Category Archives: Uncategorized

Study: Daily Marijuana Use Outpaces Drinking

Marijuana vs. Alcohol | Is Marijuana Safer Than Alcohol? reports that millions of people in the U.S. use marijuana daily or nearly every day. This information comes via analysis of national survey data. Also, marijuana users now outnumber alcohol drinkers.

Alcohol is still more widely used, but 2022 was the first time this intensive level of marijuana use overtook daily and near-daily drinking, said the study’s author, Jonathan Caulkins, a cannabis policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.

“A good 40% of current cannabis users are using it daily or near daily, a pattern that is more associated with tobacco use than typical alcohol use,” ~Jonathan Caulkins.


The research, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, was published Wednesday in the journal Addiction. The survey is a highly regarded source of self-reported estimates of tobacco, alcohol and drug use in the United States.

In 2022, an estimated 17.7 million people reported using marijuana daily or near-daily compared to 14.7 million daily or near-daily drinkers, according to the study. From 1992 to 2022, the per capita rate of reporting daily or near-daily marijuana use increased 15-fold. Caulkins acknowledged in the study that people may be more willing to report marijuana use as public acceptance grows, which could boost the increase.

Most states now allow medical or recreational marijuana, though it remains illegal at the federal level. In November, Florida voters will decide on a constitutional amendment allowing recreational cannabis, and the federal government is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.

Research shows that high-frequency users are more likely to become addicted to marijuana, said Dr. David A. Gorelick, a psychiatry professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.


My opinion? The correlation between substance abuse and violent behavior has been well documented. Studies show that more than 26% of respondents who reported using alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine in a 12-month period, also reported committing a violent crime within the same time frame.

Some individuals use aggressive techniques to steal money to buy more drugs; others may be involved in the drug-trafficking, which often leads to violent crimes. For others, violence is a long-term side effect of the substance they abuse. Studies reveal individuals addicted to methamphetamine, for instance, may suffer from anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disorders, and aggressive or violent behavior.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Prison Officers Traumatized by Rate of Executions in US Death Penalty States

Robert Dunham on X: "The Death Penalty in 2022—More than two-thirds of the  people executed in the U.S. in 2022 had significant mental illness, brain  damage or intellectual disabilities, and/or had experienced

Journalist Ed Pilkington of The Guardian reports that the pursuit of non-stop executions is causing psychological distress to corrections staff. Traumatized corrections officers are appealing for help.


Capital punishment is generally on the wane in America. Only five states carried out executions last year. However, those states that remain active are showing a renewed determination. In some states, the pace of judicial killings is now so intense that prison guards are kept in an almost permanent state of readiness.


In 2007, two South Carolina COs who developed obsessive-compulsive behavior, nightmares, and other emotional disturbances filed civil lawsuits, claiming that their conditions resulted from performing executions. The COs alleged that they were coerced into carrying out executions and were not given any debriefing or counseling to help them deal with the emotional effects.

In Oklahoma, 25 executions happened in 2022. Officers at the state penitentiary are so stretched by the pace that state officials have sought a more staggered approach. They have requested that the gap between executions be widened from 60 to 90 days, so far to no avail.

Judicial killings were halted in the state for six years after the gruesome execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014. He writhed and groaned on the gurney for 43 minutes. Despite such concerns, calls for the brakes to be applied to Oklahoma’s breakneck execution schedule have so far failed. An appeals court judge responded to the request to extend the space between killings to 90 days by telling staff to “suck it up” and “man up”.

The comments have dismayed and angered current and former staff. Bobby Cleveland, executive director of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, which advocates for prison staff, said that members were outraged. “They are really mad that a judge would make that kind of comment. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be a corrections officer.”

The chair of the criminal justice and corrections committee in the state assembly, Justin “JJ” Humphrey, was also scathing about Judge Gary Lumpkin’s remarks.

“To talk about executing somebody, and just ‘suck it up’ – that’s a pretty callous statement . . . Anybody that thinks that executing somebody is no problem has not been a part of the process.” ~Justin “JJ” Humphrey, Chair of the Oklahoma Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee

Staff and death row inmates often spend years in close proximity. More than half of all prisoners on death row have been there for more than 18 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Over time, a cold-blooded murderer can mature and change. That was the case with Brian Dorsey, 51, who was sentenced to death in Missouri for killing his cousin and her husband.

