workload levels are approaching ethical limits. This has enabled the office to take all of
the cases that it can within ethical limits—
but not more.
Though the journey to ethical workload
management has sometimes been a rocky
one, the office is fortunate today to have
county management that appreciates the
value of the defense function and is willing
to dedicate the resources necessary to keep
workloads in the office at an ethical level.
This is a crucial element of the office’s
efforts to provide high-quality representation.
Focused Practice Areas
Another way that the office strives to
ensure quality representation is the dedication of attorneys and staff to specialized
practice areas. The office has long recognized that certain areas of practice are so
complex or esoteric that they require a concentrated effort to develop and maintain
specialized expertise. Such focus areas
greatly improve efficiency and the quality of
representation in these cases.
These efforts started in 1968, when the
office dedicated attorneys to appeals, juvenile delinquency, and juveniles who faced
transfer to the adult system. Attorneys were
devoted to mental health commitment
cases and misdemeanors in 1973, and to
post-conviction relief cases in 1974.
The office designated a DUI specialist in
1996 and established a vehicular crimes
specialty unit in 1999. A group specializing
in representation of juveniles charged as
adults was created in 2002. In 2004, the
office designated one attorney who had
substantial experience in mental health
In part to address the chronic and
intractable workload issue, the county
established the Legal Defender’s Office in
April 1995 and the Legal Advocate’s Office
in July 2000. The office worked with the
Presiding Criminal Judge to establish an
administrative procedure to withdraw the
office and transfer cases to LD, LA and the
Office of Court-Appointed Counsel when
necessary to avoid excessive caseloads.
Today, the office uses a variety of workload statistics and two case-weighting systems to augment the judgment of attorneys
and their supervisors in determining when
L to R: Dean Trebesch gives retirement plaque to attorney Joe Shaw in 1995; management meeting, 1994.
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