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The problem isn't L.A. County public defenders, it's how the Board of Supervisors treats them

The problem isn't L.A. County public defenders, it's how the Board of Supervisors treats them
A woman walks in front of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles on May 18, 2017. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As a retired 36-year veteran public defender, trial attorney and attorney manager, I was sad to read your editorial on the current state of the Los Angeles County office. ("Is the new public defender ending or stoking office turmoil?" editorial, Feb. 9)

I was disappointed in your insinuation of a diminution of the quality of representation offered. Your emphasis on a couple of unfortunate cases is not a fair representation of the work done by the public defender's office.

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The problem is not the quality of the staff, but rather the manner in which the Board of Supervisors subordinates the staff's importance. As long as I can remember, public defender staff have had to fight for every penny in their budget.

If the supervisors are unwilling to guarantee a specific term for a new public defender coming from outside the office, they will not get a commitment from a quality candidate who will likely be leaving an influential position in the private sector.

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Alan Abajian, Alta Loma

..

To the editor: I have been an attorney with the L.A. County public defender's office for the last 30 years. In that time I have seen many changes.

One thing has remained the same: I work with hundreds of skilled, dedicated and passionate criminal defense attorneys who represent our indigent clients zealously and tirelessly every day.

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Regardless of the issues we may currently be facing, you may be assured that L.A.'s poor are indeed being defended by the best.

Jean Burke, Los Angeles

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