There's another thing here: giving prosecutors pensions while denying them to defenders sends a message that prosecutors are superior to defenders. Also, the government should recognize that it has an interest in fair trials - and defenders are necessary for fair trials - because it keeps the public trust in the justice system and keeps innocent people from going to jail, where they'd become much less productive members of society.
This decision echoes long-established case law about "independent contractors." When you tell someone what they're going to do, when they're going to do it, how they're going to do it, and control the purse strings, they're an employee, not a contractor. It seems to me that this is the correct ruling.
Um, Goldy?

By almost every metric Public Defenders get the short end of the stick. They're some of the most dedicated lawyers in the profession, yet they're incredibly overworked and hideously underpaid. Thanks to our "tough on crime" political system, Prosecutor's Offices usually have around three times the budget of the PDs, and individual prosecutors are almost always payed more than their public defense counterparts. 'Lawyer' does not automatically equal 'Rich', and quadruply so for PDs. Starting salaries are usually around $40k, for someone who works 50+ hour weeks and has six figures of law school debt. But they're the shield that keeps the cops and prosecution in check, so I say good for them!
I don't know the law under contention here, but I think it's kind of weird that you accept a job with a known level of compensation associated with it, and then, instead of trying to earn more by changing jobs, threatening to change jobs, or convincing your employer of your increased value, you try to earn more by suing your employer, claiming that he should be legally compelled to pay you more than you agreed to work for when you took the job.

If King County were looking out for taxpayers, it would respond by reducing these people's wages by the cost of their increased pension compensation.
@1 to @3 are all correct.

Suck it, corporate fat cats.
Thanks for those comments, 5280 and Foghorn. I'd say the possible cost to the public purse of including public defenders in a pension scheme is dwarfed by the benefit of having defenders compensated fairly enough that we stop losing them once they gain enough experience to bail. Defender attorneys have left to become civil service paralegals, just to get some damn long term benefits. That's not good for the accused, not good for the remaining defenders, bad for the justice system.

And yes, Goldy, even these lawyers make a fortune compared to the 25 cents per comment you've joked Keck pays you, but still, it's not a zero sum game really, is it?
"Though either way, I guess, lawyers end up making money."

God damn this is so misplaced.
Twenty-five cents a comment? Damn. Somebody needs to talk to Keck about that. That's way too much.
I have a dear friend who was a public defender for a number of years, and who can attest that the prosecutor's office was significantly better funded (and whose employees were significantly better paid) that the PD office. And the shit she had to take on as a PD, upholding the constitutional requirement that everyone must receive a fair and vigorous defense (even fathers who are accused of molesting their own children) made me often think that no matter how bad of a day I may have, it will never, ever be as bad as what she dealt with.

So yeah, I don't think I have a problem with them receiving a pension.
A pensions sounds fancy, but PERS is under funded and required contributions are ridiculously low.. something around 4.5%/year. Soon the state is going to have to raise those far past 10%, which is how much City of Seattle employees are paying and the city's pension is comparatively in fantastic shape. The PDs are going to going to get stuck with huge contributions for the same 2%/year of service benefit. They might have been better of sticking their 10 (to however high it has to go to stay solvent )% in a 401K than going to court for PERS.
There's a perfectly good reason public defender budgets aren't as high as those at the prosecutor's office -- public defenders don't handle every single criminal case. Prosecutors do. There are many, many private defense attorneys that people hire to handle their cases.

Seems to me that with this decision there's really no reason to have these agencies operated independently from this point forward. King County should go ahead and bring public defense services in house, since this ruling essentially makes them all government employees. At least that way they could make sure the employees meet some minimum standards.

Additionally, PERS requires an employee contribution, as was stated @10. Obviously these public defenders were never paying into the system. If the public defenders covered by this decision are required to make up what they should've been paying, then it's no big deal. If they however expect to get a pension without making up their share of the cost, that's absolute horseshit.
Yeah, public defenders should have to meet some minimum standards!

Can I just say that folks are WAY too sensitive. I'm sympathetic to the public defenders. But apart from a couple lawyer jokes, the post is pretty neutral.
Eh, it's Slog, Goldy. People here will jump down your throat over all sorts of things, real or imagined. Gotta be that honey badger - when the cobra bites you, just roll over, take a nap, and get up and do it again. Next time maybe you'll eat the cobra.
Our system is already so skewed toward prosecutors/ police- this is a step in the right direction for ensuring that all our citizens have access to a fair trial. Why is it that people are so anti-defender these days? I think it's partly racism (they defend mostly non-white people), partly the popularity of pro-prosecutor tv shows, and partly the fact that the vast majority of judges are former prosecutors (including the entire supreme court)
@4: If the employer's job offer doesn't include all of the compensation that the law requires him to provide, there is nothing weird about suing to force your employer to pay those benefits. Just because you take an illegally-undercompensated job doesn't mean you should forfeit your right to seek all the compensation you are due under the law.
One of the worst-reasoned decisions the Supreme Court has handed down in years.

No one is arguing that public defenders shouldn't be well paid. The question is, were they employees of the County?

And the answer is, of course they weren't. No one ever thought they were. All the contracts were crystal clear on that point. They could have been negotiated to clearly provide for membership in PERS, but instead they were negotiated with precisely the opposite intent.

Public defenders have far more control over how they do work than the average employee of a contractor who is filling potholes in a County road.

Poor lawyering on the County's part, I think, and a sympathetic cause.

If the County is going to be tagged for millions in PERS contributions, where will it come from? More cuts to human services? And where will the employee contributions come from?

Richard Sanders must be laughing on his back porch, knowing he's screwed over the government (again) on his way out--it was a 5-4 decision.
"Popular rebellion?" No, certainly not that. This was NATO, period. They bombed food warehouses, clinics, residential homes, broadcast stations and more. These are crimes and I find it terrible that it is trivialized as was the "cost worth it", primarily in dollars and cents.

President Obama should go into retirement. This is not a Republican/Democrat situation but it's the same agenda promoted during the time of Bush/Cheney. As we see fuel tankers and other supplies being destroyed in Afghanistan and Pakistan with record numbers in American deaths and Afghani/Pakistani deaths, we can only conclude that President Obama's presidency must end with one term. This in no way supports the savage political agenda of the Republicans but calls it just like it is. Both parties are bought and paid for by the banking elite of Wall Street and the military contract corporations.

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