The County of San Mateo does not include a traditional public defender’s office. Instead, the County contracts with the San Mateo County Bar Association to provide indigent criminal defense. The San Mateo County Superior Court appoints the Private Defender Program to represent all individuals financially eligible for counsel at public expense. The contracting arrangement began in 1968 and the panel currently includes 114 lawyers of which more than half have over 15 years of criminal and/or juvenile law experience.
In 2015, the County of San Mateo commissioned an independent evaluation of the Private Defender Program in advance of the current contract with the San Mateo County Bar Association expiring on June 30, 2017.