The mission of the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) is "to implement the constitutional and statutory guarantees of counsel and to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of indigent defense services funded by the state... ." RCW 2.70.005. Established by the Legislature in 1996, OPD is an independent agency of the judicial branch.
OPD administers indigent defense services in the following areas:
- Appellate Program
- Parents Representation Program
- Public Defense Improvement Program
- RCW 71.09 Civil Commitment
- Extraordinary Criminal Justice Costs
OPD cannot provide direct representation of clients, pursuant to RCW 2.70.020.
- The enabling statute for the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) requires the agency to periodically report to the Legislature on the criteria and process for determining whether a person is indigent and eligible for a public defense attorney.
U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington
- The U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington has issued a decision in Joseph Jerome Wilbur, et al., v. City of Mount Vernon, et al. The Court held that the cities named in this action are liable under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for the systemic flaws that deprive indigent criminal defendants of their Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel. Among other requirements, the cities are ordered to hire a Public Defense Supervisor to oversee, document and report progress on required improvements.
December 4, 2013 -Memorandum of Decision
Chapter 71.09 RCW Update
- In 2012 the Legislature transferred administration of state-funded indigent defense services under Chapter 71.09 RCW (sexually violent predator) to the Office of Public Defense (OPD). Among other requirements, the Legislature directed OPD to report annually on program operations. This is the first of the required annual reports covering operations for Fiscal Year 2013.
Fiscal Year 2013-Chapter 71.09 RCW- Annual Report
Washington Supreme Court
- Model Misdemeanor Case Weighting Policy
Pursuant to a Supreme Court order, OPD conducted a misdemeanor time study and developed a Model Misdemeanor Case Weighting Policy, including a template that can be customized locally. The Supreme Court has approved the Policy as a model example for jurisdictions that opt to use case weighting as a method for calculating caseloads consistent with the Supreme Court’s Standards for Indigent Defense. For more information visit the Standards page .
- Implementation of Felony and Juvenile Caseload Standards (October 1, 2013)
Beginning on October 1, 2013, all public defense attorneys assigned to represent indigent defendants on felony and juvenile offender cases will be required to certify their caseloads to the court(s) in which they work. From this day forward, felony case assignments should not exceed 150 per year, and juvenile offender case assignments should not exceed 250 per year. Public defense attorneys with mixed case-types, part-time work, and/or private work should have caseloads proportionate to the percentage of time devoted to public defense. Jurisdictions that employ a case weighting scheme must adhere to the requirements of Standard 3.5 and 3.6. For more details, please see this FAQ.
- Washington Supreme Court Order No. 25700-A-1016 (April 8, 2013)
The Washington Supreme Court has delayed misdemeanor caseload certification until January 1, 2015.