HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) — The public defender shortage in Multnomah County has been well documented in recent months. But the “same dynamics play out in Washington County,” District Attorney Kevin Barton said Tuesday.

Barton told KOIN 6 News there are “about 130 cases or so where defendants are out of custody and unrepresented.”

Kevin Barton, current Chief Deputy District Attorney says._521866
Washington County DA Kevin Barton (KOIN, file)

The delays in these cases compound on each other and have a negative impact on the person accused of the crime and the victim. But Barton’s team came up with an idea they hope might alleviate some of the strain on the courts and resolved some of the backlogged cases.

Barton said they created a “special docket.”

“We are bringing in people who do not have lawyers, so these are people who have been waiting in limbo, and we have specially agreed defense attorneys who have agreed to look at their cases,” Barton said. The attorneys will present that person a plea offer, but “if they choose not to take the offer there is no negative or consequence to them.”

This special docket is in collaboration with the defense attorneys, judges and the DA’s office, he said. This docket will “be 6 consecutive Mondays, starting in mid-February.”

The cases run the gamut of crimes, he said. “There are cases that involve child sex abuse, other violent crimes.”

“We’re hoping,” Barton said, “this will be a way to resolve some of these backlogged cases.”