Public defenders in King County, WA, are in for some changes this fall when county officials will put a new indigent defense system before voters. From Real Change News:
More than 200 public defense attorneys handle about 25,000 cases in King County each year, serving anyone who does not have enough money to pay for an attorney.
Four independent nonprofits that contract with King County employ these public defense attorneys.
In November, voters will decide whether the attorneys should instead work for a single public defender selected by the King County Executive from a pool of candidates nominated by a public defense advisory board. The defender would work for a four-year term and answer to the executive.
The system had to change one way or another. A 2011 court decision and subsequent settlement found that King County owes retirement benefits to current and past employees. The public defenders had been doing county-funded public defense work without receiving the same benefits as other county employees because they worked for independent nonprofits.
The settlement in the case established that the public defenders are employees of King County.
Read the full story for a few more details on the proposed changes to a system which the story alleges “is known throughout the nation for being unique.”