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DPD (previously the Office of Public Defense) has four divisions, each with its own staff of public defenders, investigators, social workers, and paralegals. The county also has a panel of assigned counsel, attorneys who provide legal work for the County on a contractual basis.

Aralica_2

Edwin Aralica represents a client in King County Superior Court.

The department’s attorneys are highly skilled and dedicated and are committed to ensuring quality legal representation and advocacy for anyone facing a criminal charge, in keeping with both the U.S. Constitution and the state Constitution. DPD staff also tries to help clients address the underlying issues that brought them into the criminal justice system by placing them in drug treatment programs, mental health programs, or other alternatives to incarceration. The department strives to connect clients to a holistic suite of services – from housing to job training – so as to break the cycles that can lead to arrest.

Anyone facing a criminal charge, civil commitment, or a dependency proceeding - and who is found to be income-eligible - is entitled to a public defender, as are children facing contempt of court in truancy proceedings. To find out if you qualify for DPD services see who we serve. Here is where to find out how to get an attorney.

Even if you do not qualify for help from DPD, you can still find out about other local low-cost legal resources on our web site.

Client-centered, independent, effective

The Department of Public Defense (DPD) provides zealous, client-centered criminal defense, juvenile defense, family defense and more to indigent people in King County and Seattle. DPD's attorneys -- supported by investigators, paralegals, social workers and administrative staff -- represent people facing felony and misdemeanor charges, involuntary civil commitments to psychiatric facilities, dependency proceedings, contempt of court and civil commitments under the state's sexually violent predator law. DPD employees take great pride in their work and are deeply committed to public defense and the rights of those caught up in the criminal justice system. In 2015, DPD represented more than 20,000 clients.

Public defense in King County was previously provided by four nonprofit law firms. The department was created in 2013 by the Metropolitan King County Council, after voters approved a charter amendment that established the department and brought those four firms in-house. The firms are now separate divisions within DPD, each with its own set of attorneys, investigators, social workers, paralegals and administrative staff. In creating this new department, the County Council ensured the department was independent from political influence: The director -- or Public Defender -- is appointed to four-year terms and can be dismissed only for cause. The council also established an 11-member Public Defense Advisory Board, which recommends candidates to serve as the Public Defender, advocates for public defense, reviews the department's proposed budget and issues an annual report on the state of public defense in King County.
Of particular note is that both the charter amendment and the Council's ordinance implementing that charter underscore the importance of equity and social justice in the delivery of public defense services. Specifically, according to both documents, one of the duties of the new department is to “foster and promote … access to justice and equity in the criminal justice system.” Today, the department plays an active role in King County government and in the broader community, advocating for programs and policy reforms that address racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system, provide alternatives to incarceration, address the collateral consequences of justice involvement and promote a fairer and more just system for the criminally accused.

Lorinda Youngcourt

King County Public Defender
Lorinda Youngcourt

Read her biography.

If you'd like to invite Lorinda or someone else from the Department of Public Defense to speak to your organization, please send your request to DPD at dpd@kingcounty.gov.