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The Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California was established in 1971 and is the largest organization in the federal defender program. The Central District of California covers seven counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo) and a population of over 19 million people. We have offices in Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Riverside.
Our Office has over 240 employees, including 92 attorneys, 26 paralegals, 38 investigators and more than 85 supporting staff members. The Office supports two units: the Trial Unit and the Capital Habeas Unit.
The attorneys in our Trial Unit are appointed by the court to represent those persons charged with federal offenses who cannot afford to retain their own attorney. We represent over 60 percent of all persons charged with criminal offenses in this District. Our representation starts at the first bail hearing before the federal Magistrate Judge and continues through trial or plea, and sentencing in the district court. Even after sentencing, we continue to represent our clients on appeal before the Ninth Circuit and United States Supreme Court, and thereafter on matters concerning probation or supervised release.
The attorneys in our Capital Habeas Unit represent persons who have been sentenced to death by state court juries from within this District, and whose convictions have proceeded through the state court appellate process and are now before the federal court on claims involving federal constitutional violations.
The Federal Defender is appointed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for a four-year term and is statutorily responsible for the operation of the office, management of the office caseload, and the supervision of attorneys and other personnel. Previous Federal Defenders for the Central District include John Van de Kamp, the Honorable James R. Dunn, Peter Horstman and the Honorable Maria E. Stratton. Sean K. Kennedy was appointed Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California in March 2006, and Hilary Potashner was appointed in October 2014.