SLO County public defender’s office sued for malpractice

The attorney who represented the family of Andrew Holland, an inmate who died after being strapped in a chair for 46 hours, filed a malpractice lawsuit against the law firm that provides public defender services to San Luis Obispo County. [KSBY]

Attorney Paula Canny filed the lawsuit on behalf of John Wyman, who claims his court-appointed public defender failed to fully investigate his case before urging him to plead guilty. Wyman, a 52-year-old veteran, was initially charged with three felonies after he allegedly resisted three San Luis Obispo police officers last year.

Wyman spent 10 months in custody and then pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting a peace officer.

Canny filed the malpractice suit against San Luis Obispo Defenders, a private law firm led by attorney Patricia Ashbaugh that is under contract with the county to provide legal services to the poor. The suit names Ashbaugh, as well as Ronald Crawford, the court-appointed attorney who defended Wyman. 

The aim of the lawsuit is to help assure defendants who cannot afford to hire an attorney get adequate representation, Canny said. In addition to the Holland family, Canny also represents several former inmates and their families.