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Federal judge finds public defenders inadequate

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Federal judge finds public defenders inadequate

KGMI News Reporting
By Tracy Ellis

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – A federal judge has ruled that two Skagit County cities systematically violated the rights of poor defendants to have legal representation.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Mount Vernon and Burlington alleging that public defenders were so overworked that they amounted to little more than “a warm body with a law degree.”

A federal judge agreed, blaming the cities for cutting corners and remaining “willfully blind” to the problems that resulted.

He has ordered the cities to hire a public defense supervisor to oversee whether poor defendants are receiving adequate legal counsel.