The Public Defender’s Office is responsible for providing legal defense (at all stages of the proceedings) for any person who is not financially able to employ counsel and who is charged with any contempt or offense triable in the superior or municipal court. The Public Defender, appointed by the Board of Supervisors, carries out the office responsibilities with the assistance of deputy counsels and other support staff.
In addition to those major functions, the Public Defender:
- Formulates departmental policy, directs its execution, and evaluates work accomplished.
- Directs deputies’ representation of defendants who are unable to employ counsel in felony trials in the superior court and in misdemeanor trials and preliminary hearings in the municipal courts; minors whose parents are unwilling or financially unable to obtain counsel in juvenile court proceedings; and persons who are unable to employ counsel in psychiatric court proceedings which may result in incarceration or detention.
- Assists the courts in obtaining reimbursement from defendants, and from parents or guardians of minors represented, for all or a portion of the Public Defender’s cost of counsel.
- Directs the defense of persons unable to employ counsel in any civil litigation, if in the judgment of the Public Defender, the person is being persecuted or unjustly harassed.
- Directs field investigations to locate witnesses and obtain information for legal staff.
- Directs the appeal of those cases in which an appeal might reasonably be expected to result in a reversal or modification of the original judgment.