University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon PD-WA-0002
Docket / Court 2:11-cv-01100-RSL ( W.D. Wash. )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On June 10, 2011, three indigent persons charged with crimes filed this class action, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, in Skagit County Superior Court, against the City of Mount Vernon and the City of Burlington. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the ACLU, asked the court to ... read more >
On June 10, 2011, three indigent persons charged with crimes filed this class action, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, in Skagit County Superior Court, against the City of Mount Vernon and the City of Burlington. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the ACLU, asked the court to enjoin the cities from violating the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, claiming that the cities failed to provide adequate assistance of counsel. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the cities had failed to impose reasonable caseload limits on public defenders, failed to monitor and oversee the public defense system, failed to provide adequate funds for public defense, and failed to provide representation at all critical stages of prosecution.

The Cities had jointly contracted with two attorneys to handle all public defense assistance cases, and each attorney handled over 1,000 cases per year even though such a caseload was three times the maximum allowable amount for a full-time public defender pursuant to standards established by the Washington State Bar Association. The cities had not established any system for ensuring that the attorneys investigate cases, prepare for trial, or communicate timely and adequately with clients.

On July 5, 2011, the defendant municipalities removed the case to federal court, where it was assigned to Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. In response to motions from both the plaintiff and the defendants, on February 23, 2012, Judge Lasnik denied the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction because the balance of hardships did not tip in their favor, and the defendant's motion for summary judgment because the plaintiffs provided evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the defendants knew indigent criminal defendants were not receiving adequate representation and were indifferent to this inadequacy.

The same day, Judge Lasnik granted the plaintiff's motion for class certification. The class certified was "all indigent persons who have been or will be charged with one or more crimes in the municipal courts of either Mount Vernon or Burlington, who have been or will be appointed a public defender, and who continue to have or will have a public defender appearing in their cases."

Between June 3 and June 18, 2012, the parties went to a bench trial. However, on June 28 the judge issued an order for further briefing. Specifically, Judge Lasnik sought information on the following questions
  1. Have any federal courts taken over supervision of a public defense agency, either directly or through appointment of a supervisor/monitor, anywhere in the United States?
  2. Have any state or federal courts held a municipality liable under Monell for constitutional defects in its public defense system?
  3. Has any state or municipality adopted “hard” caseload standards like those that Washington is contemplating?
  4. Is the issue of the constitutionality of the representation afforded by Messrs. Sybrandy and Witt moot? If so, what impact does that have on the available remedy, including an award of attorney fees? The responses were due for August 14th and submitted that day.

On December 4, 2013, Judge Lasnik found that the plaintiffs established a systematic deprivation of their right to counsel and the Cities' responsibility for the deprivation. The Court granted injunctive relief (1) requiring that the cities re-evaluate their contract for the provision of public defense services to insure that indigent criminal defendants were provided the actual assistance of counsel; and (2) requiring the cities to hire one part-time public defense supervisor to supervise and evaluate the provision of legal services. The Court also granted attorney's fees. 989 F.Supp.2d 1122 (2013).

On April 15, 2014, the Court issued an order awarding attorneys' fees and costs. 2014 WL 11961980. Shortly after, on April 22, 2014, the Court issued an order appointing Eileen Farley as a public defense supervisor. The agreement was to last until March 30th, 2017. During that time she sent several reports detailing the improvements the defendants had made to their public defense system.

In March 2017, the public defense supervisor proposed that the court extend her term and transition to a public defense auditor during the year. The Cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington responded in agreement, stating they had made the public defense supervisor's suggestions permanent and no longer needed to be supervised. In April, the court granted this extension in of supervision until July 2017, when the auditor took her place.

The case is now closed.

Lori Arakaki - 09/24/2014
Katie Chan - 11/01/2017
Elizabeth Johnson - 04/10/2019
Chandler Hart-McGonigle - 02/20/2020
Jack Hibbard - 06/25/2020


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Auditing
Monitoring
Preliminary relief denied
Recordkeeping
Reporting
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Quality of representation
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) City of Burlington
City of Mount Vernon
Plaintiff Description Indigent criminal defendants in Mount Vernon and Burlington
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2014 - 2017
Filed 06/10/2011
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis Faculty)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: 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 ]

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

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
2:11-cv-01100-RSL (W.D. Wash.)
PD-WA-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [PACER] [ECF# 1-1]
PD-WA-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/10/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 80]
PD-WA-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/10/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 142] (2012 WL 600727) (W.D. Wash.)
PD-WA-0002-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/23/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Certifying Class [ECF# 143] (298 F.R.D. 665) (W.D. Wash.)
PD-WA-0002-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/23/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motions for Summary Judgment [ECF# 271] (2013 WL 1774624) (W.D. Wash.)
PD-WA-0002-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/25/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 322]
PD-WA-0002-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/14/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Decision [ECF# 325] (989 F.Supp.2d 1122) (W.D. Wash.)
PD-WA-0002-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/04/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Awarding Fees and Costs [ECF# 354] (2014 WL 11961980) (W.D. Wash.)
PD-WA-0002-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/15/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Awarding Fees and Costs [ECF# 354] (2014 WL 11961980) (W.D. Wash.)
PD-WA-0002-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/15/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Protective Order [ECF# 356] (W.D. Wash.)
PD-WA-0002-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/22/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Lasnik, Robert S. (W.D. Wash.) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0003 | PD-WA-0002-0004 | PD-WA-0002-0005 | PD-WA-0002-0006 | PD-WA-0002-0007 | PD-WA-0002-0009 | PD-WA-0002-0010 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dunne, Sarah A. (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0002 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Fisher, J. Camille (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Marshall, Toby James (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0001 | PD-WA-0002-0002 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Murray, Jennifer Rust (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0001 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Roos, Breena M. (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Scott, Darrell (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0001 | PD-WA-0002-0002 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Talner, Nancy Lynn (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Terrell, Beth E (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0001 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Williams, James F (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0002 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Zuchetto, Matthew J (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0001 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Augenthaler, Brian Christopher (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Cooley, Andrew G. (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Culumber, Jeremy W (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Rogerson, Kevin Lee (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Rosenberg, Adam (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Thomas, Scott Glen (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Other Lawyers Austin, Roy L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0008 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Farley, Eileen (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0008 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Gipe, Anthony David (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Heid, Daniel B. (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Killebrew, Paul (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0008 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Kupers, Lawrence B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0008 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Leff, Deborah (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0008 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Murphy, John W. (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Preston, Judith C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0008 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Rancourt, Jennifer (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000
Samuels, Jocelyn (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0008 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-0008 | PD-WA-0002-9000
Sybrandy, Richard M. (Washington) show/hide docs
PD-WA-0002-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -