Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Jun 14 2004

OLYMPIA -- Four private attorneys paid by Clark County to provide legal services to indigent criminal defendants have agreed not to set terms and rates for their services in a manner that would violate state antitrust laws.

The Attorney General's Office filed a consent decree today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma ordering Clark County defense attorneys to stop uncompetitive business practices. The four attorneys named by the decree were accused of leading other local attorneys in a scheme to fix the terms and rates of their legal services to the county.

Clark County provides legal services for indigent defendants by contracting with private defense attorneys. Today's legal action stemmed from an attempt by attorneys to limit competition for the contracts and force the County to agree to a higher rate of compensation.

The decree prohibits James Sowder, Gerald Wear, and Robert Yoseph of Vancouver and Robert Lewis of Camas from attempting to form any similar price-fixing association in the future and requires that they perform 50 hours of pro bono work.

The Clark County attorneys have reached a similar agreement with staff of the Federal Trade Commission and a consent order has been filed with the Commission.