The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 10 unanimously approved a motion to end an employee citizenship requirement for providing critical public services to L.A. County residents and businesses.
Authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis, 1st District, and Sheila Kuehl, 3rd District, the motion eliminates the County of Los Angeles’ long-standing citizenship requirement for its department heads, while also giving each department head the authority to waive such requirements for positions within their respective departments, including deputy public defenders.
Throughout 107 years of indigent defense within the County of Los Angeles, the public defender has been prevented from hiring attorneys because of citizenship and voting-registration requirements, even though immigrant communities comprise one-third of the county’s population.
The county was first in the nation to incorporate an indigent defense department. The duties of the Los Angeles public defender have since been expanded considerably to include advocating in the arenas of mental health, immigration, diversion and reentry, post-conviction and re-entry, homeless outreach and many other forms.
Non-citizen attorneys with diverse backgrounds, specialized training and a license to practice law from the California State Bar are currently removed from the pool of eligible candidates, even though moral character determinations are made by the state bar association.
The motion enables the public defender to expand the potential hiring pool and increase the number of talented and diverse applicants to select from, which will enhance the county’s legal representation services and accurately reflect the county’s values of inclusivity and diversity.
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