Sullivan Hall 119
(206) 398-4151


B.A., Kenyon College, 1970
J.D., Northwestern University, 1973


Criminal Procedure
Law and the Holocaust
Right to Counsel
Youth Advocacy

Robert C. Boruchowitz

Professor from Practice and Director of the Defender Initiative


Robert C. Boruchowitz was an attorney at The Defender Association, a non-profit public defender office in King County, for 33 years. He is leading an initiative at the law school to advance efforts to improve public defense representation for thousands of people in Washington and provide models for application in other states. He has handled appeals at all levels of the state and federal courts and argued the Seling v. Young case in the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the application of Washington’s "sexually violent predator" law. He was lead counsel on a recent Washington Court of Appeals decision that due process requires that children in truancy proceedings have counsel. Bellevue v. E.S. (2009). That case began in the Youth Advocacy Clinic and two clinic students worked with him on the appeal.

For 28 years, he served as The Defender Association’s Director. Founding president of the Washington Defender Association and a former member of the Executive Committee of the American Council of Chief Defenders, he has been instrumental in developing defender standards that have been endorsed by the Washington State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. He led a subcommittee that developed both Performance Guidelines for Criminal Defense Representation and Standards for Indigent Defense Services that were adopted by the Washington State Bar Association. On June 15, 2012, the Washington Supreme Court adopted a rule recommended by the WSBA requiring defenders to certify compliance with the WSBA standards as slightly modified by the Court.

He led a committee that wrote a caseload statement for the ACCD, and served on the State Bar Committee on Public Defense and as vice-chair of the Seattle Mayor's Police Accountability Review Panel. In 2003, he was a Soros Senior Fellow working on access to counsel in misdemeanor and juvenile cases. He speaks frequently at continuing legal education seminars on ethical issues relating to defender caseloads. He spoke at a Symposium on the 45th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright at the Washington Supreme Court Temple of Justice on April 11, 2008.

Professor Boruchowitz was an expert witness in the Hurell-Harring case in New York that recently settled, with an agreement by the state to develop caseload standards, provide counsel at all arraignment hearings, and improve the quality of public defense representation in five counties.

He recently provided an affidavit in support of a summary judgement motion filed by the Kentucky Public Advocate in a declaratory judgment action involving excessive public defender caseloads. Available at http://www.dpa.ky.gov/. He also provided a declaration in the motion filed by the Miami-Dade Public Defender to withdraw because of excessive caseload in Florida v. Bowens.

Professor Boruchowitz completed a two-week training for law teachers at the United States Holocaust Museum in 2007. He teaches a seminar on Law and the Holocaust that examines the role of lawyers and judges in responding to the abuse of executive power.

He is leading the new Defender Initiative, aimed at providing better representation for people accused of crimes or otherwise facing loss of liberty. The project will advance efforts to improve public defense representation for thousands of people in Washington and provide models for application in other states. The first project of the initiative was a joint effort with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to conduct a comprehensive investigation of misdemeanor public defense in the United States. He hosted a conference at the Open Society Institute in New York in May, 2008, and a second conference at Seattle University July 11, 2008.

He coauthored a report, "Minor Crimes, Massive Waste: The Terrible Toll of America's Broken Misdemeanor Courts". Professor Boruchowitz is a member of the Seattle University Consortium of Interdisciplinary Scholars.

The Initiative has received grant funding from the Open Society Foundation to improve access to counsel in misdemeanor courts. The Initiative has worked in Washington, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The Initiative also holds an annual Conference on Public Defense, the next one of which is scheduled for March 6, 2015.


"Justice Shortchanged--Assigned Counsel Compensation in Wisconsin", co-author, Sixth Amendment Center, May 2015

SU Study Assesses Costs of Seeking Death Penalty”, King County Bar Bulletin March 2015.

"Major Public Defense Changes Postponed", King County Bar Bulletin, January 2015.

"Fifty Years after Gideon: It is Long Past Time to Provide Lawyers for Misdemeanor Defendants Who Cannot Afford to Hire Their Own", Seattle Journal for Social Justice, Vol. 11, Issue 3 (2013).

"Division Autonomy Crucial in Defender Restructuring", co-author, King County Bar Bulletin, October 2013.

"The Right to a Lawyer", Louisville (KY) Courier Journal, March 17, 2013.

"50 years later, fulfilling right to counsel", Everett (WA) Herald, with Bob Ferguson, March 18, 2013.

"50 Years after Gideon v. Wainwright...County Plan Would End Nonprofit Defender Program", King County Bar Bulletin, February 2013.

"State Supreme Court Issues Historic Order on Defender Standards", King County Bar Bulletin, September 2012.

"Caseload limits a win for public defenders, clients - and justice", Seattle Times, July 19, 2012.

"Defenders Spread Thin by Budget Crunch", Bar Bulletin, March 2011.

"Diverting and Reclassifying Misdemeanors Could Save $1 Billion per Year: Reducing the Need For and Cost of Appointed Counsel" (American Constitution Society, 2010) .

"HJR 4220 goes too far in response to tragic Lakewood police murders", op ed with Neil Fox, Tacoma News Tribune October 27, 2010.

"You (might) have a right to a lawyer...", King County Bar Bulletin, July 2010.

On Public Defenders and Excessive Caseloads, July 10, 2010 as a guest blogger for CrimProf Blog, a member of the Law Professor Blogs Network.

"Citizen's Voice: Public defenders underfunded in Tennessee", Knoxville News Sentinel, June 5, 2010.

"The Defender Association Celebrates 40 Years", King County Bar Bulletin, September 2009.

