Progressive San Francisco Public Defender Sworn In to Begin New Term   

Mano Raju speaking at the Vanguard Gala in October

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Charging he was not “content” with the highly-regarded work of his office, Mano Raju was sworn in for a four-year term as San Francisco Public Defender here this week.

“I have been told by many across the country who have seen our innovations and accomplishments over the last few years that we are the gold standard for a public defender’s office, but what I want to pledge to you is that I am not content,” said Raju. 

The only elected Public Defender in California added, “The work we do is too vital, too impactful, and too far-reaching to not continually seek to do it more efficiently, to do it bigger, and to do it more boldly.”

Re-elected in November, Raju was feted at a community event celebrating Black History Month in the Bayview. The event was co-hosted by the Racial Justice Committee and the Black, Latinx, and API Affinity Groups of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and attended by special guest speakers and performers.

“I can say that Black lives matter to Mano and Black people matter to Mano,” said Jacque Wilson, managing attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s office’s Misdemeanor Unit and chair of its Black Affinity Group, commending the increased diversity of people in leadership positions. 

Wilson added, “Since Mano has been the Public Defender, he has appointed Black people into leadership roles in almost every unit of our office I can think of. Key faces in key places, and that makes a difference.”

“Mano has always been involved in our allied struggles because he believes and understands that the issues that we are always facing at 850 Bryant or any of the other courts, have deep seeded roots in the lack of housing, education, and employment-related matters” said Carmen Sanchez, a social worker in the Immigration Unit, who also lauded the class action lawsuit Raju approved which helped liberate hundreds of people from ICE detention centers during the pandemic.

Raju noted his office’s “increasing the economic and racial diversity” of juries via the Be The Jury compensation program; successfully pressing the Police Commission to pass a policy that curtails racially-biased traffic stops by police, reuniting families through resentencing with state funding for the Freedom Project; establishing the groundbreaking Adachi Project using art and film to elevate the voices of those impacted most by the criminal legal system (and) expanding the capacity of the Clean Slate team that helps clean up criminal records; and instituting a modern leadership structure.”

“I find it disconcerting that in America you’re innocent until proven guilty, so why is it then that the resources for public defenders are not commensurate with the offices that prosecute?” said John “Yahya” Johnson, Co-Producer of “Ear Hustle” podcast, who administered the community oath to Raju. Johnson urged more resources for public defenders who operate on significantly smaller budgets than district attorneys, law enforcement agencies, and prisons.

Raju was a felony manager and director of training when appointed to the SF Public Defender in 2019 after the sudden passing of longtime Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Raju won election in 2019 to fill the remainder of Adachi’s term, and was reelected in November 2022 to a full four-year term.

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