Washington Courts: News and Information
Supreme Court Adopts Standards for Indigent Defense; Case Limit Guidelines Effective in 2013June 15, 2012
Olympia, WA June 15--The Washington Supreme Court has adopted new Standards for Indigent Defense Services. The new standards will be effective September 1, 2012, except Standard 3.4 regulating caseload limit guidelines which will take effect September 1, 2013.
The new standards include guidelines for caseload limits and types of cases; administrative costs, limitations on private practice, qualifications of attorneys, appellate representation and use of legal interns.
The rule was approved by a majority of the Court, with Justices Charles W. Johnson and Mary E. Fairhurst dissenting. A copy of the final order can be found online by clicking here together with the text of the new rule.
The standards were authored by the Washington State Bar Association’s Council on Public Defense to address concerns about the quality of indigent defense services in Washington. The WSBA approved the standards, and recommended adoption to the Supreme Court in July 2011.
Recognizing the fiscal impact new caseload guidelines will have on local governments, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen said, “We understand the delicate balance in providing a constitutional right to an attorney and the monetary impact on local governments. By delaying implementation of the caseload limits until 2013, our goal is to move towards the promise of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright.”
Numerous reports, including the Seattle Times 2004 series entitled “Unequal Defense: The failed promise of justice for the poor” have documented serious flaws in the indigent defense system in Washington State. Since then, numerous legislative and court rule changes have made improvements to the system. This is the first time actual caseload limits by type have been adopted.
The standards are also necessary to implement court rules CrR 3.1, CrRLJ 3.1 and JuCR 9.2 previously adopted by the Court which will become effective on July 1, 2012.
The adoption of the standards by the Supreme Court follows a four-month comment period that ended in April 2012.
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CONTACTS: Nan Sullins, Legal Services Manager, Administrative Office of the Courts, 360.357.2129 or email@example.com; Marc Boman, WSBA Council on Public Defense Chair, 206.359.5809 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Joanne Moore, Washington’s Office of Public Defense, 360.586.3164 Ext. 112 or Joanne.Moore@opd.wa.gov
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