"At 45, Gideon Right to Counsel Remains Elusive", King County Bar Bulletin, March, 2008.

"Right to Counsel Remains Threatened in Washington," Washington Bar News, February, 2007.

Op Ed, “Lawyers for juveniles not automatic”, Seattle Post Intelligencer, January 2, 2008.

"Enough is Enough! Defenders Act on Excessive Caseloads", 29 NLADA Cornerstone, Jan-Apr 2008, at 12.

Op Ed, “State has chance to provide equal justice”, January 25, 2006, with Anne Daly.

"How to Deal with the Denial of Counsel in Misdemeanor Cases Post-Shelton", The Advocate, January, 2004.

"The Right to Counsel: Every Accused Person's Right", Washington State Bar News, January, 2004.

Op-ed, "Anniversary of Gideon case spotlights right to court-appointed attorney", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 16, 2003.

"Soapbox", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 5, 2002.

Sexual Predator Law--The Nightmare in the Halls of Justice, 15 University of Puget Sound Law Review 827 (1992).

"Has the Rule of Law Changed?", Seattle-King County Bar Association Bar Bulletin, August, 1991.

Victimless Crimes, 57 JUDICATURE (1973).

Recent Activity

Read about all the latest activities of the Defender Initiative.

Boruchowitz report: Louisiana's public defender system violates rights of the poor

May 05, 2017
Seattle professor teams up with Southern Poverty Law Center on largest indigent defense case of its kind.

Class-action status sought for Louisiana indigent defense lawsuit

May 04, 2017
Professor Bob Boruchowitz's expert witness report is cited in support of a motion for class action certification in a lawsuit challenging Louisiana's public defense system.

The votes are there: Legislature can end the death penalty

February 16, 2016
Columnist Jonathan Martin cites Professor Bob Boruchowitz's study on the costs of seeking the death penalty in this analysis of momentum to end capital punishment in Washington.

Public defender reform to get tougher

December 16, 2015
Professor Bob Boruchowitz spoke to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission about reasonable limits on caseloads for public defenders.

Washington Legislature should move to end the death penalty

November 17, 2015
This editorial cites Professor Bob Boruchowitz's study on the costs of seeking the death penalty.

Fixes Urged to Help Poor Defendants in Utah

October 26, 2015
Professor Bob Boruchowitz's Defender Initiative, along with the Sixth Amendment Center, released a report showing that most people charged with a misdemeanor in Utah go to court without an attorney.

Prosecutors won’t seek death penalty for Michele Anderson

July 30, 2015
Michele Anderson, the former Carnation woman accused of killing her family on Christmas Eve 2007, will no longer face the death penalty. Professor Boruchowitz was quoted in this article about the King County Prosecutor withdrawing his request for the death penalty in a particular case.

Prosecutors won't seek death penalty for Michele Anderson

July 29, 2015
Professor Bob Boruchowitz's study on the costs of the death penalty is cited in this news story about a woman charged with murdering six members of her family.

Dylann Roof and death penalty: Does it matter what victims' families want?

June 21, 2015
Professor Bob Boruchowitz's study on the costs of pursuing capital punishment is cited in this story about whether the Charleston church shooter could face death.

Nebraska death penalty repeal: Are Republicans shifting their stance?

May 20, 2015
A Seattle University study, co-authored by Professor Bob Boruchowitz, on the costs of pursuing the death penalty is cited in this report about a move to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska.

Constitution Violated 'Thousands of Times Every Day'

May 18, 2015
Because people lack public defenders when accused of misdemeanors, Professor Bob Boruchowitz told a Senate committee, they go to jail for minor offenses like sleeping in a cardboard box, providing food to homeless people in a park, and walking a dog without a leash.

Bipartisan support in Washington for reform of misdemeanor courts

May 13, 2015
Professor Robert Boruchowitz's testimony in favor of right to counsel for indigent clients charged with misdemeanors is featured in this story about hearings before the Senate Judicial Committee.

Bob Boruchowitz testifies before U.S. Senate on misdemeanor defense

May 13, 2015
Professor for Practice Bob Boruchowitz testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee May 13 about the Constitutional right to counsel for indigent misdemeanor defendants.

SU Study Assesses Costs of Seeking Death Penalty

March 01, 2015
It costs more than an additional $1 million to pursue the death penalty than not to seek it in an aggravated murder case in Washington, according to a new study by four professors at Seattle University.

It’s just too expensive to execute people, says Kentucky lawmaker

February 05, 2015
As states try to recover from the recession, the high costs of seeking the death penalty become much less tenable, accoridng to this story that cites our recent study of the subject.

Study: Washington death penalty cases cost extra $1 million

January 20, 2015
KING 5 featured Professor from Practice Bob Boruchowitz in this story about two high-profile murder trials starting in Seattle, and the costs associated with seeking the death penalty.

Wash. Death Penalty Cases Cost $1 Million More, Study Finds

January 07, 2015
Professor Robert Boruchowitz discusses his study on the steep costs of pursuing the death penalty.

Seeking death penalty adds $1M to prosecution cost, study says

January 07, 2015
Press coverage details the rigorous research behind the law school's study of higher costs with death penalty cases.

Study: Wash. Death Penalty Cases Cost Much More Than Similar Non-Death Penalty Cases

January 07, 2015
KPLU featured a report about our study of the $1 million pricetag for pursuing the death penalty.

Seattle University study finds Washington death penalty cases cost at least $1 million more than when death not sought

January 07, 2015
An in-depth study by four Seattle University professors found costs related to pursuing the death penalty are about 1.4 to 1.5 times more than when a prosecutor does not seek death.