The article also quotes Missouri prison officials, more than 60 of whom sought clemency for prisoner Brian Dorsey. Governor Mike Parson rejected their pleas and allowed Mr. Dorsey to be executed on April 9, 2024.

Tim Lancaster, a retired corrections officer, said, “You’re working with a prisoner for 10 years, you’ve interacted with them every single day, and you can feel they’ve changed. They’ve really rehabilitated, and that’s the department’s goal – to rehabilitate offenders. … All of a sudden they flip the switch, and now it’s like: ‘OK, we’re going ahead and killing them. There has to be an underlying effect from that, without a doubt.”

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Homicide, Manslaughter or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

State Auditor’s Report: Police Agencies Can Be More Transparent About Returning Seized Assets

Among the nearly 1,000 people who had property seized by the Washington police agencies that were audited, only 25% were convicted of a crime.

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Times

According to the Seattle Times, a new state audit says that Washington police agencies could be more transparent about the process of seizing a defendant’s assets after arrest. Personal property like cars, cash or guns that are seized in the course of criminal investigations can often be returned, but are not.


Police, in a practice known as civil asset forfeiture, can seize items they believe were used in a crime without an arrest, criminal charge or conviction of the person who owns the property. State law lets police agencies keep 90% of the proceeds from forfeitures and to use the money to help disrupt illegal drug activity.

In Washington, police can seize property if they believe it is connected to a crime. If the police agency decides not to pursue forfeiture, they can then return the property to its owner. But if the agency decides to move forward, an initial notice goes to the owner (within 15 days), who can file a claim to get it back (within 45 days, or 90 days for real property like land or buildings).


The report reviewed eight police agencies, including the Seattle Police Department. Agencies were chosen based on location, the type of agency and level of civil asset forfeiture activity.

Among the audited agencies, 75% of seized property was automatically forfeited because the owner either did not file a claim, file a claim on time, or failed to attend a hearing. For many of the reviewed cases, it was because claims weren’t filed. Auditors also found that among the 1,000 people who were faced with forfeiture at those eight agencies, only 25% were convicted of a crime. Auditors also found that police often seized property worth less than $2,000.00. More disturbing, at least one racial or ethnic group was overrepresented in forfeiture data compared with their share of the population.

At the Seattle Police Department, for example, Latinos made up an estimated 23% of the people whose assets were forfeited, despite being 7% of the population, and Black people 17%, despite being 7% of the population. But at the Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force, white people were overrepresented by 9 percentage points.

The report also suggested police agencies can do more to make sure people know their property has been seized. Agencies can also better discuss the process of getting property returned, like providing information in languages other than English.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. In many cases, a defense attorney can argue a Motion for the Release of Personal Property which was confiscated by police. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Prison: No Country For Old Men

These are the 20 oldest prisoners doing time in New Jersey -

Excellent article in NPR by journalist Meg Anderson reports that the proportion of state and federal prisoners who are 55 or older is about five times what it was three decades ago. In 2022, that was more than 186,000 people.

In Oklahoma, the geriatric population has quadrupled in the past two decades. In Virginia, a quarter of the state’s prisoners will be geriatric by 2030. And in Texas, geriatric inmates are the fastest-growing demographic in the entire system.

More elderly people in prison is largely a sentencing problem, says Marta Nelson, the director of sentencing reform at the Vera Institute of Justice, a criminal justice research organization.

“It all stems from the longer sentences and the longer length of time that people have had to spend serving sentences in the United States, really starting from the ’70s and ’80s, but which became quite well known in the ’90s . . . People who went in as young people then are now aging. So it’s really a story of how we choose to punish people.” ~Marta Nelson, Director of Sentencing Reform at the Vera Institute of Justice

For instance, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, commonly known as the 1994 crime bill, incentivized states to build more prisons and keep people in those prisons for a longer percentage of their sentences. Other tough-on-crime policies — like mandatory minimum sentences and “three strikes” laws, in which the punishments for repeat offenders severely ratchet up — also contributed to why many people who went to prison decades ago are still there.

Today, there are more people serving a life sentence in prison than there were people in prison at all in 1970, according to a 2021 report from the Sentencing Project, an advocacy organization.

