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W. Scott Snyder WA PRIMA Accessing Your Public Defense System: Wilbur v. Mt. Vernon and Caseload Limitations.

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Presentation on theme: "W. Scott Snyder WA PRIMA Accessing Your Public Defense System: Wilbur v. Mt. Vernon and Caseload Limitations."— Presentation transcript:

1 W. Scott Snyder WA PRIMA Accessing Your Public Defense System: Wilbur v. Mt. Vernon and Caseload Limitations

2 Gideon v. Wainright 1963 The Sixth Amendment guarantee of counsel is a fundamental right and through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amended is applicable to states and local government.

3 Justice Black: “…reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person hauled into court, who is too poor to have a lawyer cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.” The “noble ideal” of “fair trial before impartial tribunals in which the defendant stands equal before the law…cannot be realized if the poor man charged with the crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist.”

4 What does this right translate to in the setting of a high volume, misdemeanor court such as a district or municipal court?

5 Wilbur v. Mt. Vernon and Burlington Federal District Court, Western Washington Attack on so called “Meet and Plead” system Cities’ contract and system after cleanup was as good or better than that in place in most cities. Timing: 50th anniversary of Gideon.

6 Judge Lasnik -- Found that the public defense system in place: …systematically deprived [indigent defendants] of the assistance of counsel…and that municipal policy makers have made deliberate choices regarding the funding, contracting and monitoring of public defense systems that directly and predictably caused the deprivation.

7 What is required? Judge Lasnik: Timely and confidential input from the client regarding such things as possible defenses, the need for investigation, mental and physical health issues, immigration status, client goals, and potential depositions are essential to an informed representational relationship. Public defenders are not required to accept their client’s statement at face value or to follow every lead suggested, but they cannot simply presume that police officers and the prosecutor have done their jobs correctly or that investigation would be futile. The nature and scope of the investigation, legal research, and pretrial motion practice in a particular case should reflect counsel’s informed judgment based on the information obtained through timely and confidential communications with the client.

8 Investigation Meaningful communication with client Research Motion practice Trials Infrastructure and resources

9 The Good Deal Defense Judge Lasnik: It is clear from the testimony of a former city attorney assigned to prosecute misdemeanor cased for one of the municipalities that the people of the City received even more ineffective representation than the individuals charged with crimes. There is no constitutional right regarding the quality of the peoples’ lawyer, however, the Court is not in a position to address the negative impacts that budgetary constraints have had on any part of the criminal justice system other than the provision of indigent defense. While the city attorney’s willingness to grant overly lenient plea agreements may explain Sybrandy and Witt’s determination that investigation, research, and communication were unnecessary impediments to the expeditious resolution of their cases, it does not excuse their consistent failure to establish a meaningful attorney/client relationship with the people they represented.

10 THE OUTCOME Memorandum Decision (December 4, 2013) “It has been fifty years since the United States Supreme Court first recognized that the accused has a right to the assistance of counsel for his defense in all criminal prosecutions and that the state courts must appoint counsel for indigent defendants who cannot afford to retain their own lawyer. The notes of freedom and liberty that emerged from Gideon’s trumpet a half a century ago cannot survive if that trumpet is muted and dented by harsh fiscal measures that reduce the promise to a hollow shell of a hallowed right.” 2-3 year injunction, governed by “public defense monitor” $2.2 million fee order

11 CITY OBLIGATIONS FUND SYSTEM PROVIDE all services and infrastructures needed to meet Standards MONITOR A.Now B.Annually - statistics C.Periodic through review

12 ACT NOW Ounce of presentation worth a pound of cure Cities’ compliance efforts discounted ACLU taking this show on the road Advisory from ACLU letters to three cities and three counties Beware public records requests from the Defender Project

13 Evolving area of the law; trend and direction, not black letter law. Review factors cited in Wilbur, by the Bar and the Supreme Court. No factor dispositive, but all worth of review. Don’t be low-hanging fruit.

14 RCW 10.101.030STANDARDS Each county or city under this chapter shall adopt standards for the delivery of public defense services, whether those services are provided by contract, assigned counsel, or a public defender office. Standards shall include the following: Compensation of counsel Duties and responsibilities of counsel Case load limits and types of cases Responsibility for expert witness fees and other costs associated with representation Administrative expenses, support services, reports of attorney activity and vouchers Training, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of attorneys Substitution of attorneys or assignment of contracts

15 Limitations on private practice of contract attorneys Qualifications of attorneys Disposition of client complaints Cause for termination of contract or removal of attorney Nondiscrimination The standards endorsed by the Washington State Bar Association for the provision of public defense services should serve as guidelines to local legislative authorities in adopting standards.

