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King County Executive
Dow Constantine

Executive names criminal justice leaders to County’s first-ever Public Defense Advisory Board


King County Executive Dow Constantine today named 11 highly regarded leaders in indigent defense the protection of the rights of the accused to serve on the County's first-ever Public Defense Advisory Board.


King County Executive Dow Constantine named 11 highly-regarded leaders in indigent defense and the protection of the rights of the accused to serve on the County’s first-ever Public Defense Advisory Board.

“The organization of public defense may have changed, prompted by a ruling from the state’s highest court, but what will never change is our commitment to the provision of high-quality public defense services,” said Executive Constantine.

“These men and women are among the leaders in indigent defense in our community, with deep and diverse experience in advocacy for the rights of the accused. Together, they come to the task with fresh and objective eyes. As we move forward with a new department they can help us ensure our system of public defense remains a national model for independence and integrity.”

Among the 11 names the Executive transmitted to the Metropolitan King County Council for confirmation are the recently retired Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Washington and a Seattle University law professor regarded as a national expert on public defense and ethics.

All were recommended by public defense stakeholders:
  • Saudia Abdullah is director of Pioneer Human Service’s Federal Reentry Programs, which help people who have been incarcerated make a successful transition to community life. Abdullah has extensive experience in criminal justice reform, and played a role in the development of King County’s therapeutic courts.
  • Matt Adams is legal director at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, one of the nation’s largest immigration legal services organizations. Adams received the Jack Wasserman Memorial Award in 2008 from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, in recognition of his “excellence in litigation in the field of immigration law.”
  • Kim Ambrose is a senior lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law and director of Tools for Change: Race and Justice Clinic, a UW clinic she founded that focuses on racial disparities in the juvenile justice system. As a former public defender, Ambrose represented indigent adults and juveniles in both child welfare and criminal proceedings.
  • Hon. Sharon Armstrong is a retired King County Superior Court judge who twice served as chief criminal judge and co-chaired an advisory committee on public defender compensation models. She recently joined JAMS, the largest private provider of mediation and arbitration services worldwide.
  • Marc Boman helped lead the reform of public defense in this state as co-chair with former Justice Robert Utter of the Washington State Bar Association’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Criminal Defense. Boman is a partner at Perkins Coie and the former chair (and current member) of the WSBA’s Council on Public Defense. In 2009, he received the president’s award from the Washington Defender Association for his commitment to improving public defense.
  • Leo Flor is an attorney and Equal Justice Works fellow at the Northwest Justice Project who specializes in veterans issues. Flor is an Army veteran with combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has served as special advisor on veterans affairs to Executive Constantine.
  • Tom Hillier, who recently retired as the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Washington, has been hailed for his work with indigent defendants and advocacy for federal sentencing reform. He worked as a federal public defender in Seattle for 38 years, 28 of them as chief, building an office described by The Seattle Times as “a model for indigent defense nationwide.”
  • Paul Holland is associate dean for academic affairs at the Seattle University School of Law. Before becoming dean in 2009, he directed the nationally recognized Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic, through which law students work on real cases to serve poor and marginalized populations. He is a longtime child advocate and former chair of the governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee.
  • Sophia Byrd McSherry is an attorney and deputy director of the Washington State Office of Public Defense. McSherry recently served on the King County Public Defense Criminal Justice Advisory Task Force.
  • Jeffrey Robinson is a partner at Schroeter, Goldmark, Bender and a nationally recognized trial attorney. He is past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a recipient of its prestigious William O. Douglas award. A faculty member of the National Criminal Defense College in Georgia, Robinson was selected as one of the nation’s top 100 African American lawyers by Black Enterprise magazine, and ranked as one of the top 10 criminal defense lawyers in the state by Washington Law & Politics magazine.
  • John Strait is an associate professor of law at the Seattle University School of Law and a national expert on public defense and ethics. Strait has served on the Washington Supreme Court’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, the King County Bar Association’s Campaign Ethics Committee and the Washington State Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct Committee. He also chaired the Seattle Port Authority’s Ethics Advisory Committee.

About the Public Defense Advisory Board
For most of the 40 years that King County has provided public defenders for those accused of crimes but unable to pay an attorney, the County contracted for those services with four private, nonprofit corporations. The King County Council last year established the Department of Public Defense after a class-action lawsuit and a state Supreme Court ruling determined that employees at the private firms were “arms and agents” of the state and thereby eligible for state retirement funds.

A charter amendment approved by voters last November that made Public Defense a permanent department under the Executive also established the County’s first-ever Public Defense Advisory Board. The board’s mission is to advocate for a continued high-quality of public defense in King County, advise the Executive and Council on matters of equity and social justice related to public defense, and review the Department’s activities and plans.

The board also plays a role in the selection of the public defender. Whenever the office is vacant, the Executive will conduct a national recruitment, and the board selects candidates from among those qualified to recommend to the Executive for the appointment.

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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