Dear President Yee, Chair Sandra Fewer and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors,
California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ) is the leading criminal defense lawyer organization for the State of California, with both private attorneys and public defender members. CACJ has been active for 45 years and was founded in 1973. It is also the designated affiliate of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). From the beginning, CACJ has taken on the role of advocating for criminal defense lawyers and for their clients. One of the most significant attributes of CACJ is that it is an organization of people who share a mission. CACJ members stand up for people who often do not have much of a voice. Members fight to achieve the goal of requiring that the system show respect to each and every person who is accused. CACJ, as the California criminal defense lawyer organization, stands up for its members to help each of them achieve that goal. CACJ writes in strong support of increased funding in San Francisco for the Bar Association's Indigent Defense Administration (IDA).
We join San Francisco Public Defender Manu Raju who writes: "San Francisco has been fortunate that a hearty private defense bar has been willing to represent indigent defendants...at such reduced hourly rate." "...[T]he City can no longer continue to depend on the generosity of these highly qualified attorneys.... they are often compensated less than court appointed interpreters and, in some cases, investigators...The work that we do depends on an equally strong conflicts panel..."
Similarly, we agree with District Attorney George Gascon's assessment that the IDA program is one of the "most respected in the state" and that in the absence of increased funding, "[q]quality representation will suffer and present challenges for government's obligation to ensure an indigent defendant's sixth amendment's right are not violated."
The work undertaken by public and private defenders throughout the state must be sufficiently supported by each county to assure quality representation. Jeff Adachi was a leader in lifting up the profession and helping the state and each county understand the importance of quality representation. Public Defenders need strong partners for the work is the same, yet surprisingly, San Francisco has not kept pace with national federal hourly rates and yet the cost of doing business in San Francisco is the highest in the nation.
The private defense bar in San Francisco is well known for its tenacity and quality representation. San Francisco has been fortunate to host both a strong public defender office, complemented by a talented and committed private bar through the Bar Association of San Francisco. The hourly rates must be increased to assure this ongoing partnership and quality representation for all in San Francisco. We urge you to support the request of the San Francisco Superior Court, the Bar Association of San Francisco, the Public Defender of San Francisco, the District Attorney of San Francisco and the federal defense bar, as represented by Mary McNamara. This request for increased funding is well documented and we join our justice partners in San Francisco and trust you will fully fund the requested appropriation.
Very truly yours,
President, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice