Amicus Briefs

The Defender Initiative has filed amicus curiae briefs in a variety of trial and appellate courts.

This year (2012), Professor Boruchowitz worked with the ACLU of South Carolina and two lawyers in private practice to file an amicus brief in an appeal from a Hilton Head Island Municipal Court trial in which the defendant did not receive a public defender despite a formal written request. That appeal is pending. 

Working with his research assistant Lucie Bernheim, Professor Boruchowitz filed an amicus brief in the Washington Supreme Court in 2011 in a personal restraint petition case on an issue relating to sufficiency of the evidence in a prosecution for vehicular homicide and vehicular assault based on alleged impairment from smoking marijuana. The brief pointed out inconsistency in the testimony of the state's toxicologist and that there is no scientific consensus on what level of marijuana consumption impairs driving. The PRP was denied.

The Initiative has filed amicus briefs in trial courts in two truancy cases, one in Snohomish County on an issue of competency and sufficiency of the petition, and one in Chelan county on issues related to sufficiency of the petition and of the evidence presented. In the  Snohomish County case the school district dismissed the case on the day of the hearing.  Center Advocacy Fellow Taki Flevaris and Professor Boruchowitz wrote the brief and appeared in court. Both cases were dismissed without the court reaching the issues in the briefs.

The Initiative also has filed briefs in trial courts relating to the right to counsel. In January, 2011, the Initiative filed an amicus brief (PDF) in the Clallam County (Washington) District Court urging that a person whose income is above the statutory poverty guideline but has expenses greater than his income is entitled to a public defender. The judge initially had ruled that the defendant was not eligible for appointed counsel. The Washington Defender Association co-signed the brief. The court appointed counsel but required that the defendant reimburse the County $350 despite the fact that he had a debt of $7000.

The Initiative filed an amicus brief in Kirkland (Washington) Municipal Court in 2009 urging an increase in the compensation for appointed counsel on appeal from a misdemeanor court. While the court did not adopt the rate urged by the Initiative, it doubled its normal payment for counsel in the case.