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L.A. County supervisors appoint head of public defender's office

Ronald L. Brown will be the first African American to supervise the office of more than 700 defense attorneys that represents indigent defendants.

January 05, 2011|By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times
  • Ronald L. Brown, a UCLA Law School graduate, has been with the public defenders office since 1981.
Ronald L. Brown, a UCLA Law School graduate, has been with the public defenders… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors formally appointed a veteran county lawyer Tuesday to lead the public defender's office, an agency that employs more than 700 defense attorneys who represent indigent defendants in criminal court.

The appointment of Assistant Public Defender Ronald L. Brown to the $270,000-a-year position marks the first time an African American will run the office, which has an annual budget of about $178 million.

Brown said in a recent interview that his biggest challenge will be dealing with the financial difficulties facing the county. He said budget woes have left his agency unable to hire new attorneys or make promotions for more than a year, hurting employee morale.

"You hate to talk about money…but it's bad," he said.

In a memo to supervisors recommending Brown, county Chief Executive William T Fujioka cited Brown's "extensive experience in the field of public sector legal defense and executive-level management."

In his most recent position as one of four assistant public defenders, Brown oversaw an operation of 400 lawyers and more than 100 investigators and administrative employees, Fujioka said.

Brown, 56, was raised in South Los Angeles. He studied history as an undergraduate at USC and earned a law degree at UCLA School of Law before joining the public defender's office in 1981.

He replaces Michael P. Judge, who retired after 16 years as the county's public defender.

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