Last September, Pacifica Law Group submitted a friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief to the state Supreme Court in Davison v. State of Washington and Washington State Office of Public Defense. In 2017, the plaintiff, supported by the ACLU, sued the state alleging that Grays Harbor County systemically failed to provide constitutionally adequate indigent juvenile defense. Grays Harbor County was not named as a party to the suit. Davison asked the Thurston County Superior Court to declare that the State and OPD have a duty to act when they become aware of a systemic failure by a county to provide constitutionally adequate indigent juvenile defense. The trial court ruled that the State has a duty to act if it knows of a county’s systemic failure to provide constitutionally adequate indigent juvenile defense, without regard to whether the county could more appropriately remedy the problem itself.
From there, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. As WSAC argued in its amicus brief, the Washington Supreme Court confirmed today that ultimately the State bears the duty to provide indigent defense services as required under the U.S. and Washington Constitutions. While the State has discretion to delegate to local governments responsibility for providing these services, in so doing, the State must provide local governments with the authority and means necessary to furnish constitutionally adequate indigent defense. The Court remanded for consideration of whether the systemic and structural deficiencies in the current state system, as alleged by the plaintiffs and described in WSAC’s amicus brief, violate the State’s constitutional duties.
For more information, please read the full opinion issued by the State Supreme Court.