WDA and WACDL strongly support increased state funding for indigent defense services. The provision of these critical, constitutionally mandated trial level services has been delegated to local governments and we commend these efforts to assist city and county governments to ensure that quality representation is provided to vulnerable communities. However, we do have concerns with some components of the bill and would welcome a chance work with the sponsors to address them.
- Cities, counties, the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD), and the state need to develop clear expectations that must be met before reimbursement will be paid, specifically the Washington State Supreme Court Rules, the Washington State Bar Association’s Standards for Indigent Defense Services and the quality “markers” for representation outlined in the Wilbur decision. It is important that their oversight of the funding is conducted in a way that is consistent and transparent, and that the cities and counties have a reliable understanding of what they need to do to receive reimbursement. Reimbursement without these clear criteria will impede the great strides that have been made in improving public defense services across Washington.
- Best practices should be considered not only for public defense services but for other justice system players. Public defense caseloads are directly affected by police priorities and prosecutorial charging practices which are controlled by local officials.
- Funding should be linked to the reasonable of cost providing services, not to average of previous two years funding, which in many cases is inadequate.
- If OPD determines a jurisdiction does not qualify for reimbursement funds, its allocation should be held in a “public defense fund” not returned to the general fund. Jurisdictions that do not qualify should have opportunity to re-apply within financial year to see if it now meets standards.
- OPD must receive sufficient resources to take on this vastly expanded scope of work.
For more information, contact:
Bob Cooper: (206) 852-3616 or bob@EvergreenPublic.com; or
Christie Hedman: (206) 623-4321 or firstname.lastname@example.org