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Legal news and analysis from the largest criminal defense firm in Southwest Washington, Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.

Kauffman slaps down charge of violation of a no-contact order

A jury deliberated about 45 minutes Wednesday before handing attorney Katie Kauffman another victory in Clark County District Court.

Her client in the Aug. 30 trial was charged with violation of a no-contact order, which can be a difficult charge to defend because it boils down to two questions: Was there a valid court order? Was the person found with the protected party?

In this case, however, the client’s ex-girlfriend testified that she and her ex-boyfriend both thought the order had been lifted and that was enough for the jury to acquit Kauffman's client. 

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Felony trial abruptly ends with dismissal

Attorney Hannah McCausland won a dismissal this week for a client charged with prescription forgery after a pharmacist testified her client was not the person who came in and gave her a fake prescription, bringing the trial to an abrupt end.

The client had been charged with forged prescription for a controlled substance, a class C felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Trial was Aug. 28 in Clark County Superior Court.

McCausland asked for an “offer of proof,” which is done outside the presence of the jury, to make sure the pharmacist had the right person. The pharmacist said yes, that she had selected her client’s photograph from among the six mug shots shown to her by a detective with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Upon seeing McCausland’s client in court, however, she could say definitively that he was not the person who came into the pharmacy.

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Priest wins acquittal in assault trial

Attorney Roger Priest won an acquittal this week in Clark County District Court for a client charged with assaulting his former brother-in-law.

Priest’s client had been temporarily living with his former brother-in-law. He was asked to move out, and he agreed to leave April 1. On March 30, his former brother-in-law confronted him over buying groceries, saying he shouldn’t be buying them if he’s moving out in two days. The client said he only bought a container of coffee creamer.

During the Aug. 24 trial the alleged victim told the jury that the defendant pushed him, and then went to his bedroom. He said he followed him and told him to move out immediately. He said then the defendant “jumped him” and punched him in the head. The alleged victim’s fiancée broke up the fight, and the alleged victim grabbed a baseball bat. He said the defendant went after his fiancée, but he threatened him with the bat and called police.

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Work group to study indigent defense proposal

Proposed changes to how Clark County structures felony indigent defense services have been put on hold indefinitely, and a work group will study the issue, councilors agreed this week.

In July, attorneys who contract with the county to represent indigent defendants were told that the county was going to be hiring two defense attorneys who, along with the current indigent defense coordinator, would handle approximately 14 percent of the felony cases.

The county council had yet to discuss the proposal, however, and during a subsequent work session, councilors expressed concerns.

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Council in no rush to make decision on indigent defense proposal

The Clark County Council heard more details Wednesday about a proposal to hire two defense attorneys to help with the felony indigent caseload, but didn’t reach any type of agreement.

Chairman Marc Boldt said they will continue the conversation during their Aug. 23 board time meeting.

Indigent Defense Manager Ann Christian and Bob Stevens, the county's director of general services, have proposed hiring two staff defense attorneys who, with Indigent Defense Coordinator Angela Colaiuta, would do felony work. They would have one part-time legal assistant. Stevens said Wednesday that Colaiuta would only spend a quarter of her time handling cases, and together the three attorneys would account for 14 percent of the felony caseload. 

Wednesday’s work session was scheduled after councilors appeared to be caught off-guard by the original request and wanted more information, even after an initial discussion. About a dozen attorneys who have contracts with the county showed up to the work session, and the few who spoke -- Jeff Sowder, Heather Carroll and Therese Lavallee -- assured the councilors that, contrary to what they’ve been told by Christian and Stevens, there are plenty of attorneys willing to do the work.

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Boss won a trial

Attorney Jeffrey Barrar recently won a trial in Clark County District Court.

A jury needed only about 15 minutes to deliberate before unanimously voting to acquit Barrar’s client of fourth-degree assault domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

About three months ago, Barrar’s client’s girlfriend called 911 and told a Clark County Sheriff’s deputy that she had been assaulted by her boyfriend, who was arrested and had to spend the weekend in the Clark County Jail before he could see a judge and be released pending trial.