16 SOURCES AND OPTIONS WSBA Guidelines (Referenced in RCW 10.101.030) Washington State Supreme Court - Case Loads Washington State Office of Public Defense - Case Weighting Rules of Professional Conduct


18 The criminal justice system is a four-legged stool: Police Prosecutor Defender Court Changes in any one leg will impact stability of the system.

19 COSTS $125 - 135 / Case2008 $250 / Case2012 $400 / CasePost Wilbur $450 / CaseWDA recommendation based on parity with King County prosecutor

20 A PROBLEMATIC BUSINESS MODEL 400 cases x $135 a case =$54,000 less 13% self-employment tax = $46,980 Less: Investigator Rental - meeting space Access to Professionals (Translator, mental health, etc.) Support Staff, Legal Research

21 Case Counts and Law Office Economics 400 cases = $150,000 +/ 1.Hundreds of Cases Small City - 200-600 cases. Contract costs double at case #401. Large City - (6,000 cases) - each additional 400 cases equals 6.66% of total


23 MULTI-STAGE REVIEW NOW:Assess your system QUARTERLY:Certifications to court of case counts ANNUALLY:Review of: 1.Case counts and percentage of cases tried. 2.Comments and complaints 3.Meet within 72 hours of appointment 4.Use of investigator (bills or motions) 5.Peer review (court and staff, prosecutor) Third party audit: Every three years (contract cycle) or if annual audit reveals problems.

24 Case Counts and Case Management Systems You should discuss with your Public Defender what case management system is used and how the Public Defender tracks data Your jurisdiction will require periodic reports

25 EVALUATING YOUR PUBLIC DEFENSE CASE ACTIVITY Within the 400 Case Count Per Attorney: Number of trials Number of motions/negotiations Number of hours spent per case Number of dismissals vs. pleas vs. convictions And then analyze data with municipal court, city attorney and possibly outside consultant. DOCUMENT YOUR FINDINGS


27 HOW MANY CASES IS THE PUBLIC DEFENDER TRYING? The Public Defender should maintain statistics showing the number of cases tried annually. National statistics coupled with the realities of a misdemeanor, high volume system indicate that approximately two to three percent of filings should result in trials. Track no-shows: cases set for trial and defendant fails to appear.

28 MOTIONS PRACTICE The Public Defender should maintain file records regarding motions filed or direct negotiations with prosecutor that lead to a reduction of charges or situations in which investigation led to negotiation or a reduced charge.

29 Resources. While your contract may provide for these resources, it is important that your Public Defender be able to document that he or she utilizes these services on a regular, reasonable basis. The primary resources the city must provide in the Public Defender contract and the Public Defender needs to utilize include: AN INVESTIGATOR Does your Public Defender use an investigator? As Judge Lasnik’s decision indicates, access to and the use of an investigator is an essential part of the system. The Public Defender cannot rely on the police report nor must the Defender accept the client’s version of the facts.

30 MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL AND PHYSICAL ASSESSMENT TRANSLATORS IMMIGRATION ADVICE WDA (Washington Defenders Association) resource: The Public Defender should be able to establish that he or she has access to, and uses as appropriate, the services of a mental health professional and a translator, as well as obtains immigration advice regarding the potential impact of charges. The Washington Defenders’ Association provides support for immigration questions. You should ask your Public Defender whether he or she utilizes the WDA resource or in the alternative, what resource he or she does use.

31 Is Your Public Defender: Meeting with assigned clients within 72 hours of appointment? Meeting with incarcerated clients on a regular basis? (Felony charge and misdemeanor issue) Trying cases? Bringing motions?

32 Does Your Public Defender: Maintain an office in your City or convenient to your court? OR Have access to a convenient and confident meeting room. VIDEO ARRAIGNMENTS: Defendant Questions


34 CONTRACT INFRASTRUCTURE Your contract should provide for the resources needed to comply with your adopted standards. AND

35 INDEMNITY AND INSURANCE Indemnity: Only as good as assets of indemnitor Insurance and Bonding : 1.Can’t ensure contract obligations 2.Malpractice policy not a substitute 3.Bonding: Cost an issue (1-2% of $2.0 million = $20,- 40,000)

36 Evaluate Public Defender Performance Revise Contract or RFQ Document Needed Data Annual Statistical Review Periodic (3-4 year cycle) Review by OUTSIDE CONSULTANT (Judge or Retired Public Defender)

37 THE FUTURE Interlocal Agencies for Monitoring Use of Nonprofit, county-wide Public Defenders State funded, Statewide system Court closure

38 PARTING THOUGHTS Wilbur was a game-changer; hiring competent Public Defenders who secure good results is no longer enough, A modest investment now can avert a major problem down the road. There is a sense or urgency.


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