May 08, 2019

Dozens of California Leaders Applaud Harris’ EQUAL Defense Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday introduced the EQUAL Defense Act, legislation to support the nation’s public defenders and ensure that every American has access to counsel, dozens of California public defenders and elected officials released statements in support of the bill.

The EQUAL Defense Act would establish a new $250 million grant program to establish workload limits for public defenders, create pay parity between public defenders and prosecutors, fund additional training for public defenders, and provide loan repayment assistance to public defenders.

To learn more about the legislation, click here.

Public Defenders and District Attorneys

  • “As the Los Angeles County Public Defender, I see Senator Harris’ bill as an exciting opportunity for fundamental reform to our criminal justice system. The EQUAL Defense Act of 2019 would potentially help the poorest and most vulnerable people in our communities. Public Defender parity with Prosecutors would give new meaning to ‘Equal Justice’ and the Sixth Amendment as envisioned by Gideon, around the country. The Presumption of Innocence can only be fully realized when defenders and prosecutors have equal resources when advocating for justice.” – Ricardo Garcia, Los Angeles County Public Defender

  • “The Public Defender Association is proud to support Senator Harris’ EQUAL Defense Act. In recent years, the advent of body worn cameras, the rise of social media, and the growth of evidence-based practices have made the job of public defense lawyers increasingly time-consuming and challenging.  Ensuring pay equity, increasing training, and expanding loan forgiveness for public defenders will serve to guarantee the constitutional right to justice for ALL.” – San Diego Public Defender Association

  • “I greatly admire Senator Harris for her leadership in proposing the EQUAL Defense Act of 2019. This will be a great help not only to my office, but to all public defender offices throughout the nation as we struggle to provide high quality legal services to our clients who everyday greatly need our help.” – Steven L. Harmon, Riverside County Public Defender

  • “The Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender supports the EQUAL Defense Act of 2019 which will ensure that indigent clients across the Country, particularly in underfunded jurisdictions, realize the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright and receive constitutionally mandated zealous representation from their Public Defender attorneys.  Also, the legislation requires evidence-based, balanced workloads of public defenders to prevent the weight of excessive caseloads and further guarantees adequate time to investigate and prepare cases as well as to communicate with their clients.” – Molly O’Neal, Santa Clara County Public Defender

  • “As a Prosecutor, I see firsthand the incredible workload public defenders must deal with. It limits their ability to effectively represent people and it is bad for our legal system across the board. This is why I support Senator Kamala Harris’ EQUAL Defense Act of 2019.” –Andrew Janz, Deputy District Attorney, Fresno County


  • “Our system of justice relies on the idea that everyone accused of a crime, no matter their income, has the right to counsel with the time, skills, and capacity to provide a robust defense. We cannot live up to our ideals unless that opportunity exists for every American, and this legislation is an important step toward making it real in courtrooms across the country.” – Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles

  • “We cannot create the America we aspire to become by enabling only the wealthy to readily exercise their constitutional rights.  I applaud Sen. Kamala Harris’ relentless pursuit of equal access of all Americans to representation and the protections of our laws.” – Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose

  • “Ensuring fairness within our legal system is a critical step toward unraveling some of the most grave injustices within our communities. I stand with Sen. Kamala Harris and her firm commitment to our most vulnerable residents – and to give them a voice, and quality access to our legal system.” – Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland

  • “Too often, the outcomes in our criminal justice system are determined not by what is just, but by the ability to pay for high priced legal services, and that disproportionately affects low income people and people of color,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. “The Equal Defense Bill will help ensure that all people have equal access to due process and I want to thank Senator Harris for bringing it forward.” – Robert Garcia, Mayor of Long Beach

  • “When people aren’t afforded effective legal representation, justice is not served. In Stockton, where the per capita income falls under $22,000 and where the Public Defender’s Office intakes well over 1,800 cases per month, the need to bolster and balance the scales of justice is clear. By providing equitable grants, training, and loan repayment programs, the EQUAL Defense Act enables dedicated public defenders to better serve the public and uphold Constitutional rights.” – Michael D. Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton

Statewide Elected Official

  • “Every person charged with a crime deserves to receive adequate legal representation.  Unfortunately that is not always the case, as many public defenders are overworked, lack sufficient resources, and are paid disproportionate to prosecutors. The EQUAL Defense Act of 2019 by Senator Harris tips the scales to address these disparities to ensure criminal defendants truly get a fair shot at a strong and competent defense.” – Fiona Ma, Treasurer of the State of California

For a full list of supportive statements, click here.