Washington's State of Injustice

CORRECTED: In 2004, The Seattle Times published an outstanding (if frightening) expose Titled: An Unequal Defense - The failed promise of justice for the poor. It details a number of failures in the indigent defense system in Washington State focusing (unfortunately) on some really really bad lawyers.

It does, however, also get into some of the many systemtic issues that plague public defenders--low pay and absurd caseloads--in particular, while doing a nice job of elucidating exactly how the perverse financial incentives inherent in some of the assigned counsel plans conspire to really hurt indigent defendants.

A worthy read, if depressing.


Skelly said...

Yes, it was a good series; it came out in April 2004. In 2005, it turned out to be a catalyst:

Second Substitute House Bill 1542 passed both houses of the legislature. It was designed to provide a state “down payment” of $25 million on woefully inadequate criminal indigent defense funding, albeit with “null and void” language if funding wasn’t provided. Although major funding was not provided, $1.3 million was allocated in the 2005-2007 biennium to the Washington State Office of Public Defense to provide intensive training to new public defenders, to give legal and expert services to those public defenders, particularly in isolated areas around the state, and to work with public defenders as they enter into appropriate contracts with local government. There is $1 million to fund a pilot project as well. In future years, we will be seeking additional state funding for this major responsibility currently borne entirely by the counties.

Georgiana said...

Anecdotal evidence on the sad state of Washington's PD system: I once went on a blind date with a Seattle PD who ended up confessing that he got fired from his job because he failed to show up for hearings! This was back in 2002 or so. I never dated him again. I'm not a criminal lawyer, but I don't think it's okay to just forget about your indigent clients when they're about to go to jail. But I think this guy is still out there with a PD contract. Oh, and last I checked, he's still on His tag is "Clark Kent seeks Lois Lane" or something like that. Pphhht.