Caring for aging prisoners is expensive, but the data on just how expensive is murky. A 2013 study estimated it could be anywhere from three to nine times more expensive than for younger prisoners. And a 2015 report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that federal prisons with the highest percentage of elderly prisoners spent five times more per person on medical care than those with the lowest percentage of aging prisoners.

My opinion? The idea of releasing elderly prisoners is certainly controversial. As a society, we must be careful about who we incarcerate. Sometimes, prisons don’t make people better. They make people worse.

Prison is a terrible place. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA House Defeats Bill Allowing Judges to Dismiss Low-Level Crimes

Understanding how a California bill dies without public debate -

Last week, the House decided to kill HB 1994, a bill relating to judicial dismissal of a misdemeanor following the completion of court-ordered conditions.


Under the legislation, either the prosecutor or the defense attorney must first ask the judge to divert a defendant out of the criminal justice system. The defendant must agree to certain court conditions, such as engaging with service providers or treatment, and then, after up to a year of court monitoring, the judge can dismiss the case.

If passed, this bill would only have applies only to the lowest of low-level crimes. Judges could not dismiss charges in cases involving domestic violence, stalking, DUI, Assault or Firearms. The law also would not apply when a person pleads down from a felony charge to a misdemeanor.

If passed, the bill would also have potentially helped reduce the number of people with mental illness languishing in jails. This practice that has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal fines.

Rep. Darya Farivar (D-Seattle) called House Bill 1994 a pretty “reasonable” piece of legislation that didn’t deserve backlash. The bill simply asks prosecutors to justify their prosecution of low-level offenses. This is especially important when it comes to cases involving people who committed a crime as a result of poverty, addiction, or a mental illness. Farivar hopes to end the practice of just sticking people with behavioral health problems in jail over and over again, and instead allow courts to address the root causes of criminal behavior prior to conviction.

The bill has the backing of the Governor’s office, as it could help the state come into compliance with the Trueblood v. DSHS settlement. This WA Supreme COurt case requires the Washington State DSHS to provide timely mental health restoration to people in jail. About 11% of Trueblood class members enter the criminal justice system on misdemeanor charges.


According to the Stranger, KING 5 and the Seattle Times played misrepresented the legislation. At the end of the day, the legislation lacked momentum and political will.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Dismissals of low-level charges are possible under Compromise of Misdemeanors, Knapstad Motions, Deferred Prosecutions and other avenues. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

FBI Data: Crime Has Actually Declined Significantly

Is crime rising in the U.S.? Here's what data can and can't tell us : NPR

NBC News reports that crime in the United States has declined significantly over the last year. Apparently, new FBI data contradicts a widespread national perception that law-breaking and violence are on the rise. A Gallup poll released this month found that 77% of Americans believe crime rates are worsening. However, new FBI data and other statistics show these perceptions are mistaken.


The FBI data, which compares crime rates in the third quarter of 2023 to the same period last year, found that violent crime dropped 8%, while property crime fell 6.3% to what would be its lowest level since 1961, according to criminologist Jeff Asher, who analyzed the FBI data.

Murder plummeted in the United States in 2023 at one of the fastest rates of decline ever recorded, Asher found, and every category of major crime except auto theft declined.

“I think we’ve been conditioned, and we have no way of countering the idea” that crime is rising . . . It’s just an overwhelming number of news media stories and viral videos — I have to believe that social media is playing a role.” ~Criminologist Jeff Asher

The FBI’s quarterly numbers cover about 78% of the U.S. population and don’t give as full a picture as the more comprehensive annual report the FBI puts out once a year. But Asher said the quarterly reports in the past have hewed fairly close to the annual ones.

The most recent annual report, released in October, covered 94% of the country and found that violent crime in 2022 fell back to pre-pandemic levels, with murder dropping 6.1%. Asher maintains a separate database of murder in big cities which found that murder is down 12.7 percent this year, after rising during the pandemic.

FBI data doesn’t have a separate category for retail theft. It falls under “larceny,” which declined overall last year, according to the latest numbers. Retail theft is widely believed to have skyrocketed in some cities, and the industry says it is at “unprecedented” levels. But the data doesn’t necessarily support that thesis.

