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San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury raises red flags with private defender program

Original post made on Sep 16, 2020

San Mateo County's private defender program, which has less than half the budget of the District Attorney's office, needs greater oversight, according to a recent civil grand jury report that outlined a number of potential problems.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, September 14, 2020, 11:51 AM

Comments (4)

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Posted by Jack Lewis
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 16, 2020 at 10:00 pm

Jack Lewis is a registered user.

The Private Defender Program is not an independent legal entity. Rather, it is just a "comittee" of the San Mateo County Bar, which is a not for profit 501(c)(6) "trade organization." Publicly available tax returns show the County Bar received $12 Million for private sector legal services in 2017 (which it incorrectly and vaguely referred to in its taxes as “Public Defender”), and in 2016 $20,525,926 of its total revenue of $21,136,041 (or 97%) derived from the performance of legal services to the public.  However, it appears the IRS does not allow trade associations like the bar to generate business revenue for its members.  See Web Link. Seems like this should be looked into further.  

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Posted by Bernie Lafayette
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 17, 2020 at 6:04 pm

Bernie Lafayette is a registered user.

It is true that AB 5 does not apply to lawyers, as referenced in this article. However, lawyers can be misclassified as independent contractors, but they are subject to a different test (called the Borello test), as confirmed here (among other cites): Web Link. Go to the cite and search for the word lawyers under the heading "Workers Subject to Borello Test Only." Not hard.

Looks like the Grand Jury was misinformed about the relevant law and needs to take another look at this whole independent contractor thing, which appears shady. I'd like to see the Almanac report back on how the County Bar responded when presented a correct legal analysis (which can be cut and pasted from the above link). Am I the only one who assumed the County Bar, of all people, would know the law? And if for some reason it did not, did no one even at least Google the issue, like I did, before giving testimony to the Grand Jury? This all seems strange.

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Posted by Bob Viera
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 25, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Bob Viera is a registered user.

The Grand Jury report is spot on in pointing out the systemic problems in the PDP program. The lack of funding is a systemic problem built into the model used to provide indigent defense in San Mateo County. The County budget is within the purview of the Board of Supervisors and the members of that Board are well aware of the systemic defects of the PDP. They remain committed to keeping costs down, in spite of continued problems.
Change won't actually come about until and unless the SMCBA, and their inherent conflict, is no longer involved with the PDP. The SMCBA cites the lack of funds but conveniently neglects the fact that they acquired title the BAR Building, now worth upwards of $60,000,000. In so doing, they utilized funding set aside for indigent defense, that did not get spent on indigent defense. That is suspect and has never been explored in the public arena. It is time to correct that. The SMCBA and their role in funding is long overdue for an in depth scrutiny and a transparency that has been lacking.

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Posted by gary
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2020 at 9:19 am

gary is a registered user.

The source of income shows the possibility of the corruption of the PDP. How friendly are the members of the PDP with the judges, the sheriff, the redwood city police, the board of supervisors and why does the PDP appear to work for the DA? I have never had a fair trial in this county because the private defender always told me to plead guilty even though I was innocent of the charges, and the judges smile as perjury and lying and obstruction are allowed in the court. If I am making this up, contact the ACLU and the NAACP. Corruption is rampant in this county and it needs to stop.Cops ROUTINELY lie in court we all know it. My ph. is 650 382 7361 if you want to talk. gary

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