In 1964, at the request of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, the Board of Supervisors authorized the establishment of a public defender office in this county to provide legal representation to indigent criminal defendants. (Santa Clara County Ordinance Code section A2-51; California Government Code section 27706.) The office began operations on April 1, 1965.
For over four decades, the Public Defender Office has provided hundreds of thousands of people with competent counsel, ensuring their rights to fair trial and due process. This has been done in an effective, efficient, and economical manner with the help of a highly motivated and talented staff.
In December of 1996, the Board of Supervisors approved the creation of the Alternate Defender Office. The Alternate Defender Office is a separate segmented ethically walled Office under the umbrella of the Office of the Public Defender. This is an innovative approach approved by the Court to the representation of individuals who cannot be defended by the Public Defender due to a legal conflict of interest. This situation most typically arises where more than one person is charged with a crime in the same case. The Public Defender can only represent one person in those types of cases since each person charged with a crime is entitled to have their own lawyer devoted to protecting their interest in the case. This approach has extended quality defense and resources to the vast majority of the indigent accused.
In July of 2009, the Alternate Defender Office's operations were expanded to include representation of youth in the juvenile justice system when the Public Defender has a conflict of interest. The capability of keeping multiple defendant cases within the overall County system has improved the justice system.