Public Defender Manohar Raju
Manohar Raju is the San Francisco Public Defender and a founding member of Public Defenders for Racial Justice.
A son of immigrants from India, his pursuit of justice is rooted in his acute awareness of the ramifications of social inequalities. Despite coming from a farming village, his parents managed to emigrate to America, where they raised Mano on the East Coast.
Mr. Raju completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, and holds a Master’s degree in South Asian Studies from U.C. Berkeley, where he also earned his law degree. He worked as a Deputy Public Defender in Contra Costa County for seven years before he was recruited by Jeff Adachi to join the SF Public Defender’s felony unit in 2008. Due to his impressive practice as a felony line attorney, he was promoted to be the Director of Training and then Manager of the Felony Unit.
Mr. Raju is deeply committed to a client-centered approach to defense work. “Our impact is not measured in numbers, but in the people we represent,” he said. “It’s by the mother who can return home to her family. The son who can continue to work to support his family. And to the children of those we defend, who benefit from having an equal opportunity to survive and who might one day use that opportunity to lead.”
The personal interest he takes in his clients’ lives helps fuel him not only to fiercely litigate and win cases, but also to raise his voice against the inequities he and his clients encounter in the criminal justice system. It has earned him the loyalty of his entire Department and the confidence of Mayor London Breed, who appointed him to fill the post in March 2019. As Public Defender, Mano will continue to uphold the office’s reputation not only as a formidable group of lawyers, but also as a catalyst for criminal justice reform.
Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez
Matt Gonzalez is the Chief Attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. As Chief Attorney, Mr. Gonzalez is responsible for overseeing and managing all internal operations of the Public Defender’s Office, including the felony, misdemeanor, juvenile, mental health, and research units.
Before rejoining the office as Chief Attorney in 2011, Mr. Gonzalez served as Deputy Public Defender from 1991 to 2001, where he established himself as a fierce litigator, successfully trying many cases including serious felonies, three-strike cases, and life-in-prison matters. From 2001-2005, Mr. Gonzalez served a term as an elected member of the SF Board of Supervisors. During his tenure he led the campaign for a ballot measure that created the highest minimum wage in the country. From 2005-2011, Mr. Gonzalez was a partner in the law firm of Gonzalez and Leigh, where he handled criminal and civil matters. His work there included the first punitive damages verdict against a sitting district attorney in California’s history, as well as a case against Yolo County’s Superior Court challenging the lack of Latinx representation on its Grand Jury.
In 2017, Mr. Gonzalez was part of the winning defense team that represented Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant falsely accused of deliberately shooting a young woman on a San Francisco pier. Mr. Zarate was acquitted of all murder-related charges and Mr. Gonzalez was subsequently honored with Defender of the Year, along with his co-counsel, Francisco Ugarte, by the California Public Defenders Association.
In 2019, along with Chris Gauger, the head of the office’s Research Unit, Mr. Gonzalez successfully represented Public Defender Mano Raju (then felony manager) against court-imposed sanctions in the case People vs. Landers. The Court of Appeal decision lead to the articulation of important defense discovery rights.
The McAllen, Texas native received his Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University and his Juris Doctor from Stanford Law. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including Lawyer of the Year from the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association, the In Defense of Animals Guardian Award, and the Bert Corona Award from California’s Mexican American Political Association.