Greg Paraskou, Santa Barbara County’s Public Defender for the past half-decade, is retiring October 1 after an “absolutely marvelous” career.
Being the Public Defender, in charge of an office which provides legal counsel for people facing criminal charges but can’t afford an attorney, is often no easy task. The office doesn’t always represent the most favorable clientèle, but Paraskou, as an administrator, has worked to keep staffing and resources at a level so his attorneys can give “quality, top-notch representation to each client.” The tough financial times and competition for funds has made that tough. But he also credits the board of supervisors in this county, which he said has always acknowledged and respected the concept of equal law.
Paraskou went to law school at the University of California Hastings Law School with the intention of being a defense attorney, particularly for capital cases. “Before I was in high school, that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. And that’s what he’s done his whole life. He was recruited to the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office by Rose Bird, who went on to become the first female chief justice of the California Supreme Court, and who Paraskou called a “wonderful mentor.”
Paraskou came to Santa Barbara after working as a trial attorney in Santa Clara County for 28 years. He worked for five or so years as assistant public defender to Jim Egar, and, after spending time as interim public defender, has been in the department’s top spot for the last three. “He assumed a leadership role at a crucial and difficult time,” said 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal. “He’s been able to navigate that ship in a positive direction. He’s done a good, steady, consistent, and extraordinary job as a Public Defender.”
He’s going out with a bang, having finally gotten a remodel project going on the Public Defender’s antiquated office space in the County Courthouse. He’s been working for more than six years to get it remodeled, and the supervisors finally got the project going. Fencing is up, and a couple weeks ago the South County crew just moved out of their space at the historic county courthouse, and into rental space at 1 East Anapamu while construction of the remodel is going on. Originally estimated to cost $5.5 million, bids came in under that price, and the county is taking advantage of economic times where construction costs are cheap.
Among previously mentioned accomplishments he’s proud of, Parskou said, was diversifying the office, and staffing the office with “dynamite lawyers.” He has overseen a staff of 32 attorneys, along with even more support staff, and a budget of around $9 million.
Paraskou, who turned 65 a couple of weeks ago, doesn’t have any good reason for retiring, he said: “It just feels like the right time.” He’s leaving with mixed feelings, because he loves his job and he knows he’ll miss it. He doesn’t have any grand retirement plans, but does plan to keep visiting his brother in Paris. His wife and he will continue to live in Santa Ynez, but it’ll take some adjustment to get used to the retired life. “It’ll be the first time in 60 years there will be no structure in my life,” he said.