Brendon Woods

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Brendon Woods
Public Defender of Alameda County, California
Assumed office
December 2012
Preceded byDiane A. Bellas[1][2]
Personal details
Brendon DeWayne Woods

(1970-10-04) October 4, 1970 (age 53)
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of California, Santa Barbara (B.A.)
University of San Francisco (J.D.)

Brendon DeWayne Woods[3] (born October 4, 1970)[4][5] is an American criminal defense attorney and an advocate for criminal justice reform. Woods currently works as the public defender for Alameda County and has served as the president of the California Public Defenders Association.[6]

Early life[edit]

Woods was born in Jamaica, Queens. He was raised by his mother and extended family.[7] Woods's mother was in the United States Navy and the family moved several times.[7] Woods attended four different high schools before the family moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.[7] In an interview, Woods recalled being the victim of racial profiling during his youth.[7] He cited several incidents where he was followed and stopped by police for minor infractions.[7] Woods completed undergraduate studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1996.[7]

Legal career[edit]

He served as a law clerk in 1995 and in 1996 for the California Office of the State Public Defender and the Criminal Division of the San Francisco County Superior Court.[8]

Alameda County Public Defender[edit]

After law school, Woods went to work as a post-bar clerk for the Alameda County Public Defender's Office. He was hired as a deputy public defender two years later. From 1996 until 2012, Woods worked as a deputy public defender in Alameda County.

In December 2012, Woods was appointed the Public Defender by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, becoming the county’s first African American Public Defender.[9]

Programs and initiatives[edit]

Woods established the Clean Slate Program that helps adults on probation seal their criminal record.[7] Woods created the L.Y.R.I.C. (Learn Your Rights in California) program, which sends public defenders to high schools to teach students how to safely assert their constitutional rights with police officers.[10]

In 2014, Woods created an Immigration Representation Unit to represent people during removal proceedings in immigration court, the first unit of its kind in the state of California.[11] In 2018, the unit discovered that the Oakland Police Department had mistakenly rejected U-visa certifications.[12]

In 2016, Woods spearheaded a program that educates people housed in the county jail about their voting rights and registers people to vote.[13]

Public-policy positions[edit]

Woods has advocated for cash bail reform in California. Woods noted that an unfair cash bail system forces many people accused of crimes to take plea deals so that they can keep their jobs and continue to support their families.[14]

Woods advocated to the Board of Supervisors for the elimination of fines and fees for criminal defendants in Alameda County, citing the significant financial burden for low-income people .[15] After the presentation, the board eliminated court administrative fees.[16]

In 2016, Woods criticized the new case management system for the Alameda County Superior Court, citing glitches that resulted in false arrests and imprisonments.[17] Woods has been outspoken in his criticism of police officers who engage in misconduct[18][19] and excessive force.[20]

In 2017, Woods led a coalition that opposed holding all in-custody arrangements at a new courthouse in Dublin, California. He opposed the move because it would result in more time in custody for people accused of a crime and would prevent low-income family members from attending arraignments.[21][22]

In 2018, Woods criticized proposed changes to jury service rules citing the impact on low-income prospective jurors.[23] Woods criticized the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for appointing an interim public defender who lacked criminal law experience.[24] He criticized the Alameda County Sheriff's Office for secretly recording the conversations between juvenile suspects and their attorneys.[25]

Social justice activism[edit]

In 2014, Woods held a Black Lives Matter rally for police accountability. He said: "When you think of driving while black, yes, I've been a victim of that. I've been stopped countless times for no apparent reason. I've had family members who've gone to the criminal justice system."[26]

In 2018, Woods and a group from the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office knelt on the steps of the Oakland courthouse to protest racial injustice, police brutality and mass incarceration.[27][28]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2013, East Bay Express recognized Woods as the "Most Courageous New Public Official" citing his advocacy for indigent defendants and his engagement with public-policy debates.[29] In 2014, Alameda County Board of Supervisors recognized Woods for receiving the Santa Clara County and Santa Clara County Black Lawyers Association’s Gideon Award.[9]


  1. ^ "Diane Ahafia Bellas # 101570 - Attorney Licensee Search".
  2. ^ Office History
  3. ^ "Brendon Dewayne Woods Profile | Oakland, CA Lawyer |".
  4. ^ Balancing the Scales of Justice
  5. ^ United States Public Records, 1970-2009 (California, 1991-2009)
  6. ^ Wenus, Rose Aguilar, Laura. "Your Call: How did poverty become a crime in the US?". Retrieved 2018-12-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Winston, Ali (10 July 2013). "Balancing the Scales of Justice". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  8. ^ LinkedIn Profile
  9. ^ a b by (2014-02-05). "Public Defender Brendon Woods Receives Gideon Award". Oakland Post. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  10. ^ "Public Defenders Teach Oakland Youth How to Safely Interact With Police". KQED. 2015-05-28. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  11. ^ Winston, Ali (20 August 2014). "Alameda County Public Defender Stands Up for Immigrants". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  12. ^ Woodrow, Melanie (2018-01-26). "OPD admits 25 U-Visa certifications mistakenly rejected in 2017". ABC7 San Francisco. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  13. ^ "Record number of East Bay jail inmates likely to vote in 2018 midterms -". 2018-10-19. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  14. ^ "'Mama's Bail Out Day': Racial justice activists seek bail reform in California". East Bay Times. 2017-05-11. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  15. ^ "Alameda County looks to eliminate fines, fees for defendants -". 2018-09-16. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  16. ^ "County supervisors support ending court admin fees". Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  17. ^ "Public defender to appeal to higher court over Alameda County court software snafus". East Bay Times. 2016-11-30. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  18. ^ "New Oakland Police Misconduct Case Could Jeopardize Convictions". 2016-06-17. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  19. ^ Winston, Darwin BondGraham and Ali (4 February 2015). "OPD Still Appears to be Targeting Blacks". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  20. ^ Mayton, Joseph (2015-11-18). "San Francisco police beating captured on video prompts call for charges". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  21. ^ Wong, Ashley (28 June 2017). "Public Defender Says Arraignments at New Alameda County Courthouse in Dublin Denies Access to Courts for Low-Income People-of-Color". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  22. ^ "Justice is now further out of reach for Alameda County residents". The Appeal. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  23. ^ "Alameda County Public Defender rips proposed jury service change". East Bay Times. 2018-03-29. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  24. ^ Journal, A. B. A. "More than 150 deputy public defenders protest appointment of chief they believe is unqualified". ABA Journal. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  25. ^ "Alameda County Sheriff's Office accused of secretly recording juvenile crime suspect's conversation with attorney". East Bay Times. 2018-08-21. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  26. ^ "Public Defenders Hold 'Black Lives Matter' Rallies for Police Accountability". KQED. 2014-12-19. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  27. ^ FOX (6 October 2017). "Alameda County public defenders take a knee for racial justice". KTVU. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  28. ^ "Alameda County Public Defender takes knee for social justice". The Mercury News. 2017-10-06. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  29. ^ "Most Courageous New Public Official". East Bay Express. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 2018-12-13.