In the landmark 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U. S. Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution and held that a fundamental and essential prerequisite to a fair criminal justice system is the right to be defended by competent and effective lawyers. The Court stated, “… reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to us to be an obvious truth.”

The Stanislaus County Public Defender’s Office provides legal services to adult, indigent persons accused of felony and misdemeanor criminal violations; juveniles prosecuted for alleged conduct that would be criminal if they were adults; proposed conservatees in mental health(conservatorship) cases; and other persons whose liberty may be affected by the government.

The current Public Defender, Sonny Sandhu, has recently been appointed by Governor Brown to the Stanislaus County Superior Court. Maureen Keller has been announced as the Interim Public Defender beginning November 16, 2018. Ms. Keller began her career in the Public Defender’s Office in 1996. Through the years her dedication, initiative, hard-work and experience resulted in many promotions and advancements. She is recognized and admired for her collaboration, approachable demeanor, and leadership in the criminal justice community in Stanislaus County, in addition to the department team. Ms. Keller holds a Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law.