Leadership Team

Claudia Y. Bautista

Public Defender

Claudia Y. Bautista is the head Public Defender of Ventura County and is responsible for overseeing and managing all internal operations of the Public Defender’s Office.

Ms. Bautista joined the office on Christmas Eve 2001, serving as a Deputy Public Defender from 2001 to 2014, where she established herself as a dedicated advocate for the indigent of Ventura County. She litigated many cases including misdemeanors, serious felonies, three-strike cases, life-in-prison matters, and homicides. From 2014-2016, Ms. Bautista was promoted to Supervisor, overseeing the newly established realignment unit, supervision of calendar courts and specialty courts, while maintaining a limited caseload. In 2016, Ms. Bautista was promoted to Chief Deputy Public Defender managing the felony and probate units. In 2017, Ms. Bautista was promoted to Assistant Public Defender.

The Mexican born and Southern California native received her Bachelor of Arts from UCLA and her Juris Doctorate from University of Wisconsin Law. She is the recipient of the Richard Erwin Trial Attorney of the Year.

Ms. Bautista is devoted to leading both her colleagues and clients to success. She strives for a harmonious workplace, promoting inclusion, trust and collaboration, and focusing on shared strengths and priorities.

Paul Drevenstedt

Assistant Public Defender

Assistant Public Defender Paul Drevenstedt supervises the Admin/Fiscal, Investigation, and Misdemeanor Trial departments. He majored in Philosophy and Spanish at Georgia State University, studied law at Tulane University and Public Administration at Cal State Northridge. He began his legal career as a public defender in Lassen County and has been with the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office since 2006. He is recognized by the State Bar as a criminal law specialist. He lives in Ventura with his wife and two children.

Ayala Benefraim


Chief Deputy Ayala Benefraim oversees our Felony trial unit, Veteran’s Treatment Court, Law Student Interns and our Fresh Start program.  Ayala was born in Israel and moved to Ventura County as a child. She is the product of Ventura County schools and graduated from Oak Park High School.  Ayala was determined to become a public defender as early as her High School years and that remained her goal as she earned a BS in Philosophy from UCSB and her JD at California western school of law.  Ayala joined the Ventura County public defender’s office as a trial attorney in 2008. Throughout her career she has tried every type of criminal matter from Driving under the influence to murder and has a well-earned reputation for zealous representation of the indigent.  After 14 years in trial assignments Ayala became the Misdemeanor supervisor in 2022 and was promoted to Chief Deputy in 2023. 

Tim Quinn

Chief Deputy Public Defender
Tim Quinn is a native of Ventura County and graduate of the local high school. Tim graduated from UCSB in 1982 with a BA in psychology and from the University of Santa Clara law school in 1986. After a short stint at the Ventura County Public Defender Office Tim went to private practice criminal defense where he remained until 2013, when he returned to the Public Defender Office as a trial attorney. He became a Chief Deputy in 2018. Present duties include supervision of the misdemeanor trial team and coordination of the Franklin project.

Michael Rodriguez

Chief Deputy Public Defender

Michael Rodriguez is a Chief Deputy Public Defender. Mr. Rodriguez has been an attorney with the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office since August 2004.  He has tried numerous serious felony and misdemeanor cases, and worked in juvenile delinquency, drug court and mental health.

Prior to joining the Public Defender’s office, Mr. Rodriguez was the directing attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance’s Oxnard Basic Office where he managed a busy legal aid office while representing indigent clients in civil rights, landlord/tenant, public benefits and employment cases.   He was a legislative staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in Chicago, Illinois.  During this tenure at MALDEF he collaborated with Congressman Luis Gutierrez and then State Senator Barack Obama.

Mr. Rodriguez earned his Juris Doctorate from Pepperdine University School of Law in December 1990, and his Bachelor of Arts in political science from California State University, Northridge in May 1988.  He is a product of Ventura County public schools.  Michael Rodriguez is married and the proud father of three children.


Andre Nintcheff

Chief Deputy Public Defender

Andre Nintcheff is a Chief Deputy of the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office. He currently supervises the Felony Trial Team, Veteran’s Treatment Court, and the Sexually Violent Predator unit.

Mr. Nintcheff grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where miserable sports teams dominated his youth and prepared him for a life of adversity—a solid background to now tirelessly advocate for the voiceless and underserved. He studied Philosophy at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. After graduating college, he moved to Boston and worked briefly as a licensed stock trader before enrolling at Suffolk Law, where he graduated Cum Laude. During law school he volunteered at a legal clinic that provided legal services to homeless Vets and developed a passion for working with the homeless. Upon moving to California, Mr. Nintcheff continued fostering his passion for service by volunteering with the homeless through the Public Law Center in Orange County. There, he worked alongside employees of the Public Defender’s office and witnessed firsthand the impact their work had on underserved populations.

Larry Carlton

Chief investigator

Larry Carlton joined the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office in 1995.  Over the next 24 years, Mr. Carlton worked on behalf of public defender clients conducting intensive investigations in a wide variety of cases.  Ultimately, Mr. Carlton was promoted to Chief Investigator in 2017.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from California Lutheran University where he received Departmental Honors.  Mr. Carlton is a Licensed Private Investigator and a Certified Criminal Defense Investigator.

Aurora Lazaro

Administrative Services Director

Aurora Lazaro is the Public Defender’s Administrative Services Director.  She is a native of Ventura County, and joined the Public Defender’s office in 1994.  She has her certification in Business Management/Accounting and is responsible for managing all administrative and fiscal functions of the office.  She oversees the Clerical Unit and supervises the Administrative, Law Clerks and Paralegal Units. Ms. Lazaro brings years of experience and a vast knowledge of all aspects of the Public Defender’s Office.