Washington Law Review


Andrea Woods


The Standards governing Washington’s public defenders represent a significant reform aimed at protecting an important constitutional right for our state’s vulnerable citizens. This Comment provides the necessary introduction to the Standards and addresses skepticism on the part of current practitioners and elected officials. Cooperation among defense attorneys, local governments, and the courts could ensure the Standards’ success and—in turn—a better system of public defense for attorneys and defendants alike. Part I of this Comment introduces the reader to the new Standards. Part II offers an overview of common critiques of the Washington State Supreme Court Standards that were voiced by practitioners prior to the Standards’ issuance. Part III explains what has happened since the Standards have become effective—whether the critics’ warnings or the believers’ hopes have come to pass. Part IV identifies problems with the Standards. Finally, Part V suggests potential improvements in light of those problems: creating a meaningful enforcement mechanism, locating adequate funding for public defense, and weighting cases appropriately.

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