Updated: Oct. 7, 2021

Council on Public Defense

The Council on Public Defense (CPD) unites representatives of the bar, private and public criminal defense attorneys, current and former prosecutors, the bench, elected officials and the public to address new and recurring challenges that impact the public defense system. The CPD educates and informs policy makers on issues that need reform and provides concrete proposals that are enhanced by the comprehensive nature of the CPD membership. The CPD is guided by its Charter and meets regularly throughout the year.

Response by the WSBA Council on Public Defense to the Supreme Court's Call to Action after the Death of George Floyd

On June 4, 2020, Washington's Supreme Court called on the legal community to recognize that we all bear responsibility for the continuing injustices faced by Black Americans. The Council on Public Defense stands with the Supreme Court and acknowledges the unique role public defenders play in eradicating injustice. Read the Council's full racial justice statement here.

Response to the Emergency Caused by Pandemic Driven Increased Public Defender Caseloads

Advisory Notice by the WSBA Council on Public Defense

The CPD has been discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public defense system statewide. Recently, the CPD’s Standards Committee met with public defense directors from across the state to hear how the pandemic has been impacting their offices and the delivery of service. A key takeaway from the discussion revealed that the pandemic has contributed to increased caseloads. The CPD will continue to discuss long-term, systemic solutions to this issue. However, since the problem is causing immediate issues to the delivery of public defense, the CPD wrote the attached memo for wide distribution to bring light to the problem and suggest immediate solutions for cities and counties to consider. Read the Advisory Notice here.

Council on Public Defense Initiatives

The CPD has accomplished a number of initiatives since it was established as an advisory committee of the WSBA in 2009. The following are some examples of its work.

Implementation of the Standards for Indigent Defense During the Coronavirus Emergency

In September 2020, the WSBA Board of Governors approved distribution of the Advisory Notice from the WSBA Council on Public Defense regarding Implementation of the Standards for Indigent Defense During the Coronavirus Emergency. The Council is working to support best practices for defenders in Washington during the pandemic. The Advisory Notice is a tool for public defenders to use when determining how to comply with the Standards for Indigent Defense (Standards) while navigating social distancing and health guidelines.  

Defense Resource Packet: Defender Advocacy for Pretrial Release

In November 2019, the WSBA Board of Governors approved distribution of the Defender Resource Packet created by the Council on Public Defense. The Defender Resource Packet is a tool for public defenders to use when representing a client during an initial appearance and detention hearings. The packet includes: 1) a client interview form to prepare for the First Appearance hearing; 2) a CrR(LJ) 3.2 defender advocacy sheet; 3) a sample CrR(LJ) 3.2 release order to request the judge to issue in every case; 4) a list of structural barriers identified by defenders in some jurisdictions around the state; 5) a recent CrR(LJ) 3.2 bench card that was distributed to judges statewide; and 6) a summary of possible effects of pleading guilty. The Defender Resource Packet is a guide and resource for attorneys that reiterates existing court rules and best practices.

Performance Guidelines for Criminal Defense Representation

In June 2011, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted Performance Guidelines for Criminal Defense Representation. The guidelines are intended to be used as a guide to professional conduct and performance and not meant to be undertaken automatically in every case. In September 2020, the WSBA Board of Governors approved updates to the performance guidelines to include representation of clients charged with being persistent offenders, a small addition regarding requiring familiarity with the court rules relating to discrimination in exercising peremptory challenges, and other minor edits. 

Performance Guidelines for Juvenile Offense Representation

In November 2017, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted Performance Guidelines for Juvenile Defense Representation. 

Performance Guidelines for Attorneys Representing Respondents in Civil Commitment Proceedings

In January 2019, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted Performance Guidelines for Attorneys Representing Respondents in Civil Commitment Proceedings.

Washington State Guidelines for Appointed Counsel in Indigent Appeals

In July 2019, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted Guidelines for Appointed Counsel in Indigent Appeals.

WSBA Standards for Indigent Defense Services

In September 2011, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted updated standards for indigent defense services as proposed by the CPD and forwarded the standards to the Washington Supreme Court for consideration. The WSBA Board of Governors standards were revised in September 2021. The WSBA standards are recommended and not enforceable.

Standards for Indigent Defense Services

In September 2021, the state Supreme Court ordered adoption of revised standards for indigent defense services. The Court-adopted standards are enforceable. 


Council on Public Defense Membership

The CPD consists of 23 voting members and up to five emeritus members appointed by the WSBA Board of Governors.

Council on Public Defense Leadership

Travis Stearns, Chair
Jason Schwarz, Vice-Chair

Council on Public Defense Members

Matt Anderson, King County Inquest Program
Robert Boruchowitz (Emeritus), Seattle University School of Law
Jason Bragg, Office Of Public Defense
Ann Christian (Emeritus), Retired
Rachel Cortez, Law Office of Rachel Cortez
Leandra Craft, King County Prosecuting Attorney
Eileen Farley (Emeritus), Northwest  Defenders Association
Judge Patricia Fassett, Cowlitz County Superior Court
Louis Frantz, Retired
Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Washington Supreme Court
Mohammad Hamoudi, Seattle University School of Law
Christie Hedman, Washington Defender Association
Matthew Heintz, King County Public Defense
Judge Drew Henke, Tacoma Municipal Court
Paul Holland, Seattle University School of Law
Larry Jefferson, Office Of Public Defense
Anita Khandelwal, King County Department of Publc Defense
Kathy Kyle, Snohomish County Public Defender
Arian Noma,  Gonzaga University School of Law 
Jonathan Nomamiukor, Columbia Legal Services
Abraham Ritter, Gonzaga University School of Law 
Jason Schwarz (Vice Chair),  Snohomish County Public Defender
Travis Stearns (Chair), Washington Appellate Project
Rebecca Stith, Attorney at Law
Christopher Swaby, Swaby Law Firm
Brenda Williams, UW School of Law

Council on Public Defense Staff

Bonnie Sterken
Equity and Justice Specialist

Fiscal Year 2021 Minutes