The Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California was established in 1971 and is the largest organization in the federal defender program. The Central District of California covers seven counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura) and a population of over 19 million people. The main office is based in Los Angeles with branch offices in Riverside and Santa Ana, California.
The Office represents individuals who are charged with the commission of a federal crime within the Central District and who demonstrate an inability to pay for private counsel. The Office also represents state court prisoners, both capital and non-capital, who challenge their state conviction in federal court on federal constitutional grounds, individuals charged with parole or supervised release violations, and material witnesses.
Currently, the office is staffed by 92 attorneys, 26 paralegals, 38 investigators, two certified Spanish language interpreters, and more than 85 supporting staff members. The Office supports two units: the Trial Unit and the Capital Habeas Unit. The attorneys in our Trial Unit are appointed by the court to represent those persons charged with federal offenses who cannot afford to retain their own attorney. We represent over 60 percent of all persons charged with criminal offenses in this District. Our representation starts at the first bail hearing before the federal Magistrate Judge and continues through trial or plea, and sentencing in the U.S. District Court. Even after sentencing, we continue to represent our clients on appeal before the Ninth Circuit and United States Supreme Court, and thereafter on matters concerning probation or supervised release.
The attorneys in our Capital Habeas Unit represent persons who have been sentenced to death by state court juries from within this District, and whose convictions have proceeded through the state court appellate process and are now before the federal court on claims involving federal constitutional violations. We represent these clients in habeas corpus proceedings in the District Court, and later in the Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.
The Federal Public Defender is appointed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for a four-year term and is statutorily responsible for the operation of the office, management of the office caseload, and the supervision of attorneys and other personnel.
Hilary Potashner is the Acting Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California. She was appointed to this post effective September 15, 2014.
Ms. Potashner has been with the Federal Public Defender’s Office since 2001. She served as a deputy in the trial unit from 2001 until 2007, as a supervising attorney from 2007 until 2012, and as the Chief Deputy from 2012 until her current appointment. Prior to her work at the Federal Public Defender’s Office, she was a deputy public defender for the Country of San Diego for seven years. During her twenty plus years as a criminal defense attorney, Ms. Potashner has represented individuals charged with infractions, misdemeanors, felonies, and death-eligible offenses.
In addition to her representation of clients and administrative responsibilities, Ms. Potashner serves as a liaison to the other federal agencies within the Central District. She is on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles Federal Bar Association and presently serves as its Secretary. She also previously served on the Judicial Appointment Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar.
Ms. Potashner received her undergraduate degree from Duke University, and she obtained her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Previous Federal Defenders for the Central District include John Van de Kamp, the Honorable James R. Dunn, Peter Horstman, the Honorable Maria E. Stratton, and Sean Kennedy.