Clallam approves new indigent defense standards
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — A chapter has been added to the Clallam County code that sets new standards for indigent defense.
County commissioners Tuesday voted 3-0 to approve an amended ordinance that requires public defenders to comply with a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that caps the number of hours an attorney can spend on certain types of cases.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols has said the standards were recommended as “a cost-saving measure and as a best practice,” and were designed to comply with the high court.
The approved ordinance contains case weighting formulas for adult Superior Court and Juvenile Court.
For example, a probation violation in juvenile court that takes an attorney less than five hours to handle will count as one-third of a full case.
If a simple probation violation in juvenile court counted as a full case, the nonprofit Clallam Public Defender would have to hire an additional 1½ full-time attorneys, agency Director Harry Gasnick testified in a public hearing last week.
Commissioners postponed the vote last week after Nichols suggested technical changes to the draft ordinance.
On Tuesday, board Chairman Mike Chapman thanked Nichols, Gasnick and Superior Court Judge George L. Wood for working together on the ordinance.
Commissioner Jim McEntire, who had expressed reservations about ceding the board’s legislative discretion to the courts, clarified his stance Tuesday.
“I thought long and hard about how I intend to vote on this,” McEntire said.
“To clear up any ambiguity, I intend to vote in the affirmative, having made my point about separation of powers and so forth.
“The substance of the ordinance is something that’s not only unobjectionable, it’s actually good for the efficient administration of justice in the county.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: December 17. 2013 7:28PM