As Seattle Weekly's Nina Shapiro covered back in February, Dolan is the man behind a lawsuit, filed on behalf of all public defenders, arguing that lawyers working with the four nonprofit public-defense agencies the county utilizes for its public defense needs deserve the same pension benefits as actual county employees. As noted late last week by the Seattle Times, King County is now "pushing a plan that would dissolve the independent agencies and make public defenders county employees," despite the fact King's current approach has worked well and been applauded. Dolan's lawsuit is widely cited as the impetus for the new approach.
Yesterday, in the Q&A we conducted with him, Dolan strongly stated his case once again while supporting King County's new plan. But not everyone is sold.
As commenter GBallard writes:
Not saying I disagree with Dolan's analysis which I believe is quite raional, but one of the biggest impediments to the consolidation he advocates has been the management of SCRAP, NDA, ACA and, especially, TDA. Ask Lisa Dauguaard what she thinks about Dolan's proposal. Certainly, the County has not limited the defender agencies from using their organizations as a bully pulpit for public policy advocacy. If that continues to be the case under a unified, county agency, who gets to decide the advocacy strategy and how it is implemented? The agencies already disagree in both approach and tactics.
In addition, consolidation will almost certainly result in some layoffs, particularly if compensation normalization is part of the deal. It is simply not efficient to have 4 separate agencies, and with all due regard to Dolan, while it might be credible to say no front-line attorneys will be let go, there are other paralegal, clerical and support staff, not to mention management positions that will be made redundant.
The interesting thing is that to the average client, there will be little impact. The argument for having the diversity of agencies to mitigate against the cooption of the public defense bar by the state; but what does this really mean to the defendant personally? You do not have a right to pick and choose a public defender and/or agency based on your preference for a certain organizational/legal philosophy. Speak candidly to practitioners on both sides of the criminal bar about whether they have seen the best interests of a client tossed to the bin in favor of a grand legal gesture. Sadly, most have.
Criminal defense is about defending the client. It is her/his liberty on the line, not TDA's, not SCRAP's, not even some future person's or society's. If consolidation means better paid lawyers who will provide better quality counsel (and, incidentally, most are already far superior to many of their for-profit brethren), then the only person who is really important in all of this, the accused, benefits.