Our History

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Past & Present Public Defenders


Tracie Olson, 2009-Present

Barry Melton Public Defender from 2000 to 2009

Barry Melton, 2000-2009

James Egar 1996 - 1999

James Egar, 1996-1999

Gary McCurdy Oct. 1995 - Apr. 1996

   Gary McCurdy,     Oct. 1995- April 1996

Mark Arnold,1995 (interim)

Mark Arnold,
1995 (Interim)

Louis Haffner, 1984-1995

Louis Haffner, 1984-1995

Rudolph H. Binsch 1970-1983

Rudolph H. Binsch, 1970-1983

E. Richard Walker 1967-1970

E. Richard Walker, 1967-1970

Joseph Martin 1962-1966

Joseph Martin, 1962-1966

Lewis Shearer 1960-1962

Lewis Shearer, 1960-1962

Thomas Reynolds 1951-1960


Thomas Reynolds, 1951-1960

Indigent legal defense has been active in California for over a century.  As early as 1893 Clara Shortridge Foltz, the first female lawyer in California, began advocating for the creation of a Public Defender system. Due in part to her efforts, the first Public Defender’s Office in the nation opened in Los Angeles County in 1914. Other counties in the state soon followed driven by the adoption by the California Legislature in 1921 of the Public Defender Act that was modeled on a bill written by Foltz. This act permitted the voluntary establishment and funding of Public Defender’s Offices among counties.

It was not until 1963 however,  that Public Defender representation in state courts reached a national scale with the United States Supreme Court ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright. Under a unanimous ruling the Supreme Court found states courts legally required by the U.S. Constitution to provide legal counsel to defendants unable to afford their own representation.  The Justices held that a fundamental and essential prerequisite to a fair criminal justice system is the right to be defended by competent and effective lawyers. 

Following in the steps of other counties in California, the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office was established before the Supreme Court requirement with the appointing of its first Chief Public Defender in 1951. Since its inception the office has grown and diligently continues, in keeping with the historical tradition of the state of California, to be advocates for indigent legal defense.  




















































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Last Updated: 10/2014