The San Mateo County Bar Association is seeking a new Chief Defender/Executive Director (CD) of its Private Defender Program (PDP).  The CD reports to the Board of Directors of the Bar Association and is the leader and person responsible for overall operation of the PDP. The CD’s duties include, but are not limited to, the following: negotiating with and ensuring performance of the terms of the Contract with the County of San Mateo; overseeing the admission of attorneys to the PDP; recruiting attorneys to the PDP when needed; overseeing the annual performance evaluations of all PDP attorneys to ensure that competent representation is provided to the PDP clients; assessing the abilities of attorneys on the PDP panel; and discontinuing case assignments to or removing any attorney when appropriate. Interested? Apply Today!

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The Private Defender Program

San Mateo County does not have a traditional Public Defender’s Office. Since 1968, the County of San Mateo has contracted with the San Mateo County Bar Association to provide indigent criminal defense.

The Private Defender Program (PDP) is appointed by the San Mateo County Superior Court to represent all persons financially eligible for the appointment of counsel at public expense, including but not limited to: persons accused of all felonies and misdemeanors, juveniles in delinquency cases, juveniles and parents in dependency cases, and cases brought pursuant to the provisions of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act.  The Association employs a Chief Defender, an Assistant Chief Defender, a Managing Attorney for Juvenile Operations and for Adult Operations, a Chief Investigator and a support staff.

The Program has established itself as the preeminent private indigent defense organization in the Country.  In August 2012, in Chicago, Illinois, the Private Defender Program and the San Mateo County Bar Association were greatly honored to receive the Harrison Tweed award.  Cited for its pervasive excellence, the San Mateo County Bar Association accepted this coveted award presented by the Standing Committee Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants of the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Myra Weiher became the Chief Defender/Executive Director of the PDP June 2017. After graduating from the University of California at Davis and then Hastings College of the Law, Myra joined the Private Defender Program.  During the 40 years that she has defended the indigent people of San Mateo County, Myra has handled virtually every kind of criminal case.  She is a veteran of many murder trials, and was the first woman to act as lead defense counsel in a death penalty case in San Mateo County. In addition to homicides and serious felonies, she had a special interest in representing clients whose cases were related to mental health issues, including sexually violent predators, people involuntarily confined to mental hospitals under the terms of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, and those who have been hospitalized after being found not guilty by reason of insanity.  Myra is a member of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s American Council of Chief Defenders, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the California Public Defenders Association.

Lisa Maguire became the Assistant Chief Defender of the PDP in December 2017 after sixteen years of handling Private Defender cases ranging from misdemeanors to capital cases. While in private practice, in addition to handling some of the Program’s most serious cases, Lisa provided mentorship to newer attorneys on the panel, as well as law students doing their internships with the Private Defender Program.

In her role as Assistant Chief Defender, Lisa assists Chief Defender, Myra Weiher, with overall operations of the Program. They regularly consult with the lawyers about their cases and the need for experts and investigations. They monitor attorney caseloads and performance measures. They also attend community events and maintain positive working relationships with their Criminal Justice partners. And, they work cooperatively with the County regarding budget and contract terms in order to ensure the continued success of the Program.

Eric Liberman joined the PDP administration as Managing Attorney of the Adult Division in August of 2013. After 31 years as a PDP attorney, trying everything from misdemeanors to a complicated capital murder case, Eric has valuable insights and experience that he shares with the younger PDP attorneys he mentors and monitors.

Eric’s responsibilities include observing PDP attorneys at various court hearings. He is responsible for assigning cases to PDP attorneys and assisting PDP clients and the public with their issues and questions. While Eric was practicing law, he was the trial attorney who raised an issue of parolees’ rights in the only criminal case from San Mateo County that has been heard and decided by the United States Supreme Court.

Chief Investigator John Maness is a former San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff and a former police commander. He is in his 11th year with the Private Defender Program, managing the Investigations Division. In his role as Chief Investigator, John has maintained a panel of experienced, well-trained investigators available to assist each lawyer with the investigation of their cases. He personally reviews each request for assistance and works to match the appropriate investigator with each case based on their background, training and experience.

To learn more about the Private Defender Program and the great things it offers, please visit their website or contact the office at (650) 298-4000.

Read the Annual Report 2016-2017, created by Myra A. Weiher, Chief Defender.

Proposition 47