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Are public defenders assigned randomly?

Tacoma, WA |

I know that I qualify for a public defender given my income. If i approach the Public Defenders' office; would i be able to know who will be assigned to my case before the arraignment? are PDs appointed based on availability and case type or is it a random process?

Attorney Answers 6

  1. That will be a public defender office policy unique to that office. There is certainly no harm in calling and asking that question. I know some offices will assign cases based on the prosecution on a rotational basis. I know most offices will send one or two lawyers to cover all arraignments so they public defender who appears with you at arraignment may not be the lawyer assigned to your case. That should not cause you concern however, since many private attorney's get "coverage" from other lawyers for hearings like arraignments.
    Calling and checking ahead of time will also send the message you are interested in your case and representation. Good luck.

  2. I am not a WA attorney but the appointment of public defenders is always random. It may be that each time you appear there will be a different public defender there. The advantage of private counsel is that you will always have the same defense counsel and they will know your case intimately. You will also have much more communication with your private attorney and they will have significant more time to spend on your matter. Public defenders are very busy 9 to 5 employees with weekends off. We in private practice often work many more hours on our cases since our case load is light as compared to the PD. If you can afford counsel do so. Schedule a free consultation or two with local qualified Avvo criminal defense lawyers and you will be surprised at the difference and often very reasonable fees. Good Luck. Hope this helps?

  3. The policy will vary from office to office.

  4. I agree that each office has its own policy. You deserve to have someone with significant experience for a serious case. Make sure that you let the office know how important this is to you. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    The response I have provided is general in nature, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. My practice is based in Rhode Island, and the law and practice in other states or jurisdictions may be different.

  5. First divided by felony or misdemeanor, then usually by courtroom and/or case type, then random between attorneys assigned to the courtroom or case type.

  6. Ms. Campbell is correct, usually the first divisional cut is by type of case felony or misdemeanor. After that it becomes voodoo magic so to speak. I have dealt with some PD offices that divided cases by alphabet using the last name of the defendant, others by subdivision of the type of case; i.e DV and juvenile cases sometimes have special PD's assigned to them. Like my fellow colleagues have stated, it comes down to specific procedure of that particular PD's office.

    I want to point out that, although I know nothing about your case, if you can possibly afford it, hiring private counsel it is usually better. Don't interpret this to mean that the Public Defender's are not good attorneys, nothing could be farther from the truth. They are great attorney's doing a tough job and I appreciate them all, but it is that they usually have heavy caseloads. Which means lots of other defendant's, just like you, competing for their limited amount of time.

    Your case is critical to you and the one thing you get with private counsel is their devoted time and attention to your case and your individual needs. That is part of what you are paying for. Also don't assume just because you get a Public Defender it is always completely free. Sometimes you are ordered to pay a reduced fee to offset the cost of the Public Defender. All the best with your case.

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