Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis issued the follow statement after the Board of Supervisors approved her motion directing the County to identify funding to avoid potential layoffs and other personnel reductions in the Office of the Public Defender:

“The services the Office of the Public Defender provides to their clients, most of whom come from disenfranchised communities, are extremely important as they protect vulnerable populations against injustices. Aside from legal representation, the Office of the Public Defender also supports individuals by connecting them to housing, immigration relief, and mental health services—all of which provide the stability and care people need in order to succeed while navigating our complex criminal justice system.

“As it stands now, the Office of the Public Defender will have to permanently eliminate 35 vacant positions, as well as possibly lay off lawyers who provide quality legal representation. As Los Angeles County continues pursuing criminal justice reforms, the Office of the Public Defender will be front and center in representing indigent people accused of crimes. Significant cuts to this department could result in the appointment of private lawyers and that could be more costly in the long run.

“Now is not the time to cut services to vulnerable populations. Improving indigent juvenile defense, decriminalizing homelessness, and enhancing oversight and accountability of law enforcement agencies in LA County must remain high priorities, which is why we cannot afford these cuts in the Office of the Public Defender.”

Today’s Board motion directs the County’s Chief Executive Officer to report back during the supplemental budget phase to identify possible funding streams that could prevent these personnel cuts.

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Contact: Rosa Maria Santana, Deputy Director of Communications, rsantana@bos.lacounty.gov