ACLU suing state’s Office of Public Defense

SEATTLE (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington is suing the state’s Office of Public Defense, accusing it of failing to ensure that children in Grays Harbor County get adequate legal help when they’re charged with crimes.

The lawsuit is the second recent case in which the ACLU has objected to the treatment of juveniles in the county on Washington’s Pacific coast. Last month, it sued Grays Harbor County on the grounds that it has violated the constitutional rights of children by routinely locking them in solitary confinement.

The organization says this time, it’s suing the state public defense office in Thurston County Superior Court. The lawsuit seeks to establish that the agency has broad powers to force local jurisdictions to provide children with the legal representation to which they are entitled.

The Office of Public Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge David Edwards, who has handled juvenile cases for the past eight years, says he’s never been concerned about the quality of representation children receive there.

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