Office of Public Defense

  Annual FTEs General Fund State Other Funds Total Funds
  (Dollars in Thousands)
Estimated Expenditures 16.2 86,577 3,992 90,569
2019-21 Maintenance Level 16.2 89,582 4,059 93,641
Difference from 2017-19 0.0 3,005 67 3,072
% Change from 2017-19 0.0% 3.5% 1.7% 3.4%

2019-21 Policy Other Changes

Contractor Retention 0.0 11,000 0 11,000
Washington Defender Association 0.0 610 0 610
Disproportionality Training Coord. 0.0 281 0 281
Contract/Fiscal Support Staff 0.0 155 0 155
Court Reporter/Transcriptionist 0.0 566 0 566
Dependency Caseload Parity 0.0 7,214 0 7,214
2019-21 Policy Other Changes Total 0.0 19,826 0 19,826
Total Policy Changes 0.0 19,826 0 19,826
2019-21 Policy Level 16.2 109,408 4,059 113,467
Difference from 2017-19 0.0 22,831 67 22,898
% Change from 2017-19 0.0% 26.4% 1.7% 25.3%

Policy Changes

Contractor Retention

Funding is provided to address significant inequities in compensation for state-contracted public defense representation. Low state defense compensation, which is not competitive with other government attorney jobs, is impeding the Office of Public Defense’s (OPD) ability to recruit and retain qualified contract attorneys to effectively represent indigent persons on appeal and indigent parents involved in dependency and termination cases. OPD experienced more than 18 percent turnover among under-compensated contract attorneys in fiscal year 2018.

Washington Defender Association

Funding is provided to address the need for services from the Washington Defender Association, which provides critical continuing legal education and case-specific resources for public defense attorneys throughout Washington State.

Disproportionality Training Coord.

Funding is provided to hire one disproportionality training coordinator to provide Office of Public Defense-contracted attorneys and other public defense attorneys with resources necessary to address bias issues involved in indigent right to counsel cases.

Contract/Fiscal Support Staff

Funding is provided to add one contract support staff to assist with the workload related to the administration of 300 contracts and 14,000 invoices each fiscal year in the Office of Public Defense’s three statewide public defense programs: indigent appeals, parents representation, and chapter 71.09 RCW civil commitment. This position will assist the contracts manager and provide agency-wide fiscal support.

Court Reporter/Transcriptionist

Funding is provided to implement Supreme Court Order No. 25700-B-582 to increase the per-page payment for court reporter/transcriptionist preparation of verbatim reports of proceedings for indigent cases on appeal to the Washington Court of Appeals and the Washington Supreme Court.

Dependency Caseload Parity

Funding is provided to maintain equal justice for families in dependency and termination cases by ensuring defense attorney caseloads that are consistent with American Bar Association (ABA) recommendations and in parity with assistant attorney general caseloads. With an increasingly complex child welfare caseload, Parents Representation Program attorney caseloads should comply with the 60 parent client maximum recommendation of the ABA. The Office of Public Defense seeks contracted attorney and support staff to ensure parity and equal justice in child welfare cases.