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Kauffman wins another "not guilty" verdict

Attorney Katie Kauffman won an acquittal this week for a client and the stakes were extra high, as a criminal conviction could have created immigration problems for her client. 

A jury deliberated about 30 minutes on Aug. 3 at the end of a daylong trial in Clark County District Court. 

Kauffman's client was charged with assault in the fourth degree domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. It's also an offense for which a person can be deported, and would have precluded her client from becoming a U.S. citizen. 

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Council schedules work session to discuss creating public defender's office

Update: At the request of county staff, the work session has been set over one week, to 1 p.m. Aug. 16 in conference room 698 at the Public Service Center.

The Clark County Council has scheduled a work session to further explore the idea of creating a small public defender's office. 

The session, which is open to the public, will be 1 p.m. Aug. 9 in conference room 698 at the Public Service Center. Councilors don't typically take public testimony at work sessions. Instead, it's a time for them to ask questions of staff members. 

Defense attorneys who have contracts with the county to represent people who qualify for court-appointed counsel were initially told July 12 that the council was expected to approve the proposal and it would be effective Sept. 1. The issue hadn't yet been discussed with the council, however, and during a July 19 meeting the five members of the board said they wanted a work session and hear more about the proposal before advancing it to a public hearing and putting it to a vote. 

The Columbian recently had an article on the proposal, and Chairman Marc Boldt said he and other councilors are wary of creating new staff positions.

Council questions proposal for public defender's office

The Clark County Council has hit “pause” on a proposal to start a county public defender’s office.

Last week, contract defense attorneys – who were wondering why the county hadn’t put out its usual calls for supplemental contracts to make sure felony cases would be covered through the end of the year – were told the county would be starting a small public defender’s office. The Clark County Council would approve the plan at its July 18 meeting and it would be effective Sept. 1. The county would hire two full-time attorneys to join its indigent defense coordinator in handling a portion of felony cases; the three attorneys would be assisted by a part-time legal assistant.

The day before the July 18 council meeting, Indigent Defense Manager Ann Christian pulled the item from the agenda and said it would be set over a week.

On July 19, Christian met with councilors and explained she pulled the request because she first wanted to meet with Clark County Superior Court judges. She said she met with the judges and answered their questions. She told councilors she would like her proposal to be on the July 25 agenda.

But that wasn’t the end of the discussion, and the proposal, which Christian emphasized to councilors was net neutral, won’t go to a vote July 25. Instead, the councilors first want a work session with Christian to have a broader discussion about indigent defense services. That work session has yet to be scheduled.

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Clark County to start (small) public defender's office

Update: On July 17, the item was pulled from the July 18 agenda and set over to the county council's July 25 meeting. 

For the first time in nearly 40 years, Clark County will once again have a public defender’s office.

The title on the July 18 Clark County Council agenda sounds dull – “Request approval of the net neutral reorganization of the Indigent Defense Office” – but the action marks a significant shift in how the county meets its mandate to provide public defense services.

County councilors are expected to approve the proposal, which, according to a county staff report, has been vetted by the deputy county manager, the budget office director and the human resources director.

According to the report, the proposed reorganization is the first and second steps in a process “to change Clark County’s indigent (public) defense system from an exclusively independent contractor-based system to one with a strong base of attorney and paraprofessional county employee staff.”

The proposal adds two full-time attorneys and a part-time legal assistant to the indigent defense office, which currently oversees the private attorneys and law firms (including ours) that contract to provide legal services. Also, it reclassifies the current indigent defense coordinator position to a “senior public defender” who will take a partial felony caseload in addition to supervising the two new attorneys and keeping some of the current administrative tasks.

In all, that’s three county employees who will be defense attorneys. They will handle a total of 327 felony cases next year, or an estimated 13 percent of the felony caseload, and earn salaries comparable to deputy prosecuting attorneys. 

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Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
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