San Francisco Mayor London Breed has chosen Deputy Public Defender Manohar Raju to become The City’s public defender following the death of Jeff Adachi.

Raju has worked at the public defender’s office for 11 years and serves as the manager for the office’s felony unit. He received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University and his law degree U.C. Berkeley.

Breed touted his experience first working with the Contra Costa County’s Public Defender’s Office 18 years ago before joining The City’s office:

“Manohar has the experience, the commitment and the vision to lead this office to fight for those who need a voice, both in the court room and in the community.”

Additionally, Breed said he has been advocating changes in the courtroom for more minority representations on juries:

“He has been an advocate not only in the courtroom, but also making policy changes. Fighting for more African-American representation on juries. Going to Sacramento and push for policy changes to make courtrooms more equitable.”

Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney for the public defender’s office, said Raju is fantastic choice and said he was never concerned about the transition.

“He has keen intellect. He is an exceptional trial lawyer. I can tell you I’ve seen a lot of trial lawyers. He maybe the very best I’ve seen.”

Raju said the office is still mourning the death of Adachi, but said he was honored to accept the appointment to continue work and advocacy of the office:

“I’m humbled to work in such an incredible office where everyone lays it on the line for our clients day-in, day-out, with commitment, with skill, and with empathy.”

He added that staff was glad to hear that the person taking over the public defender’s position was not an outsider.

Raju said it was important for the appointee to experience many of the things the deputy attorney’s experience every day at the public defender’s office, including, speaking to clients about plea deals at the Hall of Justice, investigating a client’s case early in the morning looking for a witness, knocking on doors, and explaining to a jury about a client’s trauma or mental illness:

“If you haven’t done that then you can’t have a deep understanding of what we do day-in and day-out and that’s why our office is so relieved that the mayor appointed someone in-house who understands our daily struggles.”

An election will be held in November to fill the remaining three years of Adachi’s term.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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