In April of 2017, the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court against the State and the Office of Public Defense (OPD), and not the county, for failing to provide adequate public defense for juveniles in Grays Harbor County in Davison v. State of Washington.
Davison contended that Grays Harbor County systemically failed to provide constitutionally adequate indigent juvenile defense and that the State and OPD have a duty to act when they are aware of a systemic failure by a county to provide constitutionally adequate indigent juvenile defense even though the function has been assigned to counties.
The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The State argued that the trial court should dismiss the case because counties, not the State, are responsible for providing indigent juvenile defense. Davis argued that because there is a positive constitutional right for the assistance of counsel there is an affirmative duty on the State to provide constitutionally adequate indigent defense services.
In December 2018, Thurston County Superior Court Judge, Chris Lenese, narrowly denied the State’s motion for summary judgment holding that the State cannot delegate its ultimate constitutional obligation and that the applicable standard in this type of case is that of a knowing systemic violation.
The court went on to hold that this particular case involves a controlling question of law for which there is substantial ground for a difference of opinion and that immediate review of the order by the Supreme Court may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.
Motions for discretionary review have been filed and accepted by the Supreme Court.