Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office


About The Sacramento County Public Defender

‘You change their everyday lives’: Sacramento County program aims to help non-violent offenders t…

The Sacramento County Public Defender, located in Sacramento, CA, represents defendants who cannot afford an attorney. The Public Defender fulfills the Constitutional guarantee of the right to have an attorney. In Sacramento, the Public Defender Office provides legal representation to individuals facing incarceration without the financial means to hire their own lawyer.

You may contact the Public Defender for questions about:

  • Legal representation in Sacramento
  • Criminal defense services and assigned counsel
  • Sacramento Legal Aid, Bar Association and Defender Association
  • Public court records

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Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office

700 H StreetRoom 0270 Sacramento, CA 95814- 1216

700 H StreetRoom 0270 Sacramento, CA 95814- 1216


When viewing a listing, consider the state advertising restrictions to which lawyers and law firms must adhere, as well as our Legal Directory disclaimer. Some lawyers publish comparative information regarding the services that they provide which may be subject to specific comparative communications restrictions.

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Politics In The Public Defenders Office

Shisha Yang

Though an accused offenders absolute right to a criminal defense attorney was not guaranteed until 1963, with the United States Supreme Courts Gideon v. Wainwright decision, Sacramento County established its Office of the Public Defender in 1948. For 25 of the offices 73 years, the job of chief public defender was held by Paulino Duran, who was the longest serving public defender in California. Duran stepped down in 2018, and passed away due to COVID-19 in February of 2021.

Unlike district attorneys, who are elected officials, public defenders are county employees hired by the county executive and board of supervisors. In Sacramento County, the board replaced Duran with Garrett, a veteran of more than 25 years in the public defenders office, where he headed the Juvenile Division from 2011 to 2014.

But Garretts tenure in the top P.D. job has proven a somewhat rocky one. In June of 2021, the Sacramento County Attorneys Associationthe union that represents attorneys in the P.D. and D.A.s officetook a poll of lawyers and other employees working under Garrett, and found 106 out of 114 respondents giving him a vote of no confidence.

A Sacramento Bee story found that the top complaint against Garrett was the rise in always-heavy workloads during his stewardship, with some lawyers in the public defenders office now juggling 100 cases or more at any given time.

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Das Office Goes Through Upheaval

The Golden State Killer case is also, perhaps not surprisingly, the vehicle that gained Schubert statewide recognition, enough so that in April of 2021, she announced that she wont seek reelection in 2022 but instead will challenge incumbent Rob Bonta for California attorney general.

Bonta himself was sworn in as AG in April, just a few days before Schuberts announcement. Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed him to replace Xavier Becerra, who was appointed U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary by President Joe Biden.

Schubert as far back as the 1990s was an early advocate of DNA evidence, the type of evidence that ultimately led to DeAngelos capture. She was district attorney when the accused serial killer pleaded guilty to 13 murders and 13 counts of kidnapping and robbery, while also admitting guilt in 62 rapes.

But Schubert, a former Republican who now says she has no party affiliation, has also faced controversy over what has appeared to be her reluctance to prosecute police officers involved in deaths of civilians. According to a report by Capital Public Radio, in 40 such cases since 2015 Schubert has never filed a charge against a police officer.

Schubert, however, has endorsed a Democrat in the race to replace her: 56-year-old Paris Coleman, who would become the countys first African-American D.A. if he were to win the 2022 election.

Das Budget Outstrips Public Defenders

Most criminal defendants are unlikely to deal with the D.A. or chief public defender directly. In Sacramento Countywith more than 1.5 million residents, the eighth-most populous county in the statethe public defenders office employs 145 people, more than 100 of them lawyers, including chief P.D. Steven M. Garrett.

District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert presides over a total staff of 426, with a total budget of more than $62.5 million, compared to about $44 million for the public defender. While the budget and staffing numbers appear to show a lack of equity between prosecution and criminal defense, the D.A.s office also encompasses a number of other programs, including the county crime lab, which is responsible for the forensic science elements of criminal investigations.

The D.A.s office also oversees the countys collaborative court system, a network of 12 courts whose purpose is not to lock up criminal defendants, but to help them. The courts serve the needs of alleged offenders who fall into specific categories. For example, the drug court gives nonviolent drug offenders a chance to receive treatment for their substance abuse addictions, rather than be incarcerated.

In addition, while the D.A.s office handles all criminal prosecutions, the public defender represents only those defendants who cannot afford to pay for their own lawyers. According to one federal Department of Justice study, thats about 80 percent of all defendants.

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Sacramento Countys District Attorney And Public Defender Offices Explained

The D.A. and public defender are at the heart of the Sacramento County justice system.

Sacramento County D.A. Anne Marie Schubert addresses the media.

In Sacramento County, most people unfortunate enough to find themselves facing criminal accusations will quickly become familiar with two lawyers: the district attorney, and the public defender. Thats the situation, more or less, in every California county, and in counties across the United States. But in recent years, both offices in Sacramento have been hit by controversy centering around the people who hold the top job in each office.

What do the two offices do? On the surface, the answer is pretty simple. The public defender, as the name implies, defends the accused against criminal charges. The district attorney prosecutes them. Defendants who cannot afford attorneys are assigned one from the public defenders office at their arraignment, which is their first appearance in court. Public defenders represent clients charged with felonies and misdemeanors, as well as juvenile defendants. They also help with a process called expungement, which means clearing charges off a criminal record.

In some cases, the public defenders office may have a conflict of interest, or may simply suffer from short-staffing. In those instances defendants are assigned lawyers from a whole separate pool of publicly funded attorneys known in Sacramento County as the Conflict Criminal Defenders Office.

Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office Juvenile Division

See public defenders hold ‘die-in’ protest for racial justice at Sacramento courthouse

9605 Kiefer Blvd. suite 302 sacramento, CA 95827

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9605 Kiefer Blvd. suite 302 sacramento, CA 95827

When viewing a listing, consider the state advertising restrictions to which lawyers and law firms must adhere, as well as our Legal Directory disclaimer. Some lawyers publish comparative information regarding the services that they provide which may be subject to specific comparative communications restrictions.

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Sacramento County Office Of The Public Defender

The Office of the Public Defender provides quality legal representation and/or advice to any individual financially unable to employ counsel in adult criminal, juvenile delinquency, mental conservatorship, appropriate family law, and probate cases. The office serves as a guardian of due process, a champion of constitutional rights, a sentinel who keeps power of the state over the individual in check, a protector of life and liberty, and an advocate for the poor.

LEMA has two members within the Office of the Public Defender. The Supervising Criminal Investigators are responsible for the supervision of a criminal investigation unit and the coordination of assigned activities with other units and agencies. The Supervising Criminal Investigator may also personally conduct the most sensitive and complex investigations assigned to the unit and have administrative responsibilities such as those of a training manager or for formulating recommended policies and procedures. Supervising Criminal Investigators may also supervise other, out-of-series first line supervisors.

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