About the Public Defender's Office

Keri Klein

Keri Klein is the Public Defender for Nevada County. She has served in that position since February of 2016. Prior to that, she was the Assistant Public Defender for Nevada County. She joined the office in 2007, after spending several years as a deputy public defender in Yolo County. Before entering the field of indigent defense, Keri had a private criminal defense practice in San Francisco.

She graduated with her law degree and litigation certificate from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1995. She received her bachelor of arts degree from UC Irvine's School of Social Ecology in Law and Society in 1992.

Outside of her employment, Keri is involved with the legislation committee for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and is the co-leader of her daughter's Girl Scout Troop. She gives continuing education seminars on plea negotiations and ethics related topics and has been a faculty member for the California Public Defenders' Association Trial Skills Institute since 2005.

In addition, Keri is an active member of several legal organizations including the California Public Defenders' Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, The National Association of Public Defenders, Pacific Juvenile Defenders, and National Juvenile Defenders. She is a graduate of the Nevada County Community Leadership Institute and has received her credential from the California State Association of Counties (CSAC).

Keri is working towards modernizing the Public Defender's Office through the use of technology, performance guidelines and the implementation of best practices. She is proud of her staff and how they have embraced the idea of recidivism reduction through a client-centered approach of representation.

This approach combines aggressive advocacy in court with the acknowledgement that many poverty stricken people who are arrested and charged with crimes have other challenges with which they struggle, from housing, to addiction, to mental illness, to lack of employment, to under employment and lack of sufficient education. Keri and her staff support the idea that if they can start to address the underlying issues which drive people into the criminal justice system, they can obtain better case and life outcomes for their clients and their community.

I grew to like to defend men and women charged with crime... I was dealing with life, with its hopes and fears, its aspirations and despairs. With me it was going to the foundation of motive and conduct and adjustments for human beings, instead of blindly talking of hatred and vengeance, and that subtle, indefinable quality that men call 'justice' and of which nothing really is known.
~ Clarence Darrow

Susan Leff

Susan Leff is the Assistant Public Defender for Nevada County.
  Susan is the first lawyer in her family.  She dedicated her career to helping others through advocating for indigent defendants, prosecuting rogue police officers, teaching law students and training other lawyers. Susan is a New York transplant who comes to us from San Francisco.  Most recently, she was an Adjunct Law Professor at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, where she taught Criminal Litigation, Trial Advocacy, the Criminal Litigation Clinic and was previously the Acting Director of Externships. She has been a deputy public defender in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Napa and San Francisco counties. While at the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, she began a police practice project and trained new lawyers in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment, all while carrying a full felony caseload, including homicides.  She received an award in recognition of her contributions in the area of police practice.

In 2004, she worked at the San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints (now the Department of Police Accountability), where she exclusively investigated and administratively prosecuted police officers. After leaving that job, she opened her own law practice specializing in police misconduct issues.  She conducts numerous trainings on identifying and handling police misconduct for attorneys and other criminal defense professionals throughout California.  She received the National Defense Investigator’s Association 2011 Profiles in Courage Award in recognition of her dedication and professionalism in training criminal defense professionals and her willingness to speak truth in the face of adversity. 

In addition, since 2012, Susan has served as co-coordinator of and a presenter at the annual California Public Defenders’ Association (CPDA) Basic Trial Skills Program. Currently she is on the Board of Directors for CPDA and is working on legislative policing issues.