Tuesday, October 1, 2013 · by Richard
Fill out the form below to tell Superior Court Judges that San Francisco can’t afford to lose its volunteer and loaner attorneys. All letters will be sent directly to Court Executive Officer T. Michael Yuen by the November 1 deadline.
We did it guys, we won!
What’s The Issue?
The San Francisco Superior Court wants to get rid of volunteer attorneys who work for the District Attorney and Public Defender. To accomplish this, the Court has proposed a new rule that would make our cost-saving, 30-year-old volunteer program expensive and unmanageable.
Under the new rule, licensed attorneys who are volunteering with the city’s District Attorney or Public Defender would no longer be permitted to make any court appearance without constant, in-person supervision from a full-time assistant district attorney or deputy public defender. Such intense supervision would cost the District Attorney and Public Defender close to $1 million annually.
Why Is The Court Trying To Get Rid of The Program?
The Court seeks to reduce the number of misdemeanor criminal cases taken to trial and encourage more plea agreements, which are less costly and time consuming. However, only about 2% of misdemeanor cases result in jury trials and the total number of misdemeanor trials has steadily decreased. By targeting the program, the Court is exceeding its authority and interfering with San Franciscans’ constitutional right to a jury trial.
Why Are Volunteer Attorney Programs So Important?
- They allow young and seasoned attorneys alike to gain valuable trial experience and intense training from lawyers in the trenches. Former volunteers have gone on to become judges, partners in civil firms and nationally recognized advocates.
- They increase employment opportunities for recent law school graduates amid a brutal hiring market. ABA statistics show only 55% of law students in the class of 2011 found employment in full-time legal jobs. By contrast, more than 80% of former Public Defender volunteer attorneys are currently working full time as attorneys.
- They save taxpayer money and make both sides of the criminal system run more smoothly by relieving heavy caseloads in underfunded offices.
Fill Out This Form
Fill out your information on the form below the letter to show your support. We will do the rest: print out the form and personally mail it to Mr. Yuen.
Dear Mr. Yuen,
I am writing to strongly oppose proposed Rule 16.19, which would require volunteer and loaner attorneys from the San Francisco public defender and district attorney offices to have constant, in-person supervision from full-time staff attorneys.
The costly and unnecessary change would effectively eliminate the volunteer attorney program, which allows qualified lawyers on loan from civil firms or attorneys at the beginning of the careers to gain valuable trial experience by working city prosecutors and public defenders.
I believe that by targeting this valuable program, the Superior Court is exceeding its authority. Furthermore, reducing the number of available trial attorneys interferes with San Franciscans’ constitutional right to a jury trial.
Volunteer and loaner attorney programs are essential to increasing employment opportunities for young lawyers at a time when more than half of new law school graduates fail to find legal work. It allows established attorneys from civil firms to gain experience in the courtroom. It saves taxpayer money by enabling the public defender and district attorney to operate more efficiently, while increasing the quality of representation provided by under-funded and understaffed government offices.
San Francisco’s volunteer attorneys have gone on to become judges, civil firm partners and nationally lauded advocates. We cannot afford to lose this program.
For the above reasons, I strongly oppose the change in local rules.