San Francisco Public Defenders Spearhead ‘Sit-ins’ Protesting SF Court Backlog, Denial of Speedy Trial Rights of More Than 1,100 People

PC: Daniel Lawrence Lu
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By The Vanguard

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Charging “more than 1,100” people are being denied their Constitutional right to a speedy trial, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office said it is—beginning Friday, and for the last eight straight Fridays— “Summer Sit-ins” at the SF Superior Court. 

“A series of demonstrations taking place every Friday this summer at the 850 Bryant St. Hall of Justice (are designed) to draw attention to San Francisco Superior Court’s severe and worsening trial backlog,” said the SF PD’s Office in a statement.

“The backlog is denying more than 1,100 individuals of their Constitutional right to a speedy trial, and 115 of these individuals are languishing in San Francisco jail for months and even years past their trial deadlines, subject to near-lockdown conditions and no sunlight,” said the public defenders. 

“The courts have failed to meaningfully address the growing trial backlog or to dismiss overdue cases, as other counties have done…staffers from the San Francisco Public Defender’s office and community allies will gather (and) hold up large posters displaying the latest number of individuals deprived of their Constitutional trial rights and to pass out factsheets educating the public about the trial delays,” the office added.

The office has been complaining since the Covid Pandemic in 2020 that “San Francisco Superior Court has adopted a practice of ‘continuing’ criminal cases for months past the trial deadline, creating a massive backlog of criminal trials.”

The PDs notes, “California state law prioritizes trials for people being held in custody (but) San Francisco has continued to use nearly half of its limited courtroom space to hold jury trials in non-urgent civil cases. As a direct consequence, hundreds of community members have languished in jail, many locked in cramped cells for 23 hours a day, while the Court continues to delay their trials. 

“Some have been locked up for a year or more past their trial deadlines. Each additional day of incarceration and delay exacts an irreversible toll on people awaiting trial and their families, whether that is the loss of a job, housing, or family stability.”

The PD Office argued, “Every accused person in criminal court has the constitutional right to a speedy trial and is presumed innocent.”

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