Public Defenders Continue to Protest Court Backlog in San Francisco

San Francisco Hall of Justice – Photo by David M. Greenwald

By Yash Mishra   

Protest of Trial Backlogs in Front of San Francisco Hall of Justice – Photo by Isabella Hutcheson

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Lawyers and staff from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office gathered on the steps of the San Francisco Superior Court again last Friday to peacefully protest the trial backlogs in the court.

Interns, attorneys and other staff members expressed their frustration about the severe and worsening trial backlogs. Their emotions flared across the street like unheard voices of the Bill of Rights. A Bill of Rights poster was placed on the courthouse steps and glistened in the beaming sunlight.

With booming voices, interns and attorneys read the amendments from the Bill of Rights. The 6th Amendment was strongly emphasized.

The 6th states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witness in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.”

After the amendments were read, Public Information Officer Valerie Ibarra explained how the trial backlogs are denying more than 1,100 individuals of their Constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Ibarra said, “There are 1,100 individuals who have been denied their right to a speedy trial and 115 of them have remained jailed without trial beyond their constitutionally mandated deadline. So, that’s why we are here every Friday.”

Ibarra added, “We are here to stoke action from the court and address this backlog which continues to violate the speedy trial rights of thousands of people in San Francisco who are presumed innocent under the law.”

Ibarra continued to lead the protests and exclaimed, “What do we want?” Protestors fiercely responded, “Open courts!” and held signs that said, “Free Our People,” and “Speedy Trial Violations.” Drivers honked their horns to express their support.

In early June, the First District Court of Appeal criticized a lawsuit challenging the backlog that San Francisco Public Defender Manohar Raju, along with mothers of incarcerated individuals, filed against San Francisco Superior Court.

Since then, interns and attorneys have gathered every week to stand up against the injustice and criticize the sheer ineffectiveness of the court’s actions.

While other counties in California have addressed COVID-related trial backlogs by opening additional courtrooms, adding personnel to conduct trials, and dismissing cases that went beyond the speedy trial deadline, the San Francisco Superior Court has failed to modify its operations to dismiss overdue trials, charges the SF Public Defender.

As the protests wrapped up, elected PD Mano Raju, who was present, walked up to the front and said, “We often don’t come back to our core principles like the 6th Amendment. This is what (the protest) is about today.

“Our office will keep on pushing. We are glad that that court is making some progress, but it is not enough. We still have people languishing in jail and we will continue to keep on pushing until we get them all out,” continued Raju.

About The Author

Yash Mishra is a senior at California State University, Fullerton where he studies Criminal Justice. He is very passionate about the burning issues in the criminal justice system. After completing his undergraduate studies, he plans to pursue a career in investigations.

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