Mano Raju is the elected San Francisco Public Defender. A son of immigrants from India, his pursuit of justice is rooted in his acute awareness of the ramifications of social inequalities. Despite coming from a farming village, his parents managed to emigrate to America, where they raised Mano on the East Coast. Mano completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, and holds a Master’s degree in South Asian Studies from U.C. Berkeley, where he also earned his law degree. He worked as a Deputy Public Defender in Contra Costa County for seven years before he was recruited by Jeff Adachi to join the SF Public Defender’s Felony Unit in 2008.
Due to his impressive practice as a felony line attorney, he was promoted by Jeff Adachi to be the Director of Training and then Manager of the Felony Unit. He has lectured for California Public Defender’s Association, California Attorneys For Criminal Justice, and the Black Public Defender’s Association on various aspects of complex trial practice such as race-conscious representation, and defending gang and homicide cases. He is on the Board of the National Association of Public Defense. He has been awarded North America South Asian Bar Association’s 2019 Public Interest Achievement Award, the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2021 James Madison Freedom of Information Award, La Raza Centro Legal’s 2022 Visionary of Justice Award, and California Public Defender’s Association’s Special Recognition Award for achievements and contributions in the field of criminal defense.
Mano is deeply committed to a client and community-centered approach to defense work. “Our impact is not measured in numbers, but in the people we represent,” he said. “It’s by the mother who can return home to her family. The son who can continue to work to support his family. And to the children of those we defend, who benefit from having an equal opportunity to survive and who might one day use that opportunity to lead.” The personal interest he takes in his clients’ lives helps fuel him not only to fiercely litigate and win cases, but also to raise his voice against the inequities he and his clients encounter in the criminal legal system. As the only elected Public Defender in California and an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, Mano continues to uphold the Office’s reputation not only as a formidable group of lawyers, paralegals, social workers, investigators and support staff, but also as a catalyst for criminal legal system change in local and state-wide arenas.