FBI numbers are not the only measure of crime. The annual Justice Department survey of criminal victimization in 2022 found that a lot of crime goes unreported, and that more people reported being victims of violent crime in 2022 than in 2021. But Asher has documented questions about that survey’s methodology.


Asher believes there is a measure of partisanship at work. Republicans seem more ready to believe crime is increasing while Democrats hold the White House.

Asher and other analysts say the natural tendency of the news media to highlight disturbing crime stories — and the tendency of those stories to go viral on social media — presents a false but persuasive picture. Videos of flash mobs on shop lifting sprees or carjackings in broad day light are more ubiquitous, even if those crimes are not.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

NHTSA Takes Steps Requiring DUI Prevention Technology In New Passenger Vehicles

NHTSA takes first step toward having drunk driving prevention technology  installed in new passenger vehicles

 US auto-safety regulators are considering steps to force carmakers to adopt new technology to prevent intoxicated drivers from starting vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking.” This administrative procedure formally gathers information and public comments on how to develop, legally require and deploy technology to prevent impaired people from firing up their vehicles.


According to the press release, the negative economic and societal costs of impaired driving are enormous. NHTSA estimates that fatalities, injuries, and property damage from alcohol-impaired driving cost our society $280 billion in lost wages, lost quality of life, medical costs, and so much more.

“Impaired driving prevention technology is an action . . . to significantly reduce fatalities and serious injuries on the nation’s roadways in support of our vision of zero traffic deaths through vehicle features that promote driver safety and align with the principles of a safe system approach.” ~NHTSA Press Release

According to NHTSA, this notice helps lay the groundwork for potential alcohol-impairment detection technology standards in all new passenger vehicles when the technology is mature. This announcement comes as NHTSA kicks off its annual holiday season Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over impaired-driving campaign, raising awareness of the dangers of DUI. Alcohol impairment is one of the leading causes of death on our nation’s roads. In 2021, the latest data available, 13,384 people were killed in drunk driving crashes.

“Impaired driving crashes are 100% preventable. There’s simply no excuse or reason to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs. We urge everyone to be responsible this holiday season. If you’ve had anything to drink, use public transportation, arrange for a sober driver, or call a taxi or ride-hailing service and get home safely.” ~Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator.


A number of technologies currently under development could potentially fit the bill. One solution includes breath- or touch-based sensors to detect alcohol. Another potential option is using cameras to monitor eye movements to try to determine whether drivers are intoxicated. Some sentences for DUI require those convicted to install a breathalyzer in their cars that prevent them from starting the vehicle if alcohol is detected, though regulators said it’s unlikely future ubiquitous technology would be as intrusive as requiring a puff every time. In the 1970s, Congress mandated that cars not start without a buckled seatbelt but withdrew the statute soon after it became law.

Seeing an alcohol-detecting steering wheel in your next Uber ride might be a long way off, though. NHTSA’s notice said that the agency must be assured the technology works consistently before it can require it, and then give automakers at least three years to implement it once it finalizes the rules.

“We are trying to see, can we get it done, does the technology exist in a way that is going to work every time,” said Ann Carlson, the acting NHTSA administrator, adding that public acceptance of the technology would depend on its accuracy.

My opinion? Unfortunately, any proposed technologies could run afoul of registering “false positive” alcohol results in drivers. Studies show there are close to 1 billion people who drive every day in the United States. Even if these technologies are 99.9% accurate, you could have a million false positives. Those false positives could be somebody trying to get to the hospital for an emergency.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Seattle Implements “Police Ruse” Policy

Lies We Tell Ourselves: How Deception Leads to Self-Deception - Scientific American

In a press release, the City of Seattle announced the implementation of the nation’s first policy governing the use of police patrol ruses.

Mayor Bruce Harrell directed the SPD to develop the new policy. It comes a few years after a Seattle officer’s ruse contributed to the suicide of a hit-and-run driver in 2018. Another controversial ruse was when officers created fake radio traffic to try and get protesters away from the CHAZ/CHOP zone in 2020. Those cases undermined the public’s trust and confidence in police, according to the SPD.

