Friday, April 14, 2006

Westlaw for KC Inmates

Inmates in the King County Jail who are representing themselves now have access to Westlaw. Self defense just got easier for inmates, Seattle Times, April 14, 2006.

Pro se inmates can get up to four hours a week of computer time, system training and unlimited online access to state and federal court cases, statutes, legal opinions, periodicals and free telephone support.

Currently there is one terminal in the King County Correctional Facility (Seattle) and one in the Regional Justice Center (Kent), with plans to install more computers.

Administrators say that pro se defense has been on the rise. Generally there are 20-25 pro se inmates in the system at any time. The King County Office of the Public Defender provides support to pro se defendants, including legal research and investigators.

The state is obligated to provide access to legal information to inmates proceeding pro se:

[A]rticle I, section 22 [of the Washington Constitution] affords a pretrial detainee who has exercised his constitutional right to represent himself, a right of reasonable access to state provided resources that will enable him to prepare a meaningful pro se defense. What measures are necessary or appropriate to constitute reasonable access lies within the sound discretion of the trial court after consideration of all the circumstances, including, but not limited to, the nature of the charge, the complexity of the issues involved, the need for investigative services, the orderly administration of justice, the fair allocation of judicial resources (i.e., an accused is not entitled to greater resources than he would otherwise receive if he were represented by appointed counsel), legitimate safety and security concerns, and the conduct of the accused.
State v. Silva, 107 Wash. App. 605, 622-23, 27 P.3d 663, 674-75 (Div. 1 2001), Westlaw, (footnotes omitted). Although the defendant in Silva did not have physical access to a law library, he had access to legal materials by requesting them from the librarian and, in that case, Division 1 found that access to be adequate.

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