Public Defender Still Showing Up Every Day at Community Justice Center, 'Keeping Streets Safe From Perfume'

Jeff at BMAGIC event.jpg
Richard Bui
Jeff Adachi claims he's doing the work of three men
Jeff Adachi is walking through the Polk Street doors of the city's new Community Justice Center every day. The folks he's supposed to represent? Not as often.

For the last two weeks -- in what is, depending upon whom you believe, either a theatrical thumbing of his nose at Mayor Gavin Newsom, a staffing necessity, or, perhaps a little of both -- San Francisco's public defender has been personally handling cases at the new CJC, a pet project of the mayor's. He's also doing this while engaging in a running feud with the mayor by refusing to trim his department's budget by 25 percent.

Adachi said that, on most days, around one defendant of the five or so charged will show up -- though, yesterday, six of 18 did so (it was a big day). "Right now the crime of the hour seems to be shoplifting at Sephora. So, we are keeping the streets safe from perfume."

The public defender said he was confused by some of the cases he's overseen -- "Some involve unprovable charges ... like a theft case where the person didn't leave the store. These are cases that probably wouldn't see the light of day at the Hall of Justice. So people either don't show up or, when they do, the case is thrown out."

Countering a rumor ricocheting around the Internet, Adachi said his personal appearances do not cost the CJC -- or the city -- more than if he sent a less experienced, lower-paid attorney. "I am not 'billing' the CJC for my time," he added. In fact, he claims, he's doing the work of three attorneys -- his own job plus that of the two he says Newsom promised him to run the CJC.

Last week, Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard told SF Weekly Adachi's persistent claim that the mayor reneged on a promise of a pair of attorneys was "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."

Adachi yesterday sent several documents indicating a pair of public defenders for CJC had gone through extensive rounds of budgeting and was something city officials assured him would happen. You can read a set of e-mails here:


And here's an excerpt from a budget analyst's report below:


If Ballard could still deny the mayor promised the public defender two attorneys "I'll put up one day's pay and a round of his favorite brew!" challenged Adachi.

Ballard, meanwhile, responded that no promise had been made except for office space at CJC -- which has been provided.

"Sorry, I can't accept the wager," he continued. "That might get me in trouble with the law."

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