Manohar Raju, Felony Public Defender, Appointed by Mayor to Adachi’s Seat

Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez called Raju a "fantastic choice."

Mayor London Breed announced Monday that she had appointed Manohar Raju to the seat of public defender. (Photo: Kevin N. Hume)

Exactly one week after a memorial for Public Defender Jeff Adachi drew hundreds to City Hall, Mayor London Breed addressed a much smaller crowd of media to announce his replacement: Manohar Raju.

“Mano has the experience, the commitment, and the vision to lead this office and fight for those who need a voice — both in the courtroom and in the community,” Breed said. “He has been an advocate not only in the courtroom but also making policy changes: fighting for more African-American representation on juries, going to Sacramento to push for policy changes to make our courtrooms more equitable.” 

Raju has worked as a public defender for 18 years; seven of those were in Contra Costa County, and 11 in San Francisco, where he manages the felony unit. During Monday’s press conference he was soft-spoken, applauding the mayor for appointing someone from within the Public Defender’s office. 

“If you haven’t been in our shoes in the tanks of 850 Bryant, patiently explaining an offer to a client; if you haven’t done an investigation in the wee hours of the morning to try to find a witness, or gone back to a house to knock on the door for the ninth time; if you haven’t done the crucial paralegal IT or clerical work at almost breakneck speed because that’s what the jury’s requesting from you; if you haven’t stood alone in front a jury trying to address issues of implicit bias, or trying to explain why your client, who suffers complex trauma or mental illness, did what he did — then you can’t have the deep understanding of what we do day in and day out,” Raju said. 

But, he does say he’s different from Adachi. “I’m different from Jeff,” he said, “so there will be some changes and processes, and I’ll be reaching out to the rest of our wonderful staff and Matt [Gonzalez] for input. But the core of what we do — the mission — that’s not going anywhere.”

Gonzalez, considered the favorite contender by many who know him across the city, took the mic during Monday’s press conference to applaud the appointment of Raju. 

“Mano is just a fantastic choice, and I could not be happier with this decision,” he said. “He has a key intellect, he is an exceptional trial lawyer — and I can tell you I’ve seen a lot of trial lawyers — he may be the best I’ve seen. I really mean that… I know that he’s going to do a terrific job carrying on Jeff’s legacy.”

Raju does plan to run for his seat in November. It’ll no doubt be an interesting race; the seat of district attorney is also open and doesn’t have an incumbent running for the position for first time since 1909. 

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