Washington v. Graham (Majority)Annotate this Case
The clerk of DivisionTwo of the Washington Court of Appeals imposed a $200 fine on attorney Travis Stearns for seeking an extension of time to file an opening brief in an indigent criminal appeal. Stearns' client, Randolph Graham, was convicted of first degree murder and other crimes and sentenced to 800 months' confinement, about 300 months above the standard range. Graham appealed, and counsel from the Washington Appellate Project was appointed to represent Graham when his original attorney left the practice to join the judiciary. The opening brief in Graham's case was originally due on January 17,2019, but the first attorney the Washington Appellate Project assigned to Graham's case asked for an extension of time to file the opening brief after discovering that the record was incomplete and that more transcripts had to be ordered. In requesting a second extension of time, Stearns explained that the record was voluminous: 1300 pages of transcripts, which he received 63 days previous to the second request; coupled with the other demands o his time, Stearns anticipated filing the brief as soon as possible, working quickly as he could within his constitutional obligations and the Standards for Indigent Defense. The clerk of the Court of Appeals granted the extension, but also sanction Stearns $200 for not filing the opening brief by April 17. Because Stearns was fulfilling his duty of effective representation in asking for an extension, the Washington Supreme Court granted discretionary review and reversed the Court of Appeals with regard to Stearns' motion and sanction.