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
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.
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.
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.
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.
In November 2017, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted Performance Guidelines for Juvenile Defense Representation.
In January 2019, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted Performance Guidelines for Attorneys Representing Respondents in Civil Commitment Proceedings.
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 adopted revised standards in May 2021. The WSBA standards are recommended and not enforceable.
In February 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
Council on Public Defense Members
Deborah Ahrens, Seattle University School of Law
Nicholas Allen, Columbia Legal Services
Matthew Anderson, King County Inquest Program Lead Attorney
Justin Bingham, City of Spokane Prosecutors Office
Bob Boruchowitz (emeritus), Seattle University School of Law
Ann Christian (emeritus)
Rachel Cortez, Law Office of Rachel Cortez
Judge Patricia Fassett, Cowlitz County Superior Court
Eileen Farley (emeritus)
Larry Jefferson, Office of Public Defense
Jaime Hawk, ACLU of Washington
Christie Hedman, Washington Defenders Association
Matthew Heintz, King County Department of Public Defense
Judge Drew Henke, Tacoma Municipal Court
Eric Hsu, Benton County Office of Public Defense
Kathleen Kyle, Snohomish County Public Defender
Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Washington Supreme Court
Abraham Ritter, Gonzaga University School of Law
Jason Schwarz, Snohomish County Public Defender Association
Travis Stearns, Vice-chair, Washington Appellate Project
Rebecca Stith, Attorney at Law
Christopher Swaby, The Swaby Law Firm
Natalie Walton-Anderson, King County Prosecuting Attorney
Brenda Williams, University of Washington School of Law
Council on Public Defense Staff
Equity and Justice Specialist