Navigate Up
Public Defender
Menu +
Mission Statement
 
The Mission of the Public Defender is to provide vigorous, high quality representation to our indigent clients in the criminal and civil courts in an ethical manner.

We warmly welcome you to the Santa Clara County Public Defender Office.
 
Our goal is to provide quality legal representation to individuals who face criminal charges in adult and juvenile justice court. We represent clients in cases ranging from misdemeanors to capital murder.  We also represent clients in civil mental health proceedings.  We are honored to do so.
 
Each person referred to us has a unique case. Some are falsely accused and seek vindication.  Some suffer from mental illness, or struggle with addiction and need services to address these burdens. Some of our clients are youth in trouble who, regardless of the truth of the charges against them, need every resource we can obtain to live the good lives they deserve.  Whatever our client’s circumstance, we are dedicated to providing each individual a voice in the courts, and to seek justice for each client.
 
The Public Defender Office (PDO/ADO) was created by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in 1965 in response to the landmark United States Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963).  After reading Clarence Earl Gideon’s handwritten appeal, the Court ruled unanimously that the assistance of counsel is a fundamental right and essential for a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  As a result, the government now is required to provide an attorney in a criminal case if a person cannot afford to hire a lawyer with his or her own funds.  The Public Defender Office is the mandated provider of this critical service to men, women and children in Santa Clara County.
 
The glory of the Public Defender Office is that we represent all persons in criminal cases who cannot afford to hire their own lawyer, regardless of the nature of the case against them or adverse public opinion or media coverage. We seek to treat each client with respect, to conduct independent investigation where needed, to test the assumptions made about our client and the evidence.  We explain the bewildering process that surrounds the criminal justice system to them, and act as strong advocates at all steps of the court process, including trial by jury.
   
We have chosen this field of law because we view our work as the highest calling. We care about our clients.  And, importantly, by fighting for our clients, we also protect the constitutional rights of everyone in our community.
 
Sincerely,
Molly O'Neal
Public Defender
 ​​​​​​

​​