public defender's office."

And Flournoy's ethics are unquestioned, Wadkins said: "As far as his character goes, he's straight as 6 o'clock. He doesn't always show a lot of humor, but when he does, it's funny as hell."

Flournoy's salary will be $87,500.

Flournoy and public defender Kathryn Rhodes today will be in court representing Dana Kessler, charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Jeffrey Morgan, 25, shot during a drug deal April 6, 2012, at Columbus' Sands Apartments, 1213 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Also charged in that case is Timothy Robinson, who's represented by attorney Stacey Jackson. Closing arguments in the murder trial are expected Tuesday morning before Superior Court Judge William Rumer.

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