Private Defender for San Mateo County
Criminal Defense The Private Defender Program
San Mateo County does not have a traditional Public Defender’s Office. Since 1968, the County of San Mateo has contracted with the San Mateo County Bar Association to provide indigent criminal defense. The Private Defender Program
The Private Defender Program (PDP) is appointed by the San Mateo County Superior Court to represent all persons financially eligible for the appointment of counsel at public expense, including but not limited to: persons accused of all felonies and misdemeanors, juveniles in delinquency cases, juveniles and parents in dependency cases, and cases brought pursuant to the provisions of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. The Association employs a Chief Defender, an Assistant Chief Defender, a Managing Attorney for Juvenile Operations, a Chief Investigator and a support staff.
John Digiacinto is the Chief Defender of the Private Defender Program, a controlled assigned counsel program in San Mateo County, California. He graduated from Lincoln University School of Law in 1977 and was admitted to the bar that same year. In private practice he represented indigent clients as a PDP lawyer for 12 years. He handled the complete range of criminal and juvenile cases, beginning his career with misdemeanors and advancing to the defense of the most serious of felonies, including capital murder cases. He has taught trial advocacy to public defenders and assigned counsel from around the country by invitation of the Institute of Criminal Defense Advocacy in San Diego. He became the Assistant Chief Defender of the PDP in October 1989 and the Chief Defender in July 2000. Find out more about the Private Defender Program.
In addition to leading the innovative and well-respected Private Defender Program, John was appointed by the State Bar Board of Governors to the ten-member commission tasked with revising the 1990 Indigent Defense Guidelines for California. This working group presented its proposed revised Guidelines to the State Bar Board of Governors, which approved and promulgated them in January 2006. He is also a member of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s American Council of Chief Defenders, the California Public Defenders Association and its California Council of Chief Defenders, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Myra Weiher became the Assistant Chief Defender of the PDP in April 2006. She assists the Chief Defender in the overall operation of the Program, and reports directly to him. She also acts as the Assistant Executive Director of the Association. Private Defender Program
After graduating from the University of California at Davis and then Hastings College of the Law, Myra was appointed to defend her first case for the PDP in 1973. During the 38 years that she has defended the indigent people of San Mateo County, Myra has handled virtually every kind of criminal case. She is a veteran of many murder trials, and was the first woman to act as lead defense counsel in a death penalty case in San Mateo County. In addition to homicides and serious felonies, she had a special interest in representing clients whose cases were related to mental health issues, including Sexually Violent Predators, people involuntarily confined to mental hospitals under the terms of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, and those who have been hospitalized after being found not guilty by reason of insanity. Myra is a member of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s American Council of Chief Defenders, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the California Public Defenders Association. Private Defender Program
To learn more about the Private Defender Program and the great things it offers, please click on the image below to read the 2010-2011 PDP Annual Report created by John S. Digiacinto, Chief Defender.
San Mateo County does not have a traditional Public Defender’s Office. Since 1968, the County of San Mateo has contracted with the San Mateo County Bar Association to provide indigent criminal defense. Case assignments are made by the Program’s staff on the basis of the nature, seriousness, and complexity of the charge, matching the skill and experience of the individual lawyers to the client and his or her case. The Program is also appointed in dependency and delinquency matters in Juvenile Court as well as mental health and civil matters, where the indigent is entitled to appointed counsel. The Private Defender Program assigns cases from a panel of approximately 100 attorneys, all of whom are in private practice. From the funds obtained under the contract with San Mateo County, the Bar Association pays the Private Defender Panel attorneys according to a fee schedule developed by the Administrator and the Private Defender Committee and approved by the San Mateo County Bar Association Board of Directors. This unique program delivers high quality legal services to clients otherwise unable to hire counsel and it does so at substantial savings to the taxpayers of San Mateo County. The San Mateo County Bar Association has earned national acclaim and local respect for its Private Defender Program.
The San Mateo County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) is a State Bar of California certified program (Certificate No. 0039). For a nominal fee, the Service will provide callers with the name of an attorney who will provide a 30 minute interview. The interview is an opportunity for the prospective client to explain the general nature of the legal problem and for the attorney to explain his or her fee structure and to determine if the case is one he or she wishes to pursue. The attorneys on our Service are in good standing with the State Bar of California and are required to carry malpractice insurance. Each year LRS makes approximately 3,000 referrals to more than 150 attorneys.
The San Mateo County Bar Association Fee Arbitration Program allows clients and lawyers to settle fee disputes without litigation. Clients have the right to have a neutral party-“an arbitrator”- hear fee disputes with their attorneys. The arbitrator determines whether the fees and costs charged by the attorney are reasonable for the services provided. The Fee Arbitration Program provides an opportunity to have a volunteer arbitrator(s) resolve attorney fee and cost disputes between clients and attorneys through an informal, low-cost alternative to the court system. Fee arbitration is mandated by California Business & Professions Code §§6200-6206.
The San Mateo County Bar Association Speakers Bureau is a free service. All volunteer speakers are attorneys and members in good standing with the San Mateo County Bar Association and the State Bar of California. Participating attorneys can visit businesses, schools, private or professional organizations, civic groups, and any number of other groups to present on a topic and encourage lively, genuine discussion.
Click on the Speakers Bureau link above to learn more.
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