Thursday on The Daily Weekly Nina Shapiro wrote about the recent announcement of a tentative settlement of a lawsuit filed by public defender Kevin Dolan against King County. As Shapiro writes in the lede, the lawsuit will likely "shape the future of local public defense" in our area.
"Vindicated," said plaintiff Kevin Dolan when asked for a comment. As we wrote earlier this month, however, the people his suit claims to represent aren't necessarily on board.
Dolan sued the county over what he saw as unequal treatment of public defenders, compared to prosecutors and virtually everybody else who work in the courtroom. They receive a state pension, while public defenders do not. A state Supreme Court decision agreed that defenders should have access to state retirement benefits, and kicked the case back to a lower court to decide whether the county should go whole hog and make the public's attorneys bonafide public employees.
Public defenders currently work for one of four independent agencies: The Defender Association, Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons, Associated Counsel for the Accused and Northwest Defenders Association.
Dolan has told SW that county employment is the way to go. But the heads of all four agencies, valuing their independence, have balked at the idea, which in a letter to county council in early December they called "breathtaking" and reached without public input.
Commenter GBallard thinks it's important to remember how the accused will fair under terms of the settlement, which he/she sees as an improvement.
As commenter GBallard writes:
""Vindicated," said plaintiff Kevin Dolan when asked for a comment. As we wrote earlier this month, however, the people his suit claims to represent aren't necessarily on board."
I wouldn't say this is entirely accurate. Dolan's suit was about fair treatment for staff public defenders, not about SCRAP, TDA, ACA or NDA as organizations. The interests of management at these institutions do not necessarily coincide with the interests of front-line attorneys such as Dolan.
Let's also try hard not to forget that the most important people Dolan and other public defenders represent are the accused. They will be better served with a unified, well-managed agency staffed by good advocates such as Dolan.