I have known Patti Lee for over thirty years as a friend, co- worker, and "boss”. (It drives her crazy when I call her that because she is so innately egalitarian.) I have worked with her on many difficult and complex cases and watched how she becomes a " mom" for her clients. I have also collaborated with, and  observed her developing innovative policy, programs, and respectfully training / mentoring young attorneys as they start out in their careers as juvenile defenders. 

Patti has become an inspiring leader for the office that she supervises, fellow pacific juvenile defenders, and the entire nation. She never gives up and is the most hardworking and committed public defender that I know!  Patti remains a " true believer" and fights hard for the kids, tempering her outrage with grace, and a wicked sense of humor.  Her creativity and ability to think outside the box further makes her invaluable in the field. Patti is one of a kind, her contributions are so numerous and important…..the good news is that she doesn't believe in retirement.  Thank you Patti for all you have done…you are the perfect recipient for this award. 

Please read more about Patti’s award below:

Deputy Public Defender Patricia Lee, who transformed San Francisco’s Juvenile Justice system into a national model of rehabilitation and innovation, has been honored with the Robert E. Shepherd Jr. Leadership Award from the National Juvenile Defender Center.

The national award honors excellence in juvenile defense. Shepherd was a leader in legal advocacy on behalf of children and families. Lee, who manages the San Francisco Public Defender’s Juvenile Unit, was awarded the honor Oct. 28 at the National Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit in Atlanta.

“Patti Lee’s tireless advocacy over the past 30 years has changed the lives of countless children and youth,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “When she was hired in 1981, San Francisco had one of the highest rates of sending youth to state lockups. We now have the lowest rate of any county in California.”

Lee’s pioneering strategies have included the use of social workers and educational attorneys. She is also a reformer shaping policy on a state and national level, serving as co-director of the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center and a founding member of the Center for Young Women’s Development.

Lee said she was grateful to the National Juvenile Defender Center.

“I am incredibly honored. Just as meaningful as the award is the recognition and support from the warriors and heroes in the juvenile defense community,” she said.  “I share this honor with my colleagues in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center, the National Juvenile Defender Center, and juvenile defenders around the nation who fight the daily battle to ensure fairness and justice for our most vulnerable and underserved youth and families.”