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Indigent Defense Standards – Misdemeanor Caseload Limits Take Effect Soon

November 21, 2014  by  Bob Meinig
Category:  Courts and Criminal Justice System

On January 1, 2015, the misdemeanor caseload limits for public defense attorneys adopted by the Washington State Supreme Court in the new Standards for Indigent Defense take effect. The court had in 2013 delayed the implementation of the caseload limits until that date, to provide time for the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) to conduct a statewide attorney time study”and to develop a model misdemeanor case weighting policy that is consistent with the indigent defense standards adopted by the court. Washington State Supreme Court Order No. 25700-A-1016, 04/08/2013. In compliance with the state Supreme Court’s order, the OPD conducted the time study and has developed a Model Misdemeanor Case Weighting Policy.

Under the caseload limits in Standard 3.4, full-time public defenders should not have caseloads exceeding 300 or 400 misdemeanor cases per year, depending on whether the jurisdiction has developed a “numerical case weighting” system, described in Standard 3.6. In jurisdictions adopting a numerical case weighting system, the caseload limit is 300 cases.  See also OPD’s Frequently Asked Questions Related to Implementation of the Standards for Indigent Defense.

For more information on these standards, see the Public/Indigent Defense Services and Standards section of our City and County Court Services webpage. That page has been updated with links to further information about these standards, to examples of ordinances and resolutions adopting the indigent defense standards, RFPs for indigent/public defense services, and contracts for such services. For an in-depth discussion of indigent defense caseloads, see this recent Washington Law Review comment by Andrea Woods, titled The Undersigned Attorney Hereby Certifies: Ensuring Reasonable Caseloads for Washington Defenders and Clients.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Bob Meinig

Bob wrote extensively on the state Open Public Meetings Act, municipal incorporation and annexation, and a wide variety of other legal topics. He is now retired.



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