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Published on Friday, April 12, 2013

Indigent caseload limits delayed until January 2015

The Washington Supreme Court has again delayed the implementation date for the adopted misdemeanant caseload limits for public defenders, moving it from October 2013 to January 2015. The long delay stems from an evaluation conducted by the Office of Public Defense (OPD). The evaluation found it would be beneficial to conduct an attorney time study to gather more data on caseloads in various courts across the state. The study will determine the amount of time needed to provide constitutionally effective representation in various cases. The adopted standards limit the caseload for a full-time public defender to 300 or 400 misdemeanor cases per year, depending on the jurisdiction and whether it has developed a case weighting system.

Many courts have expressed concerns about the standards, saying they would cause undue burdens, increase costs to hire more attorneys, and even further reduce the number of crimes that are charged. These concerns have been repeatedly expressed by various organizations after the initial caseload requirement was released on June 15, 2012.

More information on the OPD study can be found here.

For the Supreme Court order, click here.