Government Code Section 27706 Interpretation

Government Code section 27706 provides: "The public defender shall perform the following duties: "(a) Upon request of the defendant or upon order of the court, the public defender shall defend, without expense to the defendant, except as provided by Section 987.8 of the Penal Code, any person who is not financially able to employ counsel and who is charged with the commission of any contempt or offense triable in the superior or municipal courts at all stages of the proceedings, including the preliminary examination. the public defender shall, upon request, give counsel and advice to such person about any charge against the person upon which the public defender is conducting the defense, and shall prosecute all appeals to a higher court or courts of any person who has been convicted, where, in the opinion of the public defender, the appeal will or might reasonably be expected to result in the reversal or modification of the judgment of conviction." In Littlefield v. Superior Court (1993) 18 Cal. App. 4th 856, 860 22 Cal. Rptr. 2d 659 (Littlefield), the Second District Court of Appeal held, interpreting Government Code section 27706, that the trial court is not empowered to appoint the public defender to serve as standby counsel and therefore the public defender may not be so appointed. The court concluded: "The court's authority in appointing the public defender is limited to appointments to defend a person charged with a crime, or at least to assist in the defense of such person. A standby counsel represents no one. Like an understudy in a play, his or her task is to wait in readiness to play a role should the occasion arise. Standing by is not defending." (18 Cal. App. 4th at p. 860.)