Vanguard to Honor Mano Raju, SF Public Defender, for Leading the Fight against Injustice

SF Public Defender Mano Raju protesting jail conditions in September

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In 2019, legendary Public Defender Jeff Adachi tragically passed away.  It is always difficult to follow up a legend who helped to not only build the office, but define and revitalize a profession. Mano Raju, who was appointed to replace Adachi, has stepped into the role and continued the legacy of Adachi.

As longtime Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez recently wrote: “Now, Mano leads the office as Public Defender and in the last few years has continued the positive direction of the office.”

Gonzalez noted, “Under Mano’s leadership, we are launching innovative programs such as an End the Cycle Program connecting clients with services, the Be the Jury Project providing low-income individuals the ability to serve on juries, expanding our Clean Slate services so that clients can clean their records to access employment opportunities, and providing paid high school internships so that students can have exposure to the different facets of our work.”

One of his public stances has been pushing back against court delays in San Francisco.  Raju believes that the Court’s backlog of cases is violating the rights to a speedy trial for those languishing in jail. The Public Defender’s office along with other partners have filed habeas petitions challenging the harsh conditions of confinement in county jail on behalf of a dozen of the more than 150 individuals who are still in jail beyond their statutory trial deadline; and filed motions to dismiss several cases beyond deadline.

“San Francisco shamefully stands alone in violating constitutional speedy trial rights. Other counties all over the state have opened their courtrooms and available spaces to ensure residents, whose freedom is at stake, are given their day in court,” said Mano Raju, who joined a group of taxpayers to sue SF Superior Court one year ago in September 2021, part of which is under review in the California Court of Appeal.

He added, “There’s no excuse for this court to fail its residents so badly and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in our jails, when we know that trials can be held safely. If you add up all the extra days that our clients who are currently in jail have been held past their deadline for trial, it comes to 15,333 days—that’s 42 years of wrongful incarceration.”

Mano Raju has also taken on a leading role as a critic of appointed DA Brooke Jenkins on a number of fronts, including a revived emphasis of a war on drugs.

In a recent statement, Raju said, “While it is encouraging to hear of coordinated efforts to expand treatment options and services, the heavy focus on relying on police and prosecutions to arrest and cage our way out of a public health crisis remains in direct conflict with decades of social and scientific data which indicates otherwise.”

The Public Defender’s office noted that evidence “from decades of the drug war has shown that punitive approaches, such as threatening homicide charges for drug sales in the case of an overdose, do not deter crime or drug use, but may deter people from seeking life-saving medical assistance.”

The Vanguard on October 13 will honor Raju along with nine other individuals and groups leading the fight on criminal justice reform.

Speakers include:

  • California State Assemblymember Ash Kalra
  • San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju
  • Emily Galvin-Almanza, Partners for Justice

The Vanguard is an innovative and cutting edge 501(c)(3) non-profit that trains dozens of court watch interns to monitor and report on court cases in at least eight California counties including San Francisco, Alameda, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.  We are also a criminal justice reform watchdog and news group that reports around the country on critical events, and hosts a weekly podcast (Everyday Injustice) featuring leaders in the justice reform movement.  Last year the Vanguard helped place at least 50 interns—most of them women of color—in top law schools across the country.

Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased online:

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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