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Indigent Defense in Washington State: 1990 Report of the Indigent Defense Task Force

NCJ Number
Date Published
58 pages
Washington's Indigent Defense Task Force investigates the State's system for providing representation to defendants in criminal cases where the right to counsel applies.
In 1988, the task force reviewed defense services in trial courts. It determined that Washington had the highest indigency rate in the nation, almost double the national average. Escalating defense costs and steadily increasing caseloads are of concern throughout the State. Many attorneys providing defense services handle caseloads substantially above those recommended by the Washington Defender Association and adopted by the State Bar Association. Few counties and municipalities have uniformly applied standards on service eligibility or defender caseloads. During 1990, the task force was directed to focus on appellate defense services and on alternative methods of funding and providing trial defense services. It concludes that an appropriate indigent defense system can be maintained only through State payment of 50 percent of the costs of providing defense services in trial courts. Reimbursement to local governments should be contingent on local implementation of and compliance with 1989 indigency legislation and on compliance with data collection efforts established to monitor Washington's indigent defense program. An alternative method of delivering appellate services should also be considered. Supplemental information on State indigency legislation and the indigent defense system is appended.


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