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Yes! Public defenders are just as "real" as private criminal defense lawyers and civil lawyers. All the attorneys at the Grant County Department of Public Defense have graduated from college and law school. They have met the same Washington State Bar Association requirements to practice law in the courts of Washington State. They are also qualified to handle your individual case under the Washington Supreme Court Standards for Indigent Defense. The Standards for Indigent Defense are found in this link. pdf.
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In Grant County, only the Court may appoint counsel to represent you at public expense (a public defender). You will have the opportunity to request an attorney at your first court hearing. In fact, the judge will ask you if you would like counsel appointed.
District Court: When you go to court for your first appearance, you will probably need to fill out a form to ask for a lawyer. If you qualify, the judge will appoint counsel. After a few days you should call the Department of Public Defense at 509-754-6027. The staff will let you know that you have been assigned an attorney, who that attorney is and how to get hold of them. If there is something that may need to happen in your case immediately, like preserving evidence or finding witnesses before they leave, do not wait. Please contact our office right away.
Superior Court: At your first hearing, whether in custody or appearing by summons, there will be an attorney assigned for the day to help you with the process. The Judge will provisionally appoint counsel at the first hearing. Your assigned attorney should be in touch with you within a day or two. At the next hearing your appointed attorney will appear with you and be sure the appropriate paperwork is filled out to qualify . With few exceptions, the attorney appearing with you will be your attorney. If there is something that may need to happen in your case immediately, like preserving evidence or finding witnesses before they leave, do not wait. Please contact our office right away.
Absolutely not! The Grant County Department of Public Defense (DPD) is a county department and our funding comes from the county budget. But the DPD is an independent office that is separate and apart from the prosecutor's office and the court. We operate in a similar way to an independent law firm. Our lawyers are loyal to their clients first and are bound by the rules of professional responsibility that require that they provide zealous advocacy and protection to each client. That responsibility is the same as private lawyers.
If you can't work out your differences with your court appointed lawyer, you can contact the Director of Public Defense, Brett Hill. It is most helpful if you address your concerns in writing in the form of a letter. That way there is no confusion, or interpretation as to what the issue is. You will not want to talk about the facts or strategies of the case in that letter as there may be some issues with regard to confidentiality. But you will also want to be specific as to what the problem is.
When a Grant County Court finds that a person is entitled to counsel at public expense, The Department of Public Defense (DPD) is tasked with the responsibility of assigning an attorney to that person. While a person may be entitled to counsel at public expense, they are not entitled to choose the attorney who is assigned to their case. It is the policy of the DPD that once an appointment of counsel has been made, the assignment will not be changed absent a bona fide conflict of interest or an Order by the Judge. Failing to get along with a lawyer is usually not enough to get a different lawyer. There needs to be an actual legal reason to require a change.
Please be patient as you wait for your public defender to get back to you. Your attorney has a busy caseload and spends time in court several days a week. If you have left messages and it has been several days, please send an email to Brett Hill at [email protected] or call the office at (509) 754-6027. We may be able to give you some information, or help you prompt your attorney to contact you. If it is an ongoing problem, please feel free to write a complaint as directed on another FAQ.