“Effective public safety requires community buy-in, and this new policy is an important step to build understanding with the public, demonstrating that for SPD operations to be successful, they must be paired with a commitment to unbiased, constitutional policing . . .This innovative new policy will lead to better police work thanks to the voices of many, including the media who brought attention to this tactic, community members who called for guidelines to match our values, and Seattle accountability and police leaders who developed a plan to make that vision real.” ~Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell


The Ruse Policy recognizes that while this tactic may be necessary in specific situations to support public safety, the need and conditions for its use should be strongly and clearly defined. The new ruse policy sets substantial guardrails around the use of ruses, limiting the use by patrol officers to these five scenarios:

  • De-escalation,
  • To calm or provide comfort to a person,
  • To promote the safety of any person,
  • Scene management, or
  • To bring potentially violent situations to a peaceful resolution.

Additionally, patrol ruses may not be broadcast over radio, social media or any other mass media format, the new policy states. No patrol ruse may involve officers making or implying promises regarding prosecution or filing decisions, and patrol ruses that shock the conscience will not be used.

The policy defines appropriate uses of ruses for de-escalation and investigation, while also creating clear accountability through requirements for documentation, supervisor approval, and protections for juveniles. The policy prohibits ruses broadcast via mass media or false promises regarding prosecution, as well those that plainly “shock the conscience.”

“The Seattle Police department engaged in an in-depth review on the use of ruses, facilitated by the Office of the Inspector General. This first-in-nation policy balances the legitimate use of deception, especially for de-escalation and the safety of all persons, with supervision, documentation, and clear prohibition of ruses that compromise public trust.” ~Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz.

The policy will continue to be evaluated and refined based on the now required documentation and new data. The policy also provides an objective standard by which officers’ conduct can be evaluated, creating a framework to hold them accountable when violations occur.

My opinion? Seattle’s Ruse Policy is indeed a novel step in the right direction. Even better, it should only be applied under limited circumstances.

However, intriguing legal issues arise. Can a criminal charge be dismissed if the defendant reasonably relied on a ruse from a police officer? In other words, but for the ruse, would a crime have been allegedly committed? If so, then a defendant’s reliance on a ruse can be Entrapment.

Under Washington law, Entrapment is a defense to criminal charges if the criminal design originated in the mind of police and the defendant was lured or induced to commit a crime that the defendant had not otherwise intended to commit.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Local Veteran Defense Attorney on Whatcom County’s Need for a New Jail

Haunting photos capture crumbling remains and execution chamber at prison  used to film The Green Mile - World News - Mirror Online

Excellent editorial by Stark Follis, the Director of the Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office, on why Whatcom County needs a new jail.

“I have worked as a criminal defense attorney in Northwest Washington for 37 years. I do not support mass incarceration nor do I support an ever-increasing criminal justice burden to the county as numbers continue to increase. I do support a new jail and I trust the decision makers in place to build a jail that addresses the foregoing concerns, taking positive steps to address the root causes of criminal behavior and make a facility that treats those incarcerated in a humane manner.” ~Stark Follis, the Director of the Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office

For starters, Whatcom County voters will be asked to approve funding for the planning and construction of a new jail.  This will appear on the General Election Ballot in November. Twice before, voters have rejected the funding for a new jail, but never has the plan had the widespread support of cities and towns, including the elected officials representing them.

Follis says that opponents of new jail construction are generally concerned with playing into the idea of supporting mass incarceration. “U.S. incarceration rates are higher than anywhere in the world and the state of Washington and Whatcom County are no exception.”

In his editorial, Follis laments that many of those that we have incarcerated, and continue to incarcerate, do not belong there. Low-level offenses and crimes of poverty and homelessness are symptomatic of our society’s ills. However, there are people within the jail who represent a danger to the community. They must be either treated or helped or must be segregated from society. The fact is that only a small number will be segregated from society for lengthy periods and mostly on only the most serious of offenses. Most will be released and we need a jail facility that will allow us to address particular issues to lessen the safety concern upon release.

The difficulty comes when those presenting a substantial threat to community safety and security do so because of behavioral health issues. There has been a dramatic rise in the number of people arrested with severe mental health problems. Drug use and addiction is more rampant today than ever. Scores of people in our community are unhoused and living a lifestyle that could not have been imagined to us years ago, but is now commonplace.

