May 18, 2024


Future Depends on What You Do

6 Inquiries with Alumna and Santa Clara County General public Defender Cesilia Fernandez

Cesilia Fernandez (Spanish, Worldwide Relations, ’11) is very pleased to notify folks that her task is one particular of the only positions shown in the U.S. Constitution (by means of the Sixth Amendment). As a public defender, she often meets individuals on the worst working day of their lives, and she is effective really hard to support her shoppers acknowledge that their life really do not have to be defined by their current predicament.  

Fernandez is a very first-era Mexican American, and she was the initially individual in her household to graduate from substantial university and attend university. She credits Chico Point out for getting ready her to desire huge. Right after earning twin bachelor levels, she labored as a legal assistant to a general public defender, exactly where she produced a passion for prison justice reform that drove her to go after a legislation diploma at Golden Gate College. She sees her work as a way to serve her local community and fulfill a essential require. 

When did you know you wanted to develop into an attorney? 

The University’s Analyze Abroad system helped me land an internship at a nonprofit lawful clinic throughout the year I used in Madrid as an undergraduate. I labored specifically with attorneys supporting folks facing deportation, and I had the chance to sit in on client interviews and hear their stories about coming to Spain from Morocco. The two countries are so shut that it’s not dissimilar from Mexico and California. A great deal of the immigrants’ tales of battle, poverty, and the wish to give their little ones a greater lifetime reminded me of my individual family’s story. I was quite influenced. 

The minute I returned to Chico Point out, I altered my whole route. I began to determine out what I needed to do to go to legislation school, achieving out to advisors within both equally my personal majors and the lawful experiments section, and wondering about the LSAT and the path to turning out to be a law firm. 

As I approached graduation, I sent emails to every legal professional I could come across in Chico. I stated my background and my curiosity in the field. I requested for a career-shadowing function so I could determine out if this was something I wished to go after, and the reaction was overwhelmingly beneficial. Ryan Lamb, who nevertheless is effective as a defense attorney in Chico, satisfied me and hired me on the location. I finished up managing his legislation organization for two several years. 

From your expertise as a public defender, where does the criminal justice system require to be reformed the most? 

It is critical to have mental overall health experts responding at the scene together with police officers. There have been so quite a few circumstances that have landed on my desk in which the defendant should not have been charged with a crime. As a substitute, these people really should have been taken to hospitals so they could be evaluated and get mental health products and services. 

Appropriate now, I work in the juvenile division. Juvenile regulation starts off with the premise that the place of our method is to rehabilitate. It is made to give these juveniles instruments and counseling so they can correctly reenter the group and move on with their life. If we could take that design and implement it to grown ups, we could view the prison justice process as a way of offering folks sources to guarantee they occur out of their legal situation with the expertise to discover careers. That would go a lengthy way to addressing the repeat-offender problems we currently have. 

How did your double-key get ready you for law college and your occupation? 

In my workplace at the Santa Clara general public defender’s workplace, we have 200 legal professionals, and you can depend on 1 hand how several of us are indigenous speakers of Spanish. That is concerning—we are in a county with a huge Hispanic group. My mothers and fathers only spoke Spanish at home, but my mother and father have 2nd and sixth grade educations. The Spanish I uncovered at household was not the formal Spanish I acquired at Chico Point out, which prepared me for my occupation.   

Mainly because of my diploma, I can connect with customers in numerous techniques that my colleagues are not able to. Although I’m conveying what is going on in their scenario and what the next methods are, I don’t require any individual in the place with me to translate. My important in Spanish has assisted hundreds of people and it launched my profession. I know my resume stood out due to the fact I had a degree in Spanish.  

Cesilia Fernandez wears a college graduation gown with stoles draped over her left arm.

What guidance do you have for pupils taking into consideration majoring in romance languages? 

I majored in a romance language and I was not confident what I was going to do next. I experienced a professor, Sarah Anderson, who I was extremely near to and soon after just one examination, she wrote, “Are you certain you really do not want to go after a PhD in Spanish?” I kept that simply because it was so inspiring. I beloved my two majors—I adore mastering about unique cultures and languages. It grew to become my passion, and I would under no circumstances tell any university student not to stick to their passion. At the very same time, feel about how that passion, what ever it might be, can you enable you find a related vocation. My enthusiasm led me to touring overseas, which led to an curiosity in law, which finally opened the door to my job.   

How is your job different than what men and women see on Television set or in films? 

As with most features of the justice system, what you see on Television is fairly unique than truth. Community defenders have a big workplace with a ton of assets and obtain to many good authorized minds. And, they are very certified. In my office environment, I have to go via specific ordeals just before I can contact certain types of circumstances. We go by concentrations, encounter, and training to make certain lawyers operate on instances that in good shape their skills. There are no stipulations like that with personal lawyers, and numerous clientele retain the services of lawyers who are not the most effective in shape for their situation. 

Also, general public defenders are in the trenches each and every day. I regulate an total daily calendar at courtroom, which suggests I know just about every choose, each trial lawyer, and each bailiff, and I have developed those associations. This is a large benefit for consumers because I can consider presented plea offers and other facets of the scenario.  

And finally, personal attorneys will cost a good deal of funds to go to trial, so lots of purchasers really do not consider their situation to trial mainly because of monetary good reasons. Public defenders go to trials more normally. And our business will fork out for specialist witnesses at no value to the client. Whenever I have a customer who is contented, I explain to them to go residence and notify their close friends and loved ones to help remove the stigma designed by these movies and Television set shows. 

What are some ways university pupils can follow impactful social justice advocacy? 

It’s pretty vital to vote in neighborhood elections. It is very important everyone—including students—know who their nearby DA and sheriff are and what is occurring in the local community. Learners also should get involved in regional corporations that aid what is crucial to them. For example, if a university student values a woman’s proper to select, there are a lot of tranquil corporations they can perform with. Chico State students are privileged because the local community has many companies that need to have our help. There are shelters for women of all ages and youngsters, and there are shelters that cater to veterans. Yet another terrific way to make an impression on the system is to do the job with an organization that assists people today who require assist expunging their criminal file so they can get again on track and discover careers yet again.