If you're reading this and haven't yet read the The Seattle Times Expose, I mentioned above, here are a few findings:
A growing number of Washington counties and towns use fixed-fee contracts for public defense, capping what they pay regardless of caseload. In Toppenish, a small Yakima County town, one lawyer was paid the equivalent of $21.08 a case.
• Few counties set limits on caseloads, meaning lawyers have less time per case. In 2002, the caseload of one Cowlitz County public defender was 6½ times the limit recommended by bar groups. She dropped her contract in despair, calling the work "malpractice per se."
• Some attorneys layer jobs — boosting their income but diluting their time. The lawyer who made $21.08 per case in Toppenish (for 797 cases) also defended indigents in Wapato (511 cases) and presided as a municipal-court judge in Sunnyside (3,963 cases) — and had a private practice.
• Washington state has ignored pleas to help local governments fund public defense. Nationally, states average 50 percent of those costs; Washington pays 5.5 percent.