"We intend to present evidence that will show the public defense system in Mount Vernon and Burlington is broken. At the end of the day, our clients are asking for only one thing: to fix the system," says Marshall's co-counsel, Matthew Zuchetto, from the Scott Law Group.
Despite numerous letters and complaints from individuals who believe they did not receive adequate legal representation, the defendants knowingly allowed their two part-time public defense system attorneys to be overloaded.
"The Washington State Bar Association guidelines say that full-time attorneys doing public defense work should not have more than 400 cases per year," says Marshall, "but they are both doing around or more than 1,000 cases, which is off the charters in terms of what the guidelines call for."
"So you have two overworked attorneys, they are under-funded and, as a result, there is just a complete denial of representation of people," says Marshall. "They do not have attorneys visiting them when they are in jail, the attorneys don't respond to their phone calls. All they get is a minute or two in a packed courthouse where the attorney essentially says 'this is the charge against you' and this is what the prosecution is offering—and that's it."
The complaint recounts the experiences of a number of dissatisfied persons who appeared in court in Mount Vernon and in Burlington. In one instance in Mount Vernon, a defendant met with the public defender at her court hearing and said, "I am not going to sign anything that is not true." When the attorney asked if she meant "she wanted to go to trial," the attorney then said, "Well good luck with that."
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The class-action suit, filed in Skagit County, seeks no monetary damages and is aimed only at securing injunctive relief for persons who go unrepresented or under-represented by legal counsel.
Marshall and his co-counsel Matthew Zuchetto are asking only for fees.
Toby Marshall concentrates his practice on complex civil litigation, consumer protection and employment law. Toby has represented workers and consumers in a variety of class actions, including wage and hour, product defect, and consumer fraud cases. Matthew Zuchetto is based in Spokane and practices consumer law.