Barry Melton accepts county 'handshake' to deal with deficit
By Democrat staff and The Associated Press
Barry Melton went from playing at Woodstock to representing the poor
as the public defender in Woodland.
Now he's a casualty of the poor economy, taking early retirement to
spare younger attorneys from being laid off in Yolo County, west of
The 61-year-old Melton was "The Fish" in Country Joe and the Fish.
The Berkeley-based band became known for their anti-Vietnam War
The guitarist and singer more recently played at the 40th anniversary
of the Summer of Love in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 2007.
Melton says he became a lawyer to "rebel" against the system. Now
he's looking forward to playing more frequently with bandmates
including former members of the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the
Melton is one of 93 individuals throughout county government who will
be accepting a buyout as a way of offsetting an anticipated $24
million deficit seen for the fiscal 2009-10 year.
Among those also retiring is long-time Deputy District Attorney Ann
Hurd, who has been with the county for 23 years.
The result of losing those staffers is expected to save $2.6 million
for the next year, and 25 jobs.
Other so-called "golden handshakes" will be taking place among county
social service workers, where about 29 will be standing down. Another
43 positions in that department will be left vacant.
As for Melton, he has long been associated with the county. In 2007
he was recognized in the publication, Northern California Super
Lawyers, as being among the top 5 percent of Northern California
lawyers. The magazine featured Melton in a special section titled
"From the '60s to the Sixties" which highlighted his social activism
in the 1960s as the aquatic member of the band County Joe & The Fish
to his current role of public defender.
After the Summer of Love and Woodstock, despite never having attended
law school, Melton passed the bar and began his criminal defense
career with an internship in the San Francisco Public Defender's
office, followed by 12 years of criminal defense law practice in San
Francisco. He then served in the Mendocino County Public Defender's
Office before moving to the State Public Defender's Office in
Sacramento. Shortly after, Melton began his tenure with Yolo County
as Chief Deputy Public Defender, and quickly moved into the role of
Public Defender in 2000.
"Barry Melton is truly a Yolo County treasure," said then Yolo County
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Mariko Yamada. "He is at once
passionate and compassionate in his pursuit of justice, and he
personifies the title of Public Defender."
More recently, Melton has continued to expand the minds of those
around him with the Yolo County Public Defender's Office Intern
Training Academy. University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law
notes that this intern program is their school's highest rated
program, and consequently, has made it part of their presentation at
a national conference for law school internship coordinators.