Rasaki Lee Vandrush (from left) and Caro Gonzales speak to defense attorney Larry Jefferson during a protest outside the Thurston County District Attorney in Olympia District Court.
A longtime Thurston County defender Larry Jefferson takes over the helm of the State Office of Public Defense (OPD).
Supreme Court justices have appointed Jefferson to replace retired director Joanne Moore, who has served for 23 years, according to a press release on Friday.
As a director, Jefferson will administer government-funded programs that provide legal representation for those who have legal practice but cannot afford attorneys.
“Joanne Moore has led OPD from the beginning,” said Chief Justice Steven González in the press release. “She has done a tremendous job leading the OPD as she addressed the many problems of ensuring high quality public defense services in Washington. The court is pleased to appoint someone of Larry’s qualifications and dedication to serve as the new director of this important legal department. “
The bureau’s advisory board also supported Jefferson’s appointment.
“We look forward to working with him on the next challenges associated with supporting a strong, equitable public defense in our state,” said committee chairman Marc Boman in the press release.
Jefferson has served as a defense attorney in Thurston County for over 16 years. He previously worked as a public defender in Kent and Seattle, the press release said.
During his time in Thurston County, Jefferson contributed to and directed many local impact programs. He helped set up the Thurston County’s Prejudicial Diversion Program, First Look Program, Trueblood Diversion Program, and the Felony Leadership Improvement Project. For three years he headed the youth court and the youth drug court of the district
He was President of the Thurston County Bar Association, where he currently chairs the Diversity and Inclusion Department.
His work previously earned him the Thurston County Bigelow (Best Attorney) Award and the Washington State Bar Association’s Local Hero Award, the press release said.
He is currently President of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
“I am grateful for the trust the Advisory Committee and Supreme Court justices have shown me,” Jefferson said in the press release. “I am very excited to continue and advance the work of OPD in support of public defense services across the state. There is a lot of challenge ahead of us. “
Established in 1996, the Office of Public Defense has helped public defense agencies across the state by working on funding, improvement grants, and defense attorney case exposure limits, Jefferson said in the press release.
“The OPD was a beacon,” he said. “Your mission to ensure effective defense services is to recognize that people without resources under the law are still created equal and have a right to the protection of their lives and freedom.”