Filing a complaint

As a citizen of Grays Harbor County who has a court appointed public defense attorney, you have the right to quality legal representation.  Among other things, this means the right to:

  • Understand the charges against you and the evidence the prosecution has gathered;
  • Communicate with your defense attorney about your case before court appearances;
  • Receive details of plea offers from the prosecution and advice on the risks and benefits from accepting or declining such offers;
  • Decide whether or not to accept plea offers and whether or not to go to trial.

Filing a complaint against your public defense attorney is a serious step and should be considered a last resort.  Among other things, it can seriously diminish the working relationship you have with someone (sometimes the only person) who is 100% on your side!

Here are some steps to take before filing a complaint.

Communicate.  It is remarkable how many problems can be resolved with just a bit of communication.  Giving your public defense attorney the opportunity to meet with you and explain things to you can usually solve most problems.  As you try to arrange for communication, please remember that public defense attorneys carry significant caseloads and can sometimes spend most, if not all, of their days in court.  A little patience on your part can go a long way.  If you can, in addition to calling your public defense attorney, you might want to send an email.  Often public defense attorneys find themselves in situations where they can respond to emails but not make calls (like when they are in court). 

  • Support with communication.  Sometimes for reasons you may not know about (like a week-long trial, vacation or personal issues) a public defense attorney is not available for you to reach.  When you cannot reach them, we sometimes can.  Let us know you are having difficulty reaching your public defense attorney and we can support you.  The best way to contact us is by email at 
  • Tell your public defense attorney you are frustrated.  It is difficult for people to correct a problem they do not know about.  Your public defense attorney is no different.  Unless you let them know (in writing if possible) that you have a problem with something, they will not have the chance to fix the problem.

If You Want a New Public Defense Attorney- Filing a complaint may not accomplish this.  Persons are often surprised that the court rarely assigns a new attorney to their case.  Unfortunately, we are unable to do that.

The only entity with the authority to assign a new public defense attorney is the court that appointed the public defense attorney.  Whether it is District Court or Superior Court, the only way to get a new public defense attorney is to make the request at the next court appearance.  Be prepared to detail your reasons you believe you need a new attorney.  You may want to bring a written statement to read to the court.  The courts seldom agree to provide a new attorney unless you state a basis for your request for a new attorney to be assigned.