County council approves funding to establish Public Defense office

Published Date

The Clark County Council this week approved using American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funding to establish a Public Defense office. The office will be staffed by 10 full-time employees: one senior public defender, six public defenders and three legal assistants.

The two-year ARPA funding will be the foundation to begin the Public Defense office as the county transitions away from its current practice of contracting with local defense attorneys. After the two years, funding for the office will come from indigent defense contract savings in the general fund.

Currently, Clark County is the largest county in Washington that utilizes a contractor model without attorney oversight to provide indigent defense services. A public defense office will help centralize and maximize administration and be able to address sustainability in indigent defense services as Clark County grows. A public/indigent defense attorney often is assigned to some of the most vulnerable population in a community. 

“As we transition our office from a contract model to a county public defense office, it is important to give a huge thank you to our dedicated indigent defense attorneys in our county,” said Deputy County Manager Amber Emery. “We have a lot of work to do with the transition and I am excited to be leading this effort for the county. Our first step is to hire a Director of Public Defense, the recruitment will take place in December and January.”

The Public Defense Director will report to the Deputy County Manager’s office.

The approved staff report is available on the county’s website.

Amber Emery, Deputy County Manager