The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to transition cases from the current public defender’s office to the newly minted Office of the Public Defender, which is slated to officially launch on July 1.
The new office replaces Biggam, Christensen and Minsloff (BCM), which has provided public defender services for the county since 1975.
The move to replace that firm with one run under the County’s umbrella began in 2018, when the board amended public defender contracts to include a three-year transition process. In November 2020, the board added an ordinance that created the new office, along with the position of Chief Public Defender.
The board in September approved Heather Rogers for that position.
Rogers called the formation of the office a “historic moment for Santa Cruz County.”
“We’re confident that, with your support, we will transition services in a way that reflects our mission and values, and moves us closer to our vision,” she told the board Tuesday.
Rogers has nearly two decades of experience as a defense attorney, including nearly a decade as a staff attorney with Biggam, Christensen and Minsloff, where she currently serves as a supervising attorney.
She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and clerked on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals with Judge M. Margaret McKeown. She serves on the board of the Santa Cruz County Defense Bar and the Santa Cruz County Trial Lawyers Association, and represents District 2 on the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Commission.
The plan includes the creation of several positions for the new office, including a full-time Chief Investigator, five legal secretaries and two paralegals, in addition to a receptionist, an administrative aide and a social worker.
Rogers told the Board that the new office’s philosophy will include “holistic defense,” which includes social workers that will help clients with such issues as depression, hopelessness and substance abuse.