Press conference to highlight the need to fully restore the Public Defender’s Office budget

WHEN: Tuesday, July 14, 2009, noon

WHERE: San Francisco City Hall, Polk Street steps

WHO: Former clients of the Public Defender’s Office will explain how the legal services provided by the office contributed to positive outcomes in their lives. Among Tuesday’s many speakers are Scott Schell and John A. Jones Jr., who were both represented by the Public Defender’s Office from arraignment to expungement. Schell currently works for the Resolve to Stop Violence Project (RSVP), a Sheriff’s Department program that helps in-custody and post release offenders make changes in their lives to become active citizens in their communities. With the help of the Public Defender’s Office, Jones overcame addiction, obtained full-time employment and is now a motivational speaker. Among the public supporters who will speak to the need to fully restore the office’s budget are Lateefah Simon, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Tanya Weisheit, Deputy Director of Jail Psychiatric Services.

WHY: The Public Defender’s Office provides services to 29,000 people each year who are charged with a crime and cannot afford a lawyer. Currently, the office faces a $1.6 million shortfall and will be forced to lay-off attorneys and turn cases away at a cost to San Francisco of $3.3 million each year.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi has requested that the Board of Supervisors restore the office’s budget on the grounds that it is more cost-efficient to provide constitutionally mandated indigent defense services through a well-resourced, centralized office. A recent report by the Controller’s Office supported this position, yet the office is still facing budget cuts that will debilitate its ability to provide competent legal representation.

After the rally, the full Board of Supervisors will meet in City Hall, Room 250, at 2 p.m., when they will introduce the budget. Public Defender Adachi will again ask the Board to restore the Public Defender’s Office budget.

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