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Case Name Best v. Grant County PD-WA-0001
Docket / Court 04-2-00189-0 ( State Court )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On December 21, 2004, three indigent criminal defendants with felony cases pending in the Grant County, Washington Superior Court, along with an individual taxpaying resident of Grant County, filed a class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Superior Court of Kittitas County, ... read more >
On December 21, 2004, three indigent criminal defendants with felony cases pending in the Grant County, Washington Superior Court, along with an individual taxpaying resident of Grant County, filed a class action lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Superior Court of Kittitas County, challenging the constitutionality of the public defense system in Grant County. Plaintiffs claimed that Grant County: (1) failed to establish a public defense system that provided effective assistance of counsel to all indigent persons charged with felonies, (2) failed to assure that all public defenders met professional qualifications, (3) failed to monitor or oversee the public defense system, (4) failed to provide adequate funds to pay necessary costs of defense, (5) failed to provide representation at all critical stages of prosecution, and (6) undermined the independence of public defenders. The plaintiffs asserted violations of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and Sections 3, 12, and 22 of Article I of the Washington State Constitution. Plaintiffs were represented by attorneys with the ACLU of Washington, Columbia Legal Services and private firms. They sought injunctive and declaratory relief.

On August 26, 2004, the Superior Court of Washington for Kittitas County (Judge Michael Cooper) granted the plaintiffs' motion to certify the case as a class action and certified a class consisting of "all indigent persons who have or will have criminal felony cases pending in Grant County Superior Court, who are appointed an attorney, and who have not entered into a plea agreement or been convicted." In October of 2005, Judge Cooper issued a pre-trial ruling in which he found that the County's public defender system overworked its lawyers, failed to provide effective supervision, and allowed the Prosecutor's Office to interfere with funding for expert witnesses and investigators. Shortly thereafter, the parties resolved the case by settlement.

In November of 2005, the parties entered into a six-year court-enforceable Settlement Agreement which called for Grant County to reduce excessive public defender caseloads, guarantee that public defense lawyers were qualified to handle serious felony cases, provide adequate funding for investigators and expert witnesses, and comply with public defender standards endorsed by the Washington State Bar Association and authorized by the Washington Legislature. The settlement also provided that a court-appointed monitor would oversee and direct compliance with the settlement agreement during the six-year term. Settlement Agreement.

Over the six-year term of the settlement agreement, the monitor provided quarterly reports on the state's compliance. The monitor found that the state on occasion violated the settlement agreement, but noted that most violations were resolved through mediation with the monitor. In March 2009, the ACLU filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement over the county's decision to shift from using contract attorneys to a partly in-house defense system without first obtaining the monitor's approval as required by the settlement agreement. In response, the county agreed to pay $10,000 associated with enforcing the agreement.

The docket indicates the parties agreed to dismiss the action with prejudice in April 2013. On April 26, 2013, the court approved this dismissal and closed the case.

Brandon Brown - 07/10/2007
Greg in den Berken - 11/12/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Conflict of interest
Funding
Quality of representation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Grant County, Washington
Plaintiff Description All indigent persons who have or will have criminal felony cases pending in Grant County Superior Court, who are appointed an attorney, and who have not entered into a plea agreement or been convicted.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2005 - 2011
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Written: May. 07, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Written: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
04-2-00189-0 (State Trial Court) 04/26/2013
PD-WA-0001-9000 PDF | Detail
State Court Website
General Documents
Memorandum Decision 08/26/2004
PD-WA-0001-0002 PDF | Detail
ACLU Press Release 12/11/2004
PD-WA-0001-0004 PDF | Detail
Complaint 12/21/2004
PD-WA-0001-0001 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
ACLU Press Release 10/20/2005
PD-WA-0001-0005 PDF | Detail
Settlement Agreement 11/02/2005
PD-WA-0001-0017 PDF | Detail
ACLU Press Release 11/07/2005
PD-WA-0001-0003 PDF | Detail
Monitor's Report, Second Quarter 2007 07/16/2007
PD-WA-0001-0007 PDF | Detail
Monitor's Report, Third Quarter 2007 10/25/2007
PD-WA-0001-0008 PDF | Detail
Monitor's Report, Fourth Quarter 2007 01/17/2008
PD-WA-0001-0009 PDF | Detail
Monitor's Report, First Quarter 2008 04/20/2008
PD-WA-0001-0010 PDF | Detail
Monitor's Report, Second Quarter 2008 07/21/2008
PD-WA-0001-0011 PDF | Detail
Monitor's Report. Third Quarter 2008 10/22/2008
PD-WA-0001-0012 PDF | Detail
Monitor's Report, Fourth Quarter 2008 01/26/2009
PD-WA-0001-0013 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Monitor's Report, First Quarter 2009 04/27/2009
PD-WA-0001-0014 PDF | Detail
ACLU Press Release 07/14/2009
PD-WA-0001-0006 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Monitor's Report, Second Quarter 2009 07/23/2009
PD-WA-0001-0015 PDF | Detail
Monitor's Report, Third Quarter 2009 10/23/2009
PD-WA-0001-0016 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges None on record
Monitors/Masters Rodriguez, Francisco (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0007 | PD-WA-0001-0008 | PD-WA-0001-0009 | PD-WA-0001-0010 | PD-WA-0001-0011 | PD-WA-0001-0012 | PD-WA-0001-0013 | PD-WA-0001-0014 | PD-WA-0001-0015 | PD-WA-0001-0016
Plaintiff's Lawyers Arthur, Pat (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0001
Dolan, Justin (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0001
Morrison, Joe (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0001
Roos, Breena M. (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0001
Salzarulo, Lori (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0001
Scaramastra, Don (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0001 | PD-WA-0001-0001
Talner, Nancy Lynn (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0001
Taylor, David F. (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Floyd, Francis S. (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0017
McFarland, Michael E. (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0017
Other Lawyers Moberg, Jerry (Washington)
PD-WA-0001-0017

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