Heather Rogers sees natural fit as county’s first public defender: ‘I was immediately drawn to this work’

Just after a 4-calendar year method, Santa Cruz County has preferred its initial formal general

Just after a 4-calendar year method, Santa Cruz County has preferred its initial formal general public defender: Heather Rogers.

She formally usually takes more than Oct. 1, even though the workplace will continue on to operate with her previous employer, Biggam, Christensen & Minsloff — which has handled indigent protection issues for the county considering that 1975 — by means of June 2022.

Rogers is no stranger to the Santa Cruz County area: She’s a Santa Cruz native who began her profession at the company in her remaining semester at Stanford Legislation Faculty. She has labored for BCM since 2012, symbolizing hundreds of defendants, each as a felony trial legal professional and a supervising lawyer.

“I was promptly drawn to this operate — I loved the staff, our customers, and the social justice aspects of the work,” she said. “I truly observed that this could be a area of interest that I could discover my job in.”

Background in point out and federal protection


Soon after graduation, Rogers labored as a regulation clerk on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court docket of Appeals with Decide M. Margaret McKeown, just before signing up for Federal Defenders of San Diego, a renowned federal protection regulation organization. In this posture for about 3 several years, Rogers crafted up her experience in seeking scenarios less than a management staff that “really noticed my passion for the work and that I preferred to shell out my career accomplishing indigent defense.”

“I was actually discovering how to do the demo get the job done, the appellate do the job, and most importantly, how to represent customers in a actually customer-centered way,” she stated. “Every human remaining who finds themself in this method comes here with exceptional objectives for themselves and for what they want to attain.”

In November 2007, Rogers opened her possess law business, concentrating on indigent protection with a group of other woman protection attorneys. The team — each of whom had their possess practitioner regulation corporations — shared a place with an on-web page nursery and nanny (Rogers’s two little ones are now 13 and 6).

“It was a way for us to go on to do the operate, but also be younger dad and mom, and discover a equilibrium in between possessing children and a observe that can be pretty quick-paced and intensive,” she claimed.

From there, she labored at the Monterey County Business office of the Community Defender and then the Business of the Federal Community Defender for the Northern District of California. Quickly following, she bought a simply call from defense lawyer and company husband or wife Larry Biggam.

“They had been searching for a lateral to choose over a caseload listed here that would consist of juvenile delinquency and quite a few serious felonies, and they puzzled if I preferred to occur dwelling,” she reported. “And I did.”

Soon after becoming a member of the workplace in April 2012, Rogers constructed up her portfolio as a defender for many superior-profile instances, but claimed that just about every one case she’s labored on around her time with BCM has been significant.

Larry Biggam, whose agency holds the most important indigent protection contracts for Santa Cruz County, stands with Heather Rogers.

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“Those are the cases people today have read of and noticed since they ended up in the information, but I have represented hundreds of men and women in this county,” she reported. “Every scenario is critical to the men and women concerned in it, from the family members to the witnesses to the neighborhood … just about every time you pick up a file and satisfy yet another individual, it’s seriously essential to get every little thing wanted to give that person an remarkable and compassionate defense.”

Biggam, her manager of the earlier 9 many years, is adamant Rogers will bring a balanced balance of her obligations to her new situation, and be in a position to carry forth fairness for just and reliable outcomes.

“Heather is clever, exceptionally difficult-operating, seasoned and caring. She understands the career,” he stated. “I am assured that she will keep on our mission of vigorous client-centered advocacy.”

Nationwide research and listening sessions


Prior to 1975, Santa Cruz County mainly outsourced community protection solutions by way of hourly contracts prior to signing with BCM, Assistant County Administrative Officer Nicole Coburn spelled out. But four yrs back, Coburn and the county started to assess the strategy of having a official community defender’s place of work.

“At the time, we’d been contracting for numerous years, and realized that [BCM] probably wouldn’t want to do this eternally,” she reported. “Larry Biggam provides fantastic products and services, but has finished this for a very extensive time, so we were being concerned about succession organizing.”

The county board of supervisors approved the contract extensions to close on June 30, 2022, and OK’d the changeover program very last April. Coburn said as section of the nationwide search for the place, the county held listening periods with community stakeholders, such as officials from the Pajaro Valley Unified University District, neighborhood companions, and felony justice associates.

From there, the county was in a position to make an define for what was most essential in the position, a vision that matched Rogers’.

“She seriously laid out her eyesight for the place of work of what she desired to see and how she would do the job with associates,” Coburn claimed. “It was pretty crystal clear that she would deliver a little something quite exclusive to the workplace.”

For her element, Rogers explained she wishes to work with other county companies to provide much more sturdy and holistic services, and to fortify the interactions between all county and community associates concerned in the felony justice method.

“We have a great neighborhood difficulty with compound abuse, mental sickness, poverty, homelessness, and hopelessness,” she stated. “My hope is that now that we’re in the county fold, we can definitely work collectively more successfully to deal with individuals root leads to.”

Holding the classes discovered


Rogers mentioned she won’t stray considerably from the classes and insights she obtained with the group at BCM.

“This business has always had a main group of excellent and dedicated defense lawyers, who go into the function for all the suitable reasons,” Rogers mentioned. “They definitely care about the equity problems and social justice issues that generate indigent defense, and generally they are just compassionate people today who want to work with clientele who are frequently very susceptible.”

Her new Santa Cruz County place of work will have a budget of somewhere around $13 million — very similar to the finances the county had for contracted products and services. The recruitment brochure the county utilised during its look for approximated 45 staff users, with 23 to 26 lawyers, 8 to 10 investigators, and six to 9 administrative assist roles. The business office will also have 37 entire-time equal funded and unfunded positions as part of the supplemental spending budget.

The BCM companions will probable retire in the slide of 2022, Biggam mentioned, with the bulk of the staff possible transitioning to the county workplace underneath Rogers’ tutelage.

Rogers said she is grateful for the prospect to carry on to perform in her hometown, and exclusively with other defense attorneys who have created the commitment to serve Santa Cruz County as a whole.

“Everybody is right here mainly because they are focused to Santa Cruz County, and this is exactly where we want to be,” she claimed. “That results in a unique society that I’m satisfied to be a aspect of. … I’m so honored to be a component of what’s next.”