L.A.’s Public Defender Pick Draws Criticism

Nicole Davis Tinkham was appointed Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to head the oldest public defender’s office in the nation on a six-month basis. But, as this report from the L.A. Times makes clear, Tinkham shouldn’t expect a warm welcome when she gets there.

Before the board’s vote, six attorneys in the public defender’s office spoke in opposition to Tinkham’s appointment. More than half of the office’s public defenders (390 out of 650) also signed a letter questioning her nomination, according to deputy public defender Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes.

Those who spoke out say Tinkham has no relevant criminal law experience. Moreover, they point to a number of cases in which she represented police officers, suggesting she may have a conflict of interest.

Tinkham currently works as deputy county counsel in the Government Services Division. She was employed for five years prior at the law firm of Collins Collins Muir + Stewart LLP in Pasadena, where she “provided litigation, transactional and advisory services to small and large private clients and to public entities, including the County,” according to L.A.’s Chief Executive Officer Sachi A. Hamai

L.A. County has been searching for a permanent public defender since Ron Brown retired over a year ago. Chief Deputy Public Defender Kelly Emling took over Brown’s duties when he left. She was then succeeded by Acting Chief Deputy Jenny Brown.

L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl defended Tinkham’s appointment last week, saying the new interim public defender would "help bring much needed stability” to the office. Kuehl added that the board is also considering an audit to review some of the challenges facing the county’s public defenders.