SF Superior Court Denying Speedy Trials & Liberty
Every accused person in criminal court has the constitutional right to a speedy trial and is presumed innocent. However, since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, San Francisco Superior Court has adopted a practice of “continuing” criminal cases for months past the trial deadline, creating a massive backlog of felony and misdemeanor trials. While California state law prioritizes trials for people being held in custody, San Francisco has continued to use nearly half of its limited courtroom space to hold jury trials in non-urgent civil cases.
As a direct consequence, hundreds of community members have languished in jail, many locked in cramped cells for 23 hours a day, while the Court continues to delay their trials. Some have been locked up for a year or more past their trial deadlines. Each additional day of incarceration and delay exacts an irreversible toll on people awaiting trial and their families, whether that is the loss of a job, housing, or family stability.
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, which represents the vast majority of those whose speedy trial rights are being violated, has taken a number of measures to stoke the Court into action to address this untenable backlog. On this page, you will find references to many of those efforts, and this page will continue to be updated. The full Fact Sheet below has the most current data on the backlog.
In September 2021, San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju joined a group of taxpayers that included mothers of incarcerated adults who were being held in custody pretrial. Together, they filed a lawsuit against San Francisco Superior Court. The lawsuit was announced at a rally on the steps of the Hall of Justice / 850 Bryant where attorneys and impacted family members spoke out about the egregious trial delays, addressing the Court’s violation of the rights and liberty of hundreds of people in San Francisco County Jail.
- SF Public Press – State Supreme Court to Weigh In on Long Trial Delays; SF Public Defenders Denounce Superior Court’s Failure to Uphold Right to a Speedy Trial – 8/4/23
- Mission Local – Judge vacations, Covid-19 rules leave more than 100 ‘languishing’ in SF jails 7/12/23
- KPFA Law & Disorder – People languishing in pretrial detention in SF 6/28/23
- 48 Hills – Hundreds who are by law innocent sit in SF jail because of court backlog 6/25/23
- SF Chronicle – S.F. public defender, taxpayers can sue over COVID courtroom closures 6/9/23
- CBS News – San Francisco public defender office protests court case backlog 6/9/23
- SF Gate – CA Supreme Court Urged to Examine if Judges’ Vacations Justify Delaying Criminal Trials 4/27/23
- CBS News – Growing backlog of court cases delays justice for crime victims and the accused; includes an exclusive interview with Public Defender Mano Raju; 12/20/22
- San Francisco Chronicle – San Francisco’s courts are broken. No one cares enough to fix them 12/18/22
- San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper – Open the courts: 150 San Franciscans jailed without trial 9/23/22
- San Francisco Examiner front page – Courts are open, but trial dates keep slipping — 150 defendants languish in jail, hundreds more on outside not getting right to speedy trial 9/21/22
- San Francisco Standard: Locked In SF Jails Indefinitely: Release of 150 Demanded as Speedy Trial Rights Denied 9/16/22
- SF Examiner – The lack of courtroom access in San Francisco is a human rights issue, 5/5/21
- AP News – San Francisco public defender sues court over trial delays, 9/21/21
- Darien Times – San Francisco public defender sues court over trial delays, 9/21/21
- SF Chronicle – S.F. public defender sues court system, claiming hundreds have been denied speedy trials, 9/21/21
- Courthouse News – Criminal trial delays spur lawsuit against San Francisco Superior, 9/21/21
- Press Democrat – San Francisco public defender sues court over trial delays, 9/22/21
- Golden Express – San Francisco Public Defender sues Superior Court of California, 9/22/21
- KTVU – SF Public Defender sues over backlog of criminal court cases, 9/22/21
- Davis Van Guard – SF Public Defenders Protest against Lack of Court Hearings, Conditions for Clients, 9/22/21
- SF Examiner – S.F. public defender demands Superior Court clear backlog of criminal trials, 9/24/21
- KPFA – San Francisco Public Defender sues to stop indefinite detention of inmates without a trial due to COVID-19 restrictions – 51:48, Radio
- KALW – SF Public Defender Sues Courts, Radio