Case: Best v. Grant County

04-00189 | Washington state trial court

Filed Date: Dec. 21, 2004

Closed Date: 2013

Clearinghouse coding complete

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, 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 co…

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.

Summary Authors

Brandon Brown (7/10/2007)

Greg in den Berken (11/12/2014)

People


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Arthur, Pat (Washington)

Dolan, Justin (Washington)

Morrison, Joe (Washington)

Roos, Breena M. (Washington)

Salzarulo, Lori (Washington)

Scaramastra, Don (Washington)

Talner, Nancy Lynn (Washington)

Taylor, David F. (Washington)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Floyd, Francis S. (Washington)

McFarland, Michael E. (Washington)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Arthur, Pat (Washington)

Dolan, Justin (Washington)

Morrison, Joe (Washington)

Roos, Breena M. (Washington)

Salzarulo, Lori (Washington)

Scaramastra, Don (Washington)

Talner, Nancy Lynn (Washington)

Taylor, David F. (Washington)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Floyd, Francis S. (Washington)

McFarland, Michael E. (Washington)

Other Attorney(s)

Moberg, Jerry (Washington)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Rodriguez, Francisco Javier (Texas)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

04-00189

Docket

April 26, 2013

April 26, 2013

Docket

04-00189

Memorandum Decision

Aug. 26, 2004

Aug. 26, 2004

Order/Opinion

ACLU Press Release

No Court

Dec. 11, 2004

Dec. 11, 2004

Press Release

04-00189

Complaint

Dec. 21, 2004

Dec. 21, 2004

Complaint

ACLU Press Release

No Court

Oct. 20, 2005

Oct. 20, 2005

Press Release

04-2-00189-0

Settlement Agreement

Nov. 2, 2005

Nov. 2, 2005

Settlement Agreement

ACLU Press Release

No Court

Nov. 7, 2005

Nov. 7, 2005

Press Release

Monitor's Report, Second Quarter 2007

No Court

July 16, 2007

July 16, 2007

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Monitor's Report, Third Quarter 2007

No Court

Oct. 25, 2007

Oct. 25, 2007

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Monitor's Report, Fourth Quarter 2007

No Court

Jan. 17, 2008

Jan. 17, 2008

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Resources

Title Description External URL Date / External URL

Best, et al v. Grant County

ACLU Washington

The ACLU filed a suit in 2004, challenging the constitutionality of the indigent public defense system in Grant County. The suit argued that public defenders were underfunded, overworked and lacked i… Dec. 4, 2009

Dec. 4, 2009

https://www.aclu-wa.org/...

Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel

Vidhya K. Reddy

This paper traces the evolution of litigative efforts to structurally reform state and local indigent defense systems, focusing on the potential of modern class action lawsuits to overcome political … May 7, 2007

May 7, 2007

None

Intimately Related to the Criminal Process: Examining the Consequences of a Conviction after Padilla v. Kentucky and State v. Sandoval

Travis Stearns

In 2010, the US Supreme Court held in Padilla v. Kentucky that effective assistance of counsel required that a criminal defense attorney provide affirmative advice for noncitizen clients who faced im… July 1, 2011

July 1, 2011

https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/...

Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense

Norman Lefstein

Chapter 1: The Failure to Implement the Right to Counsel Due to Excessive Caseloads
A. The Constitutional Right to Counsel: Brief Overview
B. Excessive Workloads: A Pervasive National P…
Jan. 1, 2011

Jan. 1, 2011

http://www.americanbar.org/...

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

National Right to Counsel Committee

[Edited, from the website:]

[Notwithstanding the nominal right of indigent defendants to publicly provided counsel,] Today, in criminal and juvenile proceedings in state courts, somet…
April 14, 2009

April 14, 2009

http://www.constitutionproject.org/...

Docket

Last updated July 28, 2022, 3:02 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Washington

Case Type(s):

Indigent Defense

Key Dates

Filing Date: Dec. 21, 2004

Closing Date: 2013

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

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.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Columbia Legal Services (formerly Evergreen)

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Perkins Coie

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Grant County, Washington, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 2005 - 2011

Issues

Reproductive rights:

Fetus Identity

General:

Conflict of interest

Funding

Quality of representation

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload