Special to the Post
Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods and his predecessor, Diane Bellas, are under fire for alleged malpractice.
Complaints were filed last week with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors alleging that Woods and Bellas failed to object to the false arrest and ongoing false imprisonment of thousands of their African American clients for void Judicial Council restraining order forms.
According to the new book at Amazon.com by legal researcher Conrad Baldwin, “The Void Generation, How a Generation of Void Restraining Orders Voided the Lives of A Generation,” the documentary record proves that the members of the Judicial Council of California, including the Alameda County Public Defender, were informed on April 17, 2000 that the newly enacted Senate Bill 218, sponsored by California State Senator Solis, had voided all of California’s restraining order forms as of January 1, 2000.
All restraining orders were now required to prohibit “owning or possessing” a firearm, but the restraining order forms the Judicial Council published that day prohibited only “purchasing or receiving” a firearm.
As documented in the book by Baldwin, in response to Senate Bill 218 the Judicial Council’s legal staff “considered creating a one-page form that could be attached to the appropriate forms” to provide the required warning.
But then the Judicial Council’s staff decided that “attaching the warning to every restraining order might be burdensome to court clerks and individuals,” and they refused to provide the courts with a valid alternative form.
With no valid forms available, California’s judges were allegedly compelled to issue all their restraining orders on void forms for from two to eight years, leading to the false arrest, wrongful conviction, and false imprisonment of thousands of African American respondents.
Woods was notified by the Judicial Council on April 28, 2000 that all of California’s published restraining order forms were void, which should have freed his clients for lack of jurisdiction.
As an Associate Deputy Public Defender between 1998 and 2003, Woods claims that he “litigated jurisdiction hearings” to determine whether the courts had legal jurisdiction over his clients.
However, nothing in the documentary record indicates that Woods or Bellas ever objected to these void restraining orders on jurisdictional grounds, even as their wrongfully convicted clients were being marched off to populate California’s many prisons.
Woods assumed the office of Public Defender to “zealously protect and defend the rights of our clients through compassionate and inspired legal representation of the highest quality, in pursuit of a fair and unbiased system of justice for all.”
Now Woods refuses to comment on his alleged failure to object to these void forms. Woods also declines to discuss what the Public Defender’s office can do to free the victims of these void forms and compensate them for their monetary damages.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors appointed Woods as the Public Defender in 2012, and he serves at the Board’s discretion.
The complaints filed against Woods request that the Board order him to explain his allegedly negligent failure to object to these void forms and how he plans to mitigate the damages these void restraining order forms caused his clients.
Whether this popularly elected Board can compel Woods to explain his plans to remedy this tragedy may determine the fate of thousands of falsely imprisoned African Americans.