Who We Are
The Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender is comprised of approximately 240 employees, including 121 attorneys, 30 investigators, 31 paralegals and 58 clerical and support staff who are committed to providing quality legal representation to our clients.
We are organized, under Acting Public Defender Molly O'Neal, into two separate legal entities (the Public Defender and Alternate Defender Offices) in five separate geographical locations.
We are an office that takes pride in our diversity, which earned us the County Executive's Unity in Diversity Award in May, 2000. At that time, only 17% of the state's attorneys were members of minority groups, while 35% of our Office's lawyers were African-American, Hispanic or Asian, and 45% of our lawyers were women.
What We Do
The Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender provides legal representation to indigent clients who are charged with the commission of a criminal offense alleged to have been committed in this county.
The Office also represents minors against whom delinquency petitions have been filed in the Juvenile Courts of Santa Clara County, and clients who are the subject of conservatorship proceedings in the Mental Health departments of the Superior Court.
The Public Defender does not represent people in Family Court, Dependency Court, or Traffic Court.
Why We Do It
Our mandate to provide representation for indigent criminal clients comes from the Sixth Amendment to the Federal Constitution and Article 1, Section 15 of the California Constitution, which declare that a criminal defendant is entitled to counsel at all critical stages of the proceedings against him. The United States Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainright (1963) 372 U.S. 335 further holds that an indigent criminal defendant who is facing a penalty of incarceration is entitled to that representation at public expense.
The quality of service which we are required to provide our clients has been defined by the California Supreme Court in People v. Pope (1979) 23 Cal.3d 412, and other cases, as that of a reasonably competent attorney acting as a "diligent and conscientious advocate" for his client.