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Heavier case load means more lawyers need to be hired for local municipal court

Sunnyside City Council last night approved five resolutions for public defense services.

One of the five resolutions allows the city to apply for a grant that will assist in funding public defense services.

Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson said there is a need for a third public defender to handle conflict cases, meaning cases in which the other public defenders have a conflict of some kind.

"If there are two defendants, you need two defenders because one defender can't represent both," he said.

The city of Sunnyside must contract two full-time public defenders and one conflict case defender, according to Olson. That is because the caseload has increased with the number of officers on patrol.

He told the city council the state set standards for the number of cases a public defender can handle in a year. The number has been relaxed some, but Sunnyside still has an excess number of municipal court cases.

Looking at 2010, Olson said Barry Woodward handled 800 cases, which is in excess of the state standard.

The city is applying for grant funding with the help of Attorney Dana Evans.

She spoke to the council, stating the need for grant funding is a response to the increase in the caseload.

Evans said the increased number of cases heard in the municipal court is a good sign for the city, but it comes with its drawbacks.

"Our desire is to get grant funding to meet the city's needs," she said.

The deadline for the grant application is Aug. 1, 2011, and grants are awarded based on needs rather than population.

"I believe Sunnyside has a good chance of being awarded the grant," said Evans.

Olson said the city may see an increase in caseloads as high as 1,600.

He said the city is projected to pay approximately $10,000 more for public defense services in 2011.

As a result of the explanations provided by Olson and Evans, the city council approved unanimously the resolution to apply for grant funding, a resolution regarding public defender Barry Woodward's contract, a contract with Garrison Law Offices, a contract with Raymond Alexander for conflict cases and a revision in the city ordinance outlining the standards for the delivery of public defense.

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