What to look for in a Public Defender


The American Bar Association (ABA) is conducting seminars and has published a handbook that addresses what to look for in a “public defense delivery system.” Among the ABA’S ten principles of a public defense system is that “defense counsel is provided sufficient time and a confidential space within which to meet their client.” Unfortunately, many municipalities contract for jail services far from their jurisdictions. Public defenders. therefore, frequently confer with their clients in the back of courtrooms often within earshot of court security officers.

Another ABA principle is that their be salary parity between defense counsel and the prosecution–yet a recent lawsuit settled in our state Supreme Court demonstrated that in King County the lack of such parity.

post9aThe ABA also recommends that defense counsel be supervised–yet many public defense contracts emphasize that an attorney must be able to work without supervision without ever mentioning the need for some supervision. Public Defense contracts are open to public inspection and if you are concerned about the quality of public defense representation in your jurisdiction I suggest you examine these contracts and compare them with the principles of a public defense delivery system as set forth by the ABA.

This is a common question that is being asked a lot. First of all, we need to make sure that a Public Defender did have a lot winning cases. This is the most important thing when we choose. A Defender that had a lot of winnings is probably the best. Of course, usually those people cost much more than the rest. But that is the price. If you want to make sure that you will be on the winning side, don’t be a cheapskate. After all, this is your case we are talking about. In order to turn the odds on your side, you will definitely need to have a Defender that knows his way around the book, the court and the law.

About the author

Jacquelyn Smith