Michelle Vasquez has been a Deputy Public Defender in Santa Clara County for 18 years. As an undergraduate at UCLA Michelle worked for the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, where her efforts focused on desegregating schools in Georgia. Michelle attended law school at Santa Clara University and was awarded the Justice John Paul Stevens Fellowship and the Distinguished Public Interest Student of the Year for her work with youth in the criminal justice system. She accepted a position at the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office in 2003. Michelle views public defense work as her life’s calling and has never worked as a lawyer in any other capacity. In her 18 years as a Deputy Public Defender Michelle has tried a wide variety of cases ranging from simple misdemeanors to complex felonies. Michelle has been a member of the Special Trials Unit since 2019, working exclusively on homicide cases. She is most proud of her work as lead attorney on the Three Strikes Reform Project where she secured the release of 22 men that had been previously sentenced to indeterminate life terms. Michelle recently became certified as a mindfulness in law teacher and she co-facilitates the Wise Warrior health and well-being program for her colleagues at the Public Defender’s office.