The PD Mess

It’s always distressing when the County administrators can’t accomplish a simple function. Like hiring staff.  Every time they blow it, they cost you and me money since someone always sues.

I am not familiar with the Public Defender’s office in this County but I worked for years in HR and labor relations for the State and Federal governments. The current controversy re: the newly hired PD is a question:  does he actually qualify for the position?  From what I understand, he has multiple years of qualifying  experience  in other counties but has been out of the field  for the past couple of years. Does the law actually require him to have the qualifying experience immediately before his hire? If so, he would be knocked out of contention because of his recent past working in Florida.  Nine of his subordinates have complained to the BOS and one attorney has filed a suit alleging he does not qualify.  The Times-Standard carried a good summary by Manny Araujo on March 29.

I don’t know if there is case law on this point but in the Federal arena, specs like that are carefully defined. Generally, if you have qualified for a position, that’s it. You don’t have to go back and prove yourself again.  If it were otherwise, employees would be reluctant to change jobs, which is unhealthy in any organization.

However, “in all the circumstances”  including the fact that none of us know what the politics were behind this hire,  and that nine of the deputies have basically cast a “no confidence” vote re: the Supervisors’  selection.  I’m inclined  to think the whole process should be done over.  

What a mess.


2 thoughts on “The PD Mess

  1. “Universal Citation: CA Govt Code § 27701 (2016)

    27701. A person is not eligible to the office of public defender unless he has been a practicing attorney in all of the courts of the State for at least the year preceding the date of his election or appointment.”

    My understanding of this requirement is that there have been many changes in California criminal and civil codes within the past five years
    and even within the past two, including Prop 57 and the previous AB109.

    Here is the website for the California Public Defenders association:
    A quick look at the site will show that they are dedicated to ongoing education in public defense law.

    My interest in the matter is personal only in so much as I respect the law and I believe in justice. I would expect the District Attorney and those in the office should do their best to prosecute those accused of a crime or crimes as defenders of the rights of the public.
    I also expect the Office of Public Defender to dedicate their work to serving those accused of a crime or crimes who for whatever reason cannot afford to retain a private attorney. The law provides for that right for them.

    California is still a state that has the death penalty. Where the public defender is provided by the county authority, there should be a qualified person on staff to handle such cases.

    To me it’s like a chess board: One side should be balanced by the other; each trying to represent their function in serving the laws of the state.
    My only experience with the law is serving on juries (both criminal and civil) in three jurisdictions, observing, learning and then learning more because one side or another failed (in my opinion) to “do their job”.

    I followed this particular story in NCJ, John Chiv and LOC). I haven’t read the Times Standard article. I do hope and believe that the attorney who brought the suit and who is trying to get records showing what Mr Marcus has done in the way of legal work in California in the past couple years is serving the community (who deserve to have a fully qualified PD in charge of the office and practicing law there) and the California law in general.

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