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Public Defenders Assail Newsom For Seeking To Cut Their Funding

As California's budget faces big cuts amid a revenue shortfall, some lawyers say Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to gut public safety funding at a time when critical reforms within the criminal justice system rely on state support, Courthouse News Service reports. Public defenders in Oakland and San Francisco criticized Newsom’s proposed budget for 2023-2024, which cuts significantly from a budget for public defense.  “The state of California is investing $564 million to combat retail theft and cutting $50 million from the public defense grant that was used to get people resentenced & reunite families,” Alameda County public defender Brendon Woods wrote on Twitter. “Louis Vuitton over people. Makes a lot of sense.” San Francisco County public defender Mano Raju said on Twitter he is urging the governor to reconsider the cut, which he called "outrageous in the context of the proposed budget giving 100s of millions to prosecutors and cops and billions to prisons ... "The Legislature OK'd this pilot because Californians know our legal system is broken and that wrongfully sentenced people have little recourse,. This modest $50 million statewide program addressed those wrongs."

In an interview, Woods said the $50 million cut removes the final portion of an ongoing three-year public defense pilot grant which covers four areas of resentencing. That places the entire resentencing unit in Alameda County in an uncertain position. “What this law pretty much did was recognize that California for forever had a way of sentencing people (incorrectly) — so it allows us to go back and get our clients resentenced,” Woods said. “So we’re now unable to get to a bunch of people who are locked in cages who should be resentenced.” Woods said the cut seems to be the opposite of previous policies the governor pushed, such as opposing or closing for-profit prisons, dismantling death row and focusing on rehabilitation — especially by the proposal to add funds to “combat retail theft” and beef up prosecution. 


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