Budget Data Shows Public Defender’s Office Under-Resourced; Disproportionate Yolo County Charging

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The County Board of Supervisors is taking on the budget and included is a series of charts of comparative data on the staffing for the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, as well as county comparisons that once again show the disproportionate impact of DA charging decisions.

The first table provides an overall staffing analysis provided by the public defender to the county but “excludes District Attorney staffing in the Consumer Fraud/Environmental Protection and Child Abduction units, as these programs do not have an impact on the Public Defender’s workload.”

Staff writes, “Based on the data reflected in Comparison 1, the Public Defender’s Office has 0.7 support staff for each attorney, while the District Attorney’s Office has 2.1. However, this data includes staffing for programs that the District Attorney’s Office believes have little to no impact on the Public Defender, including Neighborhood Court, Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center, Victim Services, Intake/Charging and IT units.”

This table excludes that staff and also “extra help” positions from both departments.

Based on this data, the public defender’s office has 0.6 support staff for each attorney, while the district attorney’s office has 1.4.

“It should be noted that the Public Defender believes the additional DA programs excluded in the table above do have some impact on Public Defender workload.”

The big difference here is that, while the attorney breakdown is more even and public defenders only cover 60 to 80 percent of the caseload, the investigators are hugely disproportionate with 22 for the DA’s office versus just 5 for the public defender’s office, while clerical and other support are also heavily tilted toward the DA’s office.

The workload in Yolo County is markedly better than in other locations for attorneys, but where the prosecution has a huge advantage is on the investigations side.

The stats also show that Yolo County is charging and trying more cases per capita than elsewhere.

According to the Judicial Council’s 2016 Court Statistics Report, “in 2014-15 Yolo County conducted more felony and misdemeanor jury trials per capita than every other county in the state.”

Staff notes, “Preparing for and litigating jury trials is by far the most time consuming and labor intensive aspect of the work of a deputy public defender. Parity in resources, including support staff, between the prosecution and defense is necessary so that workloads are manageable and defendants are getting effective representation in court.”

Yolo County conducted more trials than each of the seven counties historically benchmarked against, in Yolo County salary comparison studies.

We have seen this year more effort put into pre-trial settlement of cases and we shall see where that ends up pushing Yolo County’s workload.  It also bears repeating that when the AB 109 stats came out, Yolo County was found to be middle of the pack in crime rate, but at the top in per-capita trials and fourth in the state in per-capita incarceration rate.

The Vanguard has attributed that to charging policies by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Come see the Vanguard Event – “In Search of Gideon” – which highlights some of the key work performed by the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office…

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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17 thoughts on “Budget Data Shows Public Defender’s Office Under-Resourced; Disproportionate Yolo County Charging”

  1. Tia Will

    These data alone illustrate the imbalance of our adversarial judicial system. In a truly impartial adversarial judicial system, the appropriation of resources would be equal between prosecution and defense. This disproportion is in and of itself indefensible ( weak pun not initially intended but noted and left in place).

    1. Howard P

      In theory, maybe… so whatever $ the prosecution spends to prosecute the W Sac ‘dad’, are you saying we should make sure his defense gets the same $?  Otherwise it is “unjust”?

    2. Jim Hoch

      Proving someone did something is a harder job than just raising doubt or saying the other side did not prove it. The onus is always on the prosecution. Is this budget allocation different than other counties?

  2. Eric Gelber

    Proving someone did something is a harder job than just raising doubt or saying the other side did not prove it.

    It’s supposed to be very difficult to deprive someone of liberty–that’s why the DA must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. “Leveling the playing field” by handicapping the defense through lower budgets, less staffing, and higher attorney caseloads undermines this constitutional safeguard. I’d also note that, as anyone who ever watched Law and Order knows, these comparisons don’t take into account other significant resources available to the prosecution–mainly, law enforcement.

    1. Howard P

      So, for the balancing of legal $, we should add all costs of law enforcement, including investigation, apprehension,  ‘room and board’ while they are awaiting trial, into the mix?  Perhaps I misunderstand your and Tia’s intent…

    2. Jim Hoch

      Eric, Here is a legal pro tip for you so you can supplement your legal knowledge from “Law and Order”. All defendants are prosecuted by the DA but not all defendants are represented by the public defender. Therefore the DA has a larger workload workload. I’m not certain what percentage of defendants are represented by private attorneys who are using private investigators but it is not a trivial number.

      1. Eric Gelber

        Jim – I’ve been an attorney for more then 36 years and hardly need legal tips from you. (So, for example, I ignored your earlier uninformed comment that the job of prosecutor is harder than that of defense attorney.)

        The fact is, PDs in most California counties have felony caseloads that far exceed standards established by the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals–often by two to four times the maximum. And that doesn’t address the adequacy of other resources, such as investigators. Excessive public defender caseloads and inadequate resources hinder constitutional rights, including the rights to effective assistance of counsel, speedy trial, and due process. The issue is more complicated than merely comparing the caseloads and budgets of PD and DA offices. But, of course, you are the expert on all things, so you knew that.

        1. Jim Hoch

          “The issue is more complicated than merely comparing the caseloads and budgets of PD and DA offices”

          Then maybe you should explain that to the author since that is the thesis of this article.

    3. David Greenwald

      Eric raises a good point – the public defender noted that the police are basically an arm of the DA’s investigation team that if they request follow up to an investigation, they’ll get it.  The public defender’s office has five people handling the investigations for thousands of cases.

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