From Delhi to San Francisco, Public Defense

BU Law student makes a legal connection

The slide show above shows images of Anuj Khetarpal’s work with public defender attorneys in India.

Anuj Khetarpal is working in the Bay Area this summer, pursuing a passion: Khetarpal (LAW’10) is a legal intern at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, helping represent defendants as part of the felony-homicide unit.

He finds the work challenging and fulfilling, and he came to it from a most unusual, international context. In the summer of 2008, Khetarpal traveled to India through Boston University School of Law’s Public Interest Project (PIP) to expand his horizons and pursue an interest in international law. As part of that work, he was exposed to what might be called a manifesto, a call to arms known as the “Defender’s Credo.”

“The Defender’s Credo was a promise that we had all the public defenders recite at the beginning and the end of the conference,” he remembers, “to allow them to see what they’re working toward.”

It goes like this:
I am a public defender.
I am the guardian of the presumption of innocence, due process, and fair trial …
Let none who oppose me forget that, with every fiber of my being, I will fight for my clients.
My clients are the indigent accused. They are lonely, the friendless.
My voice will be raised in their defense.
I will resolve all doubt in their favor.
This will be my credo … and upon my death if there are a few lonely people who have benefited, my efforts will not have been in vain.

Khetarpal spent three months working with International Bridges to Justice, an independent, nonprofit organization, as well as with members of the San Francisco public defender’s office he has now joined, to improve the public defender system in India. A focal point of the work was a conference Khetarpal helped organize, bringing attorney together from across the country.

“We really challenged the lawyers to communicate with each other,” he recalls. “We wanted to make sure they realize what an important job they’re doing, that it isn’t just charity but a valuable service to society. In India, you see poverty everywhere you go, which is why this conference was so crucial.”

The effort reverberated, as did the realization that poverty, and people in dire legal straits, are not solely international realities.

“I was really inspired to come back to the United States and do some of that work myself,” says Khetarpal. This summer he’s “had the opportunity to be in court almost daily, interviewing clients, speaking to judges in chambers, and arguing in court. I even won my first motion!”

Devon Maloney can be reached at

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From Delhi to San Francisco, Public Defense

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