PJDC Stands With Solano County Defender’s Free Speech Rights

Solano County Deputy Alternate Public Defender Shelly Saini  compassionately advocates for her indigent clients, who are predominantly people of color.  In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Willie McCoy, Sean Monterrosa, and so many others, Ms. Saini, a woman of South Asian descent, decided to stand in solidarity with people of color everywhere by wearing a face mask with the words “ADO for Black Lives” across it, ADO for Alternate Public Defender Office.

While attempting to enter the downtown Fairfield jail to visit her client on June 24, 2020, Ms. Saini was confronted by a correctional sergeant who took issue with her mask. He questioned her right to visit her clients and then informed her that he would be filing a complaint with the county against her. The sergeant later contacted the Public Defender of Solano County, Elena D’Agustino, claiming that Ms. Saini’s mask amounts to political activity barred by county policy, and expressed his intent to file a formal complaint.

At its core the statement “ADO for Black Lives” is about recognizing Black people are human beings and their lives have value. Yet a correctional sergeant took action against her for her expression of support for humanity, and used that to prevent her from doing her job of representing her clients.

Ms. Saini should be commended for her willingness to call attention to the persistence of anti-Black racism and the fact that violence and discrimination continue to threaten Black lives. PJDC stands in solidarity with Ms. Saini and affirm that black lives do indeed matter.