Supervisor Virginia Bass confirmed that David Marcus has stepped down from the county’s public defender post after a tumultuous nine months in office.
“He sent a letter on Wednesday evening informing us of his resignation,” Bass said Friday.
Marcus’ sudden departure came after the Board of Supervisors held a special closed session meeting — called 24 hours earlier — to “consider the evaluation of performance of a public employee and to hear complaints or charges brought against the employee by another person or employee."
Also up for discussion was a lawsuit filed by local defense attorney Patrik Griego that questioned whether Marcus met the minimum qualifications for the public defender’s job as required under California law.
Several employees of the Public Defender’s Office told the Journal on Wednesday afternoon
that Marcus had packed up his office and left the building without speaking to anyone before the meeting started.
Bass said the board did discuss an offer Griego made to the county last month
to dismiss the lawsuit and waive any claims to the more than $125,000 in attorney fees and costs he had incurred if the board “simply set aside its appointment” of Marcus but she could not comment further because it was a closed session item.
She also said she could not comment on any possible severance agreement with Marcus, whose resignation letter was not immediately available due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Marcus’ controversial tenure was marked by turmoil from the onset.
Immediately after his selection was announced in February, several members of the local defense bar raised concerns about the hiring process, noting the interview panel included District Attorney Maggie Fleming, then Undersheriff William Honsal and Probation Chief Bill Damiano, but not a single defense attorney.
By the next month, Griego had filed his lawsuit questioning Marcus’ qualifications.
Soon after, all nine of the deputy public defenders at the time sent a letter to the supervisors alleging Marcus was incompetent and unqualified, which was followed in April by a similar letter from non-attorney staff who said Marcus lacked the legal knowledge required for the position and had "crippled" the office.
A mass exodus of experienced attorneys
in recent months has left the Public Defender’s Office, which is responsible for representing indigent defendants and handles more than 80 percent of Humboldt County’s criminal cases, short-handed, resulting in case delays.
It’s unclear at this time how Marcus’ departure will impact Griego’s lawsuit, which has a court hearing scheduled for Dec. 13.