For assistance during regular business hours:

please call (650) 298-4000

​Monday-Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM

“If there is no equal justice,
there is no justice at all.”

Chief Justice Warren Burger

The San Mateo County Bar Association, a non-profit corporation governed by a 15-member Board of Directors, established the Private Defender Program in 1968 in order to fulfill its promise to provide zealous representation to all those who could not otherwise afford it. 

The San Mateo County Private Defender Program strives to provide the highest quality of indigent criminal defense by vigorously advocating for the rights of individuals facing criminal charges in adult and juvenile courts.  The Private Defender Program consists of a panel of experienced, private attorneys dedicated to the practice of criminal defense work.  The Private Defender lawyers work with a panel of well-trained investigators and experts in a variety of fields to provide the most complete approach to each case possible. 

About the Private Defender Program

The Private Defender Program is appointed by the San Mateo County Superior Court to represent all persons financially eligible for the appointment of counsel at public expense, including but not limited to: persons accused of all felonies and misdemeanors, juveniles in delinquency cases, juveniles and parents in dependency cases, and cases brought pursuant to the provisions of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act.

The Program has established itself as the preeminent private indigent defense organization in the Country.  In August 2012, in Chicago, Illinois, the Private Defender Program and the San Mateo County Bar Association were honored to receive the Harrison Tweed award.  Cited for its pervasive excellence over the prior 43 years, the San Mateo County Bar Association accepted this coveted award presented by the standing Committee Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants of the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. 

Chief Defender Myra Weiher

Myra Weiher became the Chief Defender of the Private Defender Program (PDP) beginning in July, 2017 following the retirement of John Digiacinto. After graduating from the University of California at Davis and then Hastings College of the Law, Myra was appointed to defend her first case for the PDP in 1973. During the 42 years that she has defended the indigent people of San Mateo County, Myra has handled virtually every kind of criminal case, including many special circumstance homicide trials and death penalty cases. Myra has a special interest in representing veterans, clients whose cases are related to mental health issues, including people involuntarily confined to mental hospitals under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, and those who have been found “not guilty” by reason of insanity. Myra is a member of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s American Council of Chief Defenders, CACJ, and CPDA.