Public Defender Says Stint at Community Justice Center Is No Stunt -- Pledges to Return Every Day

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Jeff Adachi says see you at the CJC
It would raise eyebrows around the city if the fire chief grabbed a hose and doused a burning building, the planning director checked in for work behind the permitting counter, or the head of the Department of Public Works hosed human effluvia off city streets.

And, no doubt, the good folks in the mayor's office noticed when Public Defender Jeff Adachi showed up earlier this week at the fledgling Community Justice Center to personally handle cases. The PD repeated what he'd earlier told SF Weekly -- that the mayor's office promised him a "couple of attorneys" to staff the CJC -- a pet project of Mayor Gavin Newsom's -- but backed out of the deal and left Adachi holding the bag. Now Adachi tells us that his appearance at the CJC defending the minuscule trickle of folks cited for quality of life infractions who decide to show up was not a one-off. He returned yesterday, will be there today, and said he'll keep showing up for the long haul. This is the latest development in what SF Weekly likes to call Adachi's game of "budget chicken" with the mayor.

"If the mayor decides to give me the staff he promised, that'd be one way I could come back to my regular job. But I'm not waiting for the sky to open," Adachi said. "I just showed up for duty and did my job. That's what I was elected to do. I don't have the staff I was promised. So, you know, rather than jump ship, I did what I felt was the right thing to do and staffed the court myself."

Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard countered that Adachi's claim he was "promised" CJC staff is "Not true. Last year, before the economy's downward spiral, the Mayor anticipated that we would be able to fund more lawyers. But given our present fiscal situation, we can't."

Ballard continued that District Attorney Kamala Harris "Has worked with the mayor to meet her budget targets and she is doing more with less. The public defender should follow her example."

Don't count on it. Adachi noted that, specifically unlike the DA, his attorneys are assigned to specific courtrooms. If he were to move a lawyer handling misdemeanors over to the CJC, then "200 clients would be unrepresented." Hence his decision to jump into the fray.

Several times SF Weekly has noted that Adachi's theatrical tactics are showing up the mayor's office -- a rather thin-skinned bunch who don't enjoy being questioned in public. Once again we asked Adachi how this could possibly end well -- in short, Jeff, what are you thinking?

"You asked me that last time," he said with a laugh. "Keep asking me that question."

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