2 Washington cities increase public defense budgets

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) - Two Washington cities have increased their public defense budgets to comply with a federal court ruling that found they had violated the constitutional rights of poor defendants to effective legal representation.

The Skagit Valley Herald reports the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington earlier this week approved a new contract for their public defenders. The money pays for a fifth attorney, an on-staff investigator, and other expenses.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the cities two years ago, alleging that public defenders there were so overworked that they amounted to little more than "a warm body with a law degree." U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik agreed in a ruling last month.