A Conversation with Kitsap’s new Top Public Defender

Come mid-August, Kitsap County will have a new lawyer to oversee public defense in Kitsap County. And while we’ve announced the county’s hiring of Clarke Tibbits for the post, I wanted to learn a little more about this North Central Washington lawyer that will bring his expertise westward starting in August. Here’s a brief interview with him.

His position is the result of a growing amount of state grant money to “enhance” indigent defense in counties around the state. Kitsap County Clerk Dave Peterson chose to hire a top public defender after reading a consultant’s report on how Kitsap should best spend the money. Unfortunately, the county’s first choice to lead the post didn’t work out. And enter Mr. Tibbits.

Farley: Why did you apply  for the Kitsap County position?

Tibbits: I applied for several reasons. I have the experience and expertise for this position, and I believe that I would enjoy this type of work. I hope that I will also be able to bring a little creativity to this position by assisting in setting up an office for public defense. On a personal level, almost all of my family and my wife’s family live around the Puget Sound, and I know we will really enjoy the area.

Farley: How do you feel about being selected for such a position?

Tibbits: In all honesty, I’m honored and a little surprised that I have been given this opportunity. I am not in a situation in which I needed to move. I have a pretty good life in Wenatchee, but this opportunity is exciting for me and my family and we are really looking forward to it. I am grateful that Kitsap County reached out to me and offered this opportunity to our family.

Farley: In light of the state’s efforts to “enhance” public defense, what do you want to bring to Kitsap County in helping to do such an enhancement here?

Tibbits: It has become clear that public defense in Washington State needs oversight, given the problems with various systems around the State. Very fortunately, the state of public defense in Kitsap is not in crisis at all. However, a more centralized system has proven to be more effective in the various counties around the State, which improves the quality of lawyering. I’m certainly hopeful that I can bring that service to Kitsap County.

Farley: What are some marquee cases that you’ve handled?

Tibbits: Certainly one of the most “visible” cases that I have handled is a recent case in which my client is accused of invading a home and raping a girl. It is a high profile case due to the nature of the case, as well as the number of individuals involved. This is a little bit of a difficult question to answer as I have handled so many cases over the years, it is a little bit difficult to classify certain ones as “marquee.” I have been involved in many interesting cases, ranging from the strange to the very serious.

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