Santa Clara County, CA: Indigent Defense

Sajid Khan has served as a public defender in Santa Clara County, CA for 12 years. In response to the murders of George Floyd and others at the hands of the police, which sparked a wave of protests in the streets against the police for their systematic oppression of Black people, Sajid posted an entry on his blog. He explained that because district attorneys' offices across the country “are the umbrella organizations tasked with enforcement of laws and the prosecution of crimes,” people who are outraged by the systematic oppression of Black people in the United States should “fire our very righteous outrage, fury, and ire at District Attorney’s offices.”

"People should rally today at city hall and at the local police station,” Sajid wrote. “But tomorrow, walk over to the D.A.’s office and let’s make it loud and clear that black lives matter. I’ll meet you there. Better yet, I’ll meet you at the polling station to vote them out next time they’re up for election."   

In response to Sajid's blog post, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen threatened to institute a formal investigation against Sajid for "threatening . . . [Rosen's] staff" and "incit[ing] . . . destruction." Instead of listening to the people filling the streets of his County, Rosen has chosen to focus his energies on silencing those who dare to criticize him. Thankfully, the First Amendment does not allow him to do that.

In a letter we sent on behalf of Sajid to District Attorney Rosen, we demanded that Rosen immediately stop his campaign of retaliation against Sajid and instead focus on remedying the grotesque racial disparities and wealth-based jailing that his office inflicts on the community it is meant to serve.

Public defense is in a state of crisis. People across the country are jailed because they cannot adequately defend themselves against criminal charges, and police officers, prosecutors, and judges get away with constitutional violations because poor people lack counsel who can protect them. And public defenders—the people who, despite the crisis, fight every day for their clients—fear retaliation for speaking out against systems of injustice. We are proud to represent Sajid and other courageous defenders like him so that they can work to dismantle systems of oppression.