FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 21, 2021
CONTACT: San Francisco Public Defender’s Office | Yessica Gonzalez | firstname.lastname@example.org | (323) 379-2032;
Valerie Ibarra | email@example.com | (628) 249-7946
** PRESS RELEASE**
DOZENS RALLY OUTSIDE THE HALL OF JUSTICE DENOUNCING COURT VIOLATIONS OF PEOPLE’S SPEEDY TRIAL RIGHTS
San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju and four others filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Superior Court demanding an end to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Court forcing hundreds to wait months past their trial deadline.
SAN FRANCISCO — On September 21, 2021, dozens of people gathered outside the Hall of Justice in support of loved ones who have been detained without trial in solitary-like conditions. The San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, several members of his office, activists and other community members gathered for a rally and press conference holding signs saying “Open the courts,” “Speedy Trial is a Right, Not an Option,” “We Demand Trials Now,” and signs that noted the number of days that people had been waiting for trial past their legal deadline – some as many as 299 days.
“The court is supposed to enforce the law, not break it. Public Defenders will not stand by while members of our community are denied their right to a speedy trial, locked up for a year, while the Court takes care of non-urgent civil cases, including a trial to evict people out of their homes. We demand that the San Francisco Superior Court do its job, and not put poor, Black and Brown people last in line. The law applies to everyone, including the Court,” said Public Defender Mano Raju.
Raju is one of five plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit filed last week against the San Francisco Superior Court and its presiding judge and chief executive officer, for the violation of speedy trial rights of hundreds of people. The lawsuit is in response to the current humanitarian crisis in San Francisco, with over one hundred people waiting in jail for months, some for nearly a year, all past their trial deadlines. Many of these people are locked in their cells for 23 hours a day with no freedom in sight. There are also hundreds more out of custody and awaiting trial whose speedy trial rights are being trampled by the San Francisco courts.
The massive and growing backlog of criminal cases is the result of the Court’s now-routine practice of continuing criminal cases for months past the statutory trial deadline, and its refusal to use available courtrooms in the Civic Center Courthouse for criminal trials.
Other San Francisco institutions, including government agencies, hospitals, businesses, and superior courts in other counties, have risen to the challenge of safely providing essential public services. The lawsuit urges that the pandemic cannot be a permanent excuse for bureaucratic disregard by the Court for people’s human and legal rights. Raju and community members are
demanding that the Court open all available courtrooms for criminal trials, along with other public venues it can use – and get to work giving people their day in court.
Elaine Portillo, whose niece has been in jail months past her trial deadline, shared earlier today, “I need my niece home. My niece’s daughter needs her mother. This is unjust and they need to let her have her court date. Inside she is being torn apart and I’m afraid for her. This is not justice for anyone.”
The Public Defender’s Office is holding a series of events in the coming weeks, including a Twitter Town Hall on Thursday, September 30th, at 11AM PT, to continue demanding that the San Francisco Superior Court open all courtrooms and uphold constitutional and human rights. You can read the complaint HERE.
You can find the recording of the press conference which was live-stream on the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Facebook page: www.facebook.com/sfpublicdefender.