July 31, 2004

Unequal Defense, Chapter II

Another shoe has dropped in the contract public defender scandal in Grant County, Washington (just a few miles from Yakima, where I practiced in 1994-97). Previously, the Seattle Times had published a rogues' gallery of bad lawyers and judges up in 'Ephrata/Soap Lake/Moses Lake' (as they say on Northwest Public Radio). The guy who was the low bidder on the public defender contract there made a ton of money for himself through some imaginative caseload management. He had a good thing going even if the clients didn't, and profited mightly, at least until he was disbarred this past May.

Now a second Grant County p.d. has been disbarred, in part for collecting fees from p.d. clients he was supposed to represent for free. Luckily for him, he's found a job that doesn't require a bar license, with the Grant County Prosecutor. In Ephrata, attorneys are being "conscripted" to represent indigent defendants. See how much money the county ultimately saved by contracting out p.d. services instead of taking them in-house?

My county commissioners don't allow me to take private clients, and I love it. Once I spent a hapless seven months in private practice, and I remember the twinge of a dilemna when the secretary paged me to say, there's a public defender client on line one, and a paying client on line two, but it never occurred to me to charge my p.d. clients to do what the county had already paid the firm to do. Good riddance to the bottom-feeders of Moses Lake.