Sunday, July 29, 2007 · by Richard Bui
San Francisco, CA – San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today that the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee has recommended a $23.7 million budget for the Public Defender’s Office for fiscal year 2007-08, a $1.4 million increase from fiscal year 2006-07. This comes after Mr. Adachi appeared before the Committee last Wednesday to advocate for additional funding to improve client services and expand administrative capacity.
“This year we really wanted to build our office capacity and level of professionalism,” says Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “We have long been without the administrative support needed to carry out our core functions. In particular, the additions of a human resources manager and an office manager will help us realize new efficiencies and will help equip the office with the resources needed in the years ahead.”
Due to a projected $25 million citywide budget deficit, San Francisco departments were initially asked to submit plans to reduce their budgets by 3%. However, the Public Defender’s Office was successful in not only resisting cuts, but in obtaining the following additional resources:
- Expert Witness Funding: The Public Defender’s expert witness fund was allocated $100,000, a 25% increase from last year. In recent years, the Office’s expert witness fund has remained constant, while the demands of its practice have increased its use of experts. Historically, deputy public defenders had to seek expert witness funding from judges, who often denied their requests. The Office now maintains its own expert witness fund in order to alleviate the need to draft and file written ex-parte motions every time an expert is needed.
- Behavioral Health Court: The Public Defender’s Office will hire one attorney and one paralegal to represent indigent individuals in Behavioral Health Court, an alternative treatment-based court for clients who suffer from severe mental illness. When the court started in 2003, both the District Attorney and Public Defender offices agreed to provide part-time attorneys as part of a pilot program. However, this is the first time the Public Defender’s Office will receive funding specifically designated for the court.
- Investigation Unit: The Public Defender’s Office will hire one senior investigator. The Office has increased the number of attorneys from 70 to 93 over the past 4 years, causing an increase in workload for investigators. Currently, the Office has six attorneys assigned to each investigator.
- Youth Led Initiatives: The Public Defender’s Office will receive additional funding for its MAGIC program to expand work on youth-led initiatives. The MAGIC program is a collaboration of youth and family agencies that works to create positive outcomes for disadvantaged youth. The additional funding will be used to create a teen-council component to enhance MAGIC community mobilization efforts.
- Administration: The Public Defender’s Office will hire a human resource manager and an office manager. These positions are entirely new to the Public Defender’s Office, which has long lacked sufficient administrative capacity to support its functions.
- Technology: The Public Defender’s Office will enjoy a $169,800 boost to enhance its technological capability, which will allow the Office to reduce administrative costs and increase overall efficiency.
The success of the Public Defender’s Office in obtaining a recommendation for additional funding is the result of its tireless advocacy and dedication to building the resources needed to provide their clients with top-notch legal representation. The final budget is scheduled for approval on July 17, 2007.
The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.