Constitutional Law

Trial begins in federal class action over public defender caseloads in municipal court

Two cities in Washington say they never systematically violated the right to counsel of criminal defendants and do an even better job now, under new standards adopted by the state’s top court.

But the American Civil Liberties Union contends otherwise, in a class action that went to trial Monday in federal court in Seattle. It is seeking a court order to enforce the Washington Supreme Court’s new caseload limit for public defenders in Burlington and Mount Vernon, as well as other relief, the Associated Press reports.

A federal judge is hearing the trial, rather than a jury.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Fifty years after Gideon, lawyers still struggle to provide counsel to the indigent” “Class Action Says Too-High Public Defender Caseload in Muni Court Denies Right to Counsel” “How to Meet New Caseload Limit for Wash. Public Defenders? Some Towns May File Fewer Cases”

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