Sanctions Improper When Attorney Has a High Caseload

State v. Graham, No. 97329-6 (December 19, 2019), Washington Supreme Court.

Brief: The Court of Appeals abused its discretion by sanctioning defense counsel when he requested an extension of time in order to fulfill his duty of effective representation, because counsel was prompt in communicating the constraints placed on him by his current caseload and explaining why another extension was necessary, and the record did not show any malfeasance or lack of diligence on counsel’s part or any lapse in his representation.

Translation: A defense attorney should not be sanctioned for moving too slowly when s/he is simply overburdened by a high caseload. The more cases an attorney has, the less s/he is able to provide constitutionally effective representation. Sanctioning an attorney in this position unconstitutionally discourages effective representation.

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