|Janice Y Fukai, Alternate Public Defender|
WHAT IS AN ALTERNATE PUBLIC DEFENDER (APD)?
A highly trained and devoted attorney, specializing in criminal defense, employed by the County of Los Angeles and backed up by a first rate support staff. APD attorneys provide high quality, cost effective and caring representation in cases where the Public Defender has a conflict of interest.
Although the APD handles every type of misdemeanor and felony case, it distinguishes itself by its representation in the most serious and otherwise costly cases for the county. In these cases, APD attorneys put to work their exceptional skills, training, and dedication to their clients.
At the APD, morale remains high, even during difficult budget times. Attorneys works in teams for maximum efficiency with in-house, highly trained investigators and paralegals, many of whom devote all of their efforts to death penalty cases. All attorney managers and supervisors, with the exception of Ms. Fukai and her Chief Deputy, still represent clients in court, in addition to performing their supervisory responsibilities.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Los Angeles County can rightfully be proud of its Public Defender system. The Board of Supervisors appointed the first Public Defender in the United States in 1913 and the office has been providing constitutionally mandated and quality legal representation to indigent people since that time. But the Public Defender can only ethically represent certain people and not others due to conflicts of interest. This situation most typically arises where more than one person is charged with a crime in the same case. The Public Defender can only represent one person in those types of cases since each person charged with a crime is entitled to have their own lawyer devoted to protecting their interests in the case. If the other person or persons are indigent, the court must appoint other counsel to represent them. The most common way to handle this situation had been for the courts to appoint counsel from the ranks of the private bar. There were, of course, variations. There were panels of private attorneys and even an ill-fated attempt to create a countywide contract program to handle the Public Defender conflict cases. All attempts turned out to be very expensive and not cost effective.
As costs continued to rise, the Board of Supervisors authorized a study to look for better ways to provide high quality and cost effective legal representation for indigent persons who could not be represented by the Public Defender because of a conflict of interest. The study included a review of the Alternate Public Defender office created by the San Diego Board of Supervisors in 1990.
The leaders of Los Angeles County soon saw the value of the San Diego experience. In February 1992, County Counsel recommended to the Superior Court that Los Angeles County develop an Alternate Public Defender (APD) based on the San Diego model.
In the fall of 1993, the Board of Supervisors appointed Bruce Hoffman as the first Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender. He immediately selected his executive team consisting of Chief Deputy Janice Fukai, the current Alternate Public Defender, and Administrative Deputy James P. Schoonover to begin the arduous task of building a Public Defender office from scratch. Within 45 days, Alternate Public Defender lawyers started appearing on cases in the Downtown Civic Center Courts. Over the succeeding years the APD has implemented Board ordered expansions into courts in Pasadena, Long Beach, Norwalk, Santa Monica, Van Nuys, San Fernando, Antelope Valley, Torrance, Compton and Pomona.
In April 2002, the Board of Supervisors took the Alternate Public Defender to an entirely new level. By unanimous vote, the Board appointed Janice Y. Fukai as the new Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender. Ms. Fukai is the first woman of Asian American heritage to serve as a Department Head in the County of Los Angeles. Building on the foundation she created as Chief Deputy Alternate Public Defender, Ms. Fukai is leading the department into the 21st century. She attributes the APD’s tremendous success to highly dedicated and diverse staff. She places a premium on teamwork, camaraderie, and the wonderful sense of "family" that was cultivated when the office was small, and that continues to flourish today.
Appointed Alternate Public Defender on April 2, 2002, Janice was the Department's first Chief Deputy. She planned and implemented the Department's growth from a small law office serving the Downtown LA courts to an organization serving all of Los Angeles County and staffed by 250 dedicated employees.