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SANTA CLARA’S PD RETIRES AMID CHANGES Jose Villarreal, Santa Clara County’s public defender whose office in recent years endured the departures of several key personnel and debilitating budget conditions, announced this week he will resign. “As I indicated to my staff, it’s a combination of factors, the principal one being I’m reaching that age,” Villarreal said. “I’m 60, I’ve been here 10 years, and I’ve decided to move on.” Villarreal, who will leave the office July 1, said he has no immediate plans. “I’m pursuing other endeavors,” he said. “I may do some volunteer work, I may work for other foundations. � I’m really not seeking employment, but at the same time, I will be not become a couch potato.” Villarreal’s arrival in Santa Clara in 1995 was met with hostility. Some critics in the public defender’s office pointed to the fact that Villarreal, considered an outsider because he was working in Fresno at the time, took the bar exam 10 times before he passed. Born in Mexico, Villarreal attended public schools in San Jose and earned his law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1974. He previously worked for the San Jose Human Relations Commission, the city’s Redevelopment Agency and the California Rural Legal Assistance Program. Before serving as Santa Clara’s public defender, Villarreal served for eight years as Fresno’s public defender and spent seven years there as a deputy defender. His resignation puts the public defender’s office in a bit of a jam. The office suffered the departures of two long-term assistant defenders last year, and Assistant Public Defender David Mann retired last month. And then there are the shrinking budgets and a declining number of attorneys. Whoever takes of the job will have to “do more with less,” Villarreal said, noting that restructuring the office may be necessary. “There’s some operational needs there,” he said. Asked if he has a successor in mind, Villarreal said no. “I’m not going to get into that,” he said. “I think the decision has to be made by the [county Board of Supervisors].” — Warren Lutz

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