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 Council educates and informs policy makers on issues that need reform and provides concrete proposals that are enhanced by the comprehensive nature of the Council's membership. The CPD is guided by its
Charter (2023) 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 Council 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 Council 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 below statements for wide distribution to bring light to the problem and suggest immediate solutions for cities and counties to consider.
- Council on Public Defense Advisory Notice: Response to the Emergency Caused by Pandemic-Driven Increase in Public Defender Caseloads. (Adopted May 2021)
- Council on Public Defense Statement on Workloads. (Adopted January 2022)
- Council on Public Defense Statement: Statement: Public Defense Lawyers Should Seek Relief from Excessive Workloads. (Adopted July 2022)
Council on Public Defense Initiatives
The Council 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 July 2019, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted Guidelines for Appointed Counsel in Indigent Appeals.
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 May 2021. The WSBA standards are recommended and not enforceable.
In September 2021, the state Supreme Court ordered adoption of revised standards for indigent defense services. The Court-adopted standards are enforceable. The Court adopted revisions to the Certification of Compliance in October 2023.
In November 2022, the WSBA Board of Governors adopted a comment clarifying the minimum experience levels required for certification for Class B and C felonies under Standard 14.2(E).
Council on Public Defense Membership
The Council 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
- Robert Boruchowitz (Emeritus), Seattle University School of Law
- Ann Christian (Emeritus), Retired
- Rachel Cortez, Law Office of Rachel Cortez
- Leandra Craft, King County Prosecuting Attorney
- Eileen Farley (Emeritus), Northwest Defenders Association
- Kevin Flannery, Stoll Berne
- Louis Frantz, Retired
- Molly Gilbert, Union President, King County Department of Public Defense
- Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Washington Supreme Court
- Christie Hedman, Washington Defender Association
- Paul Holland, Seattle University School of Law
- Larry Jefferson, Office of Public Defense
- Anita Khandelwal, King County Department of Public Defense
- Kathy Kyle, Snohomish County Public Defender
- Arian Noma, Gonzaga University School of Law
- Jonathan Nomamiukor, ACLU of Washington
- Abigael Pence, Pacific Point Defense
- Judge Marla L. Polin, Spokane County Superior Court
- Anthony Powers, Seattle Clemency Project
- Abraham Ritter, Gonzaga University School of Law
- Erika Rutter, Yakima County Volunteer Attorney Services
- Jason Schwarz (Chair), Snohomish County Public Defender
- Judge Dee A. Sonntag, Tacoma Municipal Court
- Travis Stearns (Emeritus), Washington Appellate Project
- Christopher Swaby, Swaby Law Firm
- Maya Titova, University of Washington School of Law
- Maialisa Vanyo (Vice-Chair), Whatcom County Public Defender Office
Council on Public Defense Staff
Equity and Justice Lead
Fiscal Year 2024 Minutes
Fiscal Year 2023 Minutes