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Published on Friday, January 24, 2014

Funding for new public defense caseload limits

The State Supreme Court adopted new misdemeanor caseload limits for public defenders that will take effect January, 2015. Under the new standard, public defenders would be limited to 400 cases per year or 300 cases if the city adopts a case weighting system. This new limit will likely increase public defender costs for cities as they have to hire additional attorneys to comply with the limit.

Cities have been exploring new funding options to help offset the cost of this unfunded mandate from the Court. Rep. Hunt (D-Olympia) and Sen. Dammeier (R-Puyallup) have introduced legislation to give cities some additional funding options to help with these costs. The bills, HB 2497 and its companion SB 6249, provide the following funding options:

  • Increases criminal conviction fee under RCW 3.62.085 from $43 to $55. Recommended by a Court Funding Work Group in 2005.
  • Allows cities to increase warrant service costs under RCW 10.01.160 from $100 to $175. This fee has not been adjusted since 1995.
  • Allows cities to increase probation service costs under RCW 10.64.120 from $100 per month to $150 per month. These fees have not been adjusted in decades.

HB 2497 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee January 31 at 1:30pm. We encourage cities to contact members of the Committee and urge them to support this legislation.

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