Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Public Defense to Be Hit by County Budget Cuts?

In her column, Nicole Brodeur sounds the alarm about proposed cuts to public defense in King County: the County Executive's budget would allow four 1/2-time lawyers for about 2,900 "expedited felonies" a year. Those are cases that are reduced to misdemeanors if the defendant pleads guilty. Short-order justice is served Seattle Times Newspaper, Nov. 18, 2008.

If Sims' cuts go through, each half-time lawyer will be responsible for 725 of the expedited felonies. That's an hour and 20 minutes per client.

The thought makes Kelly Canary of the Northwest Defenders Association shiver. She got into law to defend the defenseless. But this is crazy.

"An hour and twenty minutes to read the police report, find out if your client was targeted because he is a person of color, talk to witnesses and see whether your client may actually be innocent, meet your client and hold the prosecutor to their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Canary said, then sighed.

"It's McJustice."

Indeed, I've had nail appointments that lasted longer than that. Shouldn't a decent defense take longer than a manicure and pedicure?
Graphic from Oregon Board of Cosmetology Safe Salons Public Education Program.

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