Sunday, June 17, 2012

Standards of Indigent Defense Adopted by Washington State

Washington State Supreme Court members - 2010

John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum reports that the Washington Supreme Court has adopted Standards of Indigent Defense for Public Defenders, authored and recommended by the State Bar Association's Council on Indigent Defense.  New York's Court of Appeals has punted on the issue - allowing a challenge to proceed in litigation but declining in Hurrell-Haring v. State of NY to issue statewide performance standards.  So it is excellent news that a state high court has taken seriously the obstacles Public Defenders and other defense lawyers face in trying to meet the constitutional mandate to provide effective assistance of counsel.  There is strong hortatory language, experience qualifiers and staffing requirements (e.g. two for sex offense cases).  But despite "weighting  standards" that permit a complex case to count for more than one case, and experience guidelines, the caselad limits don't feel limited at all:

150 Felonies per attorney per year; or 
300 Misdemeanor cases per attorney per year or, in jurisdictions that have not adopted a numerical case weighting system as described in this Standard, 400 cases per year; or
250 Juvenile Offender cases per attorney per year; or
80 open Juvenile Dependency cases per attorney; or
250 Civil Commitment cases per attorney per year; or
1 Active  Death  Penalty  trial  court case at a time  plus a limited  number  of non death penalty cases compatible  with the time demand of the death penalty case and consistent with the professional requirements of Standard 3.2 or 
36 Appeals to an appellate court hearing a case on the record and briefs per attorney per year.

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