July 2013 Bar Bulletin
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July 2013 Bar Bulletin

KCBA Expresses Concerns over Public Defense Task Force


The Metropolitan King County Council, in response to concerns expressed by KBCA and other groups, created a task force on May 20 with the very limited function of "issuing a report and recommendations on the feasibility of the county using outside entities, such as one or more public corporations, nonprofit organizations or private corporations, to perform county public defense-related services that promote system improvements and efficiencies in the King County public defense system through innovative approaches to criminal justice reform." KCBA has been asked to provide a representative for this task force.

However, as the county moved forward with its July 1 implementation of an in-house, public defense model, with all current public defenders from independent agencies becoming county employees, some concerns of the public defense bar had not been addressed. As the county prepares to put portions of the plan before the voters for charter amendment consideration later this year, it becomes more time sensitive that these issues be resolved.

While KCBA appreciates the opportunity to participate on this task force, the Association is disappointed in the narrowness of the task force mission. The bar believes that the Council would benefit in its deliberations about these major changes if the task force were charged with preparing a report that evaluates all possible public defense delivery systems from the community's perspective. The current proposed focus seems too narrow to accomplish this.

In a June 5 letter to Council Chairman Larry Gossett, KCBA urged the Council to reconsider the limitations on the task force and allow the task force to provide input on the overall public defense delivery model to be adopted by the Council. The Association called on the Council to obtain the input of public defense clients, families of clients served, community groups that will be impacted, social justice agencies and the public. A copy of KCBA's letter is online at http://tinyurl.com/qdfwjrs.

The Association continues to monitor the transition carefully and has named KCBA member Karen Murray, a public defender from Associated Counsel for the Accused, as its representative on the task force.


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