Public Defender: The People’s Lawyer

L-R: Public Defender Ricardo Garcia, Board Chair Sheila Kuehl, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Public Defender’s swearing-in ceremony. All photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Remarks
on the Appointment of Public Defender Ricardo Garcia

Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark US Supreme Court ruling, established the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

It affirmed in fact that in a society built on the rule of law, the right to counsel is a right that is sacrosanct.

And it affirmed in equity that there are few, perhaps no office more important than that of Public Defender.

The person in this position is the people’s lawyer.

They are tasked with making sure those of lesser means who enter our justice system receive — evenly and equally — quality and careful legal representation.

We are in a defining moment for our justice system, with fundamental changes underway.

Mental health diversion, the end of money bail, probation reform – all of these timely issues require leadership from the Public Defender.

Thank you to Nicole Davis Tinkham and those in the Public Defender’s office who have done such great work in the interim.

In our search, we were deliberate and acted with purpose to make sure we found the right person for this pivotal time.

I, along with the other Supervisors, have all had the opportunity to speak at length with Mr. Garcia.

It was not just his impeccable skill and fine credentials that brought him to our attention, though it did not hurt his case for the job.

It was the caliber of his moral fiber and his tuft as person.

Talk with Mr. Garcia and in just minutes you know that he is passionate in his commitment to the defense of society’s forgotten.

Justice is his map; fairness, his compass.

He’s driven by a fundamental belief that justice is not an abstraction; it’s a very real and tangible way that our laws interact with people in their daily lives.

It all comes from an inexorable belief that ordinary citizens like us, generation after generation, can do our part to uphold our founding ideals.

Because we are here just for a time – whether in this building or even on this earth.

In this time our responsibility, while we are here, is to breathe life into these ideals; to imbue them with the strength of our convictions and the weight of our efforts.

In sum, I believe today’s swearing-in makes more real the promise of Gideon.

The promise of fairness and equality, “of liberty and justice for all.”

And it makes stronger the strength of our convictions and the weight of our efforts.

I look forward to the great work that Mr. Garcia will do as Public Defender on behalf of the people of Los Angeles County.