Professor from Practice, Seattle University School of Law (Seattle, WA)

Robert C. Boruchowitz is Professor from Practice and Director of The Defender Initiative at Seattle University School of Law. He was an attorney at The Defender Association, a non-profit public defender office in King County, for 33 years. The Initiative works to improve public defense representation for thousands of people in Washington and provide models for application in other states. The Defender Initiative working with the Sixth Amendment Center recently received a grant from the US Department of Justice to improve public defense, working initially in Utah and Mississippi. Professor Boruchowitz 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. In the Youth Advocacy Clinic he has worked with students on advancing the right to counsel for children in truancy cases. 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. Professor Boruchowitz led a committee that wrote a caseload statement for the American Council of Chief Defenders, and he serves on the Washington State Bar Committee on Public Defense. He was 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. He recently spoke at a symposium at Harvard University on the 50th Anniversary of Gideon. Professor Boruchowitz provided an affidavit in support of a summary judgment motion filed by the Kentucky Public Advocate in a declaratory judgment action involving excessive public defender caseloads. Available at 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 has taught a seminar on Law and the Holocaust that examines the role of lawyers and judges in responding to the abuse of executive power. The Defender Initiative 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 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. The Initiative hosted a conference at the Open Society Institute in New York in May, 2008, and a second conference at Seattle University July 11, 2008. See article. Professor Boruchowitz coauthored a report, “Minor Crimes, Massive Waste: The Terrible Toll of America’s Broken Misdemeanor Courts” (read more about the report and its release). The Initiative also holds an annual Conference on Public Defense, the next one of which is scheduled for March 7, 2018.