San Francisco, CA — Matt Gonzalez, a longtime civil rights and criminal defense attorney and former Board of Supervisors president, was appointed to Chief Attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s office today.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced the news to his staff during an 8 a.m. meeting. Gonzalez replaces former Chief Attorney Teresa Caffese, who left Dec. 31 for private practice. Gonzalez’s position is effective immediately.
The appointment marks Gonzalez’s return to the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, where he served as a deputy public defender from 1991 to 2001. He successfully tried many cases while in the office, including serious felonies, three-strike cases and life-in-prison matters.
In 2000, Gonzalez was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He took office in 2001 and was elected by his colleagues two years later as president of the 11-member body. Gonzalez was the main sponsor of a ballot measure that created the highest minimum wage in the country. He authored groundbreaking legislation on elections and ethics reform, instant run-off voting, and commission appointments. He also proposed a measure to give immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections.
Adachi said Gonzalez’s experience both in the courtroom and in City Hall make him an excellent fit for the position, which involves overseeing and managing all internal operations of the Public Defender’s office as well as participating in budget planning and negotiations.
“We wanted a top trial lawyer who understands our work, has a commitment to our clients and a dedication to preserving the resources that allow our office to function,” Adachi said. “That person is Matt Gonzalez.”
Since 2005, Gonzalez has been a partner in the law firm of Gonzalez and Leigh, where he handled both civil and criminal matters. While in private practice, Gonzalez successfully litigated a number of federal civil rights cases, including the first punitive damages verdict against a sitting district attorney (Solano County) in California’s history. His firm also brought suit against Yolo County’s Superior Court challenging the lack of Latino representation on its Grand Jury, which brought important reforms. Gonzalez also successfully defended the head of Yolo County’s Housing Authority against corruption and other charges.
The McAllen, Texas native received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University in 1987 and his Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School in 1990. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2000 Lawyer of the Year award from the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association, the 2003 In Defense of Animals Guardian Award, and the 2004 Bert Corona Award from California’s Mexican American Political Association.