“Insufficient resources are available to those with mental health disorders. Those deemed not competent to stand trial face long waits for treatment at state hospitals and many of those face a lockdown existence in the current jail that allows them out of a cell for one hour a day.” ~Stark Follis, the Director of the Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office

Follis also says that deprivation of human contact has long been recognized as inhumane, and in some cases has been found to be unconstitutional as it violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of Cruel and Unusual Punishment. The current jail leaves jail administrators with few options around this practice based on the configuration of the jail and staffing shortages that result.

Further, there are no facilities within the current jail to treat those with mental health disorders. There is a jail medical facility that is small and inadequate for sufficient treatment including counseling, medication or even diagnosis. When those come into the jail with mental health disorders, it is common for them to deteriorate while in there — the exact opposite of what we need to try to accomplish to make society safe.

There are no facilities for treatment of those with substance abuse disorders. While the current jail is mandated to provide medical assistance to those withdrawing from addiction, there is no ability to provide ongoing counseling or treatment such as opiate blockers or even things as basic as NA/AA programs.

“In general, conditions in the jail are poor for those who find themselves incarcerated. We need a jail, but we need a jail that does not just punish people by throwing away the key. We do not need a jail that treats people in a cruel and unusual manner. We need a jail that will triage those that come in and will divert them to the services they need.” ~Stark Follis, the Director of the Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office

My opinion? This was an excellent and informative critique by Starck Follis. I agree with every word he said.  Clearly, the Whatcom County Jail is no place to wait out a pending criminal charge. Please review my Legal Guide “Making Bail” and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are incarcerated. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

It’s Time To Apply New & Better Standards for Public Defense Workloads

The State Of Public Defenders Workload: Can AI Fix The People Gap?

With publication of a milestone national study 50 years in the making, the Council on Public Defense (CPD) is immediately beginning to examine how the new research about public-defense caseloads should be applied to Washington’s criminal courts.

“The accused are entitled to an effective advocate and that means a lawyer with time and resources to help. This study underlines what public defenders are experiencing every day, which is a staggering increase in the number and complexity of cases, especially compared to 50 years ago when the national standards were first written. The CPD understands that overworked public defenders impact legal outcomes for the accused and the fairness of the criminal legal system. The CPD has already begun the work of adapting this study to Washington law.” ~Jason Schwarz, Esq., CPD Chair and Director of the Snohomish County Office of Public Defense.

The CPD is a committee of the Washington State Bar Association, established in 2004 to address challenges that impact the state’s public defense system. The Washington Supreme Court tasks the state bar, through the CPD, to make recommendations regarding public defense caseloads and performance guidelines. The Court puts those recommendations into practice in courts via Superior Court Criminal Rule (CrR) 3.1 (Standards for Indigent Defense).

Since its inception, the CPD has regularly recommended updates to CrR 3.1, but the underlying standards are based on a 1973 study from the National Advisory Commission. The new study is the product of a partnership among the Rand Corporation, the National Center for State Courts, and the American Bar Association; it was released on Sept. 12 with comprehensive research that suggests public defenders are working far too many cases and their cases continue to grow more complex. These standards are not binding on any jurisdiction but act as a model.

“The state bar is uniquely situated to convene stakeholders in the legal community to make sure our court rules support actual justice. The Council on Public Defense exemplifies that work and oversees a process that is critically important: Fleshing out standards that will support the state’s constitutional obligation to provide ‘adequate’ legal counsel to anyone facing a criminal charge. What we are talking about here is how long a person might have to wait to get their day in court, and the quality of their defense. Those are among the foundations of criminal justice.” ~Washington State Bar Association President Hunter Abell.

The CPD expects to shepherd the new model standards to present a recommendation for rule changes to the Washington Supreme Court for consideration and adoption. The CPD aims to have draft recommendations by the end of the year.

CPD has been raising the flag about excessive defender workloads for years, and the new study comes amid a flurry of state and national events highlighting the problem:

My opinion? This is excellent and refreshing news. Public defenders have been eagerly waiting for these new standards—for more than 50 years, in fact. The CPD is eager to get to work to bring them to bear in Washington courts. While public defenders are some of the most committed, compassionate, and passionate lawyers, excessive workloads have resulted in burnout and the loss of great advocates and colleagues. Applying this study to the Washington legal landscape will assist us in assuring that assigned counsel have the time to advocate for accused.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.