There is no greater calling than defending the poor!
Being a Deputy Public Defender is like being a priest. There is no greater calling than defending the poor! Contrary to popular perception, many of the best lawyers in this country are Deputy Public Defenders. If you qualify, and you land a good Deputy Public Defender, you should hold his hand, count your lucky stars, and allow him to guide you through the terrible ordeal of criminal charges. Deputy Public Defenders ROCK!
However, Deputy Public Defenders aren’t always allowed to ROLL because their boss, the County Public Defender, sometimes holds them back. The heads of Public Defender offices in California, with one exception, are appointed, not elected. So, they serve at the pleasure of the county board of supervisors. If they ROCK the boat, they get fired. So, they sometimes appease the District Attorney and the County Judges in order to not make waves, waves that would cost them their cushy 300k jobs.
For 28 years, the rank and file Public Defenders in Contra Costa County did not ROLL
The Chief Public Defender, back in 1984, made a deal with the court in writing, allowing the court to set the date upon which Deputy Public Defenders would be allowed to represent their clients in court. Ordinarily poor people sat in jail for two weeks without any representation. No bail, no nothing, while they lost their jobs, apartments, children, etc.
This law firm changed that by filing a federal class action lawsuit based upon the denial of counsel under the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 2012. Two weeks later, Deputy Public Defenders were allowed to show up at arraignment, and they have done so ever since, with some backsliding.
I’ll provide more on that federal lawsuit in later posts. Suffice it to say, it has been a battle, mainly against Contra Costa County and a bow-tied federal magistrate judge. We persuaded the 9th Circuit to reverse the magistrate once; but he mocked the 9th Circuit’s decision in hearings held off the record and threw the case out again on disingenuous grounds. Now, after way over a thousand hours of work, and many thousands spent, we’re back at the 9th Circuit. We won’t give up! The case has been to the United States Supreme Court once, and is undoubtedly on its second trip now. The case is Farrow v. Contra Costa County, in case you’re interested.
In any event, while self-interest may make County Public Defenders afraid to ROCK the boat, this firm will ROLL, as we are afraid of nothing.
Finally, some judges at the Richmond branch of the Contra Costa County Superior Court have ordered Deputy Public Defenders not to announce their presence at out of custody arraignments. Sadly, the County Public Defender, not the rank and file Deputy Public Defenders who are eager to represent their clients, has ROLLED OVER. This is ongoing, and it means that thousands of people enter pleas before the court with no legal representation. Illegal stops, searches, psychiatric defenses, etc., are swept under the rug. It is outrageous, but the Public Defender does not want to make waves. This occurs in a county that requires appellate waivers in every case, so that neither the court nor the cops are ever scrutinized. Anyway, it is pretty appalling!