Washington

Gideon Alert: Proposed Washington Supreme Court standards give focus to national caseload debate

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 3:16 PM

On October 31, 2011, the public comment period closed on proposed Washington State Supreme Court standards that would implement many of the American Bar Association’s Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System.  These proposed standards have been long in the making.  The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Council on Public Defense developed the standards now being proposed for Supreme Court approval after months of seeking input from numerous stakeholders and interested parties.  Nonetheless, in the final days open for public comment, a flurry of opposition was mounted by local prosecutors, county and city policymakers, judges, the State Legislature, and even some public defense providers.  [All public comments are available on the Court’s website here].

The Washington State Bar Association presented these proposed standards for the Washington Supreme Court's consideration. Public comment closed October 31, 2011. 

Author/Organization: Washington State Bar Association
Publication Date: 2011

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Review of the operations and policies of the Department of Assigned Counsel (DAC) in Pierce County, Washington, with a particular focus on indigency determinations, attorney appointments, investigations, training, and resources. Study team reports that many county officials lack a clear understanding of the organizational structure and function of the DAC. Empirical findings were made difficult by the absence of reliable statistical data, but the authors note that the majority of cases in Pierce County are handled by attorneys on the assigned counsel panel and that zealous pre-trial advocacy seems to be lacking in the county. Recommendations include, but are not limited to: determining procedures for establishing indigency, hiring more investigators and support staff, developing attorney training programs, and upgrading resources and facilities.

Author/Organization: National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Publication Date: 1981

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Gideon Alert: Washington State lawsuit exposes non-representation in municipal courts

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 1:19 PM

On June 10, 2011, a class action lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of Skagit County, Washington, by the law firm of Terrell Marshall Daudt & Willie PLLC and The Scott Law Group P.S., as reported in the June 20 Seattle Times.  The suit alleges that the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington have breached their constitutional duties to operate a public defense system that provides effective assistance of counsel to indigent persons charged with crimes in their municipal courts. The complaint alleges that the defendants failed to: a) impose caseloads restrictions on public defenders; b) “monitor and oversee the public defense system;” c) “provide adequate funds for public defense;” and, d) “provide representation at all critical stages of the prosecution;” among others.   The cities’ failures, the complaint contends, have resulted in a constructive denial of the right to counsel under Gideon v. Wainwright.  The lawsuit asks for injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent further violations and to protect the constitutional rights of all indigent persons charged with crimes in the municipal courts of Mount Vernon and Burlington. Or, as co-lead attorney Matthew Zuchetto states in the plaintiffs’ press release,“[a]t the end of the day, our clients are simply asking for one thing: to fix the system."

On September 20, 2007, the Washington State Bar Association Board of Governors adopted updated Standards for indigent defense services as proposed by the WSBA Committee on Public Defense.

Author/Organization: Washington State Bar Association
Publication Date: 09/20/2007

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Amendment to 2009-2010 contract for public defender services, extending the terms for two years to expire in December 2012.  

Author/Organization: Municipalities of Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington
Publication Date: 2011

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Flat fee contract for public defense services in the municipal courts of Mount Vernon and Burlington, in Skagit County, Washington, effective January 2009 to December 2010.

Author/Organization: Municipalities of Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington
Publication Date: 2009

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Class action suit filed on behalf of defendants facing misdemeanor charges in the municipal courts of Mount Vernon and Burlington, in Skagit County, Washington.  The complaint alleges, among other things, that the contract defenders are routinely in violation of their performance obligations to their public clients, and thus the municipalities are liable for a constructive denial of the class's 6th Amendment right to counsel.

Author/Organization: Terrell Marshall Daudt & Willie PLLC
Publication Date: 06/09/2011

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Tribal courts plan for public defense, as they take jurisdiction over felonies

BY Phyllis E. Mann on Monday, January 31, 2011 at 1:25 PM

As reported by KUOW radio out of Seattle, Washington, tribal courts are gearing up to take jurisdiction over felonies with authority to sentence people to jail for up to three years.  But to do so, public defense attorneys will have to be provided to those who cannot afford their own counsel. 

Gideon Alert: Poor performance costs Washington defender $2.9 million; inexperience, high caseloads, and "trying one's best" are no excuse

BY David Carroll on Friday, May 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM

On May 14, 2010, the Wenatchee World reported that a Chelan County public defender has agreed to pay a $2.9 million dollar settlement to a former client for admittedly providing ineffective assistance of counsel that led to the client’s wrongful