SF Public Defender Calls Mayor’s Budget Cuts Shortsighted

San Francisco, CA – San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said on Monday that the Mayor’s proposed $1.9 million cut to the Public Defender’s Office will cost the city millions more in the years ahead and take an unnecessary toll on poor people in the justice system.

“The Mayor’s proposed budget cut is shortsighted because it will cost the city millions more in the long run. I do not control the number of criminal cases that are filed. The Mayor has left me with no choice but to outsource thousands of cases to private attorneys,” Adachi said.

Adachi warned that Mayor Newsom’s proposed budget cut would force him to lay off 12-15 attorneys and would require him to withdraw from representing as many as 6,000 clients in the coming fiscal year. Because legal representation for poor people accused of a crime is constitutionally mandated, the city is required to cover the cost of outsourcing cases to private counsel. “I estimate the cost of outsourcing these cases to private attorneys at between $3 and $4 million per year, which is more than the $1.9 million the city would save by cutting our budget,” he said.

Adachi also warned that cutting his staff would increase other costs to the city. “When a city doesn’t provide adequate resources to public defenders, it ends up paying for trial delays, extended incarceration, appeals, and even costly lawsuits brought by the wrongfully convicted. These inefficiencies tie up money that should be used on San Francisco’s other pressing needs, like healthcare, housing and education.”

Adachi’s office of 93 deputy public defenders and 70 support staff handle over 24,000 cases each year. Individual public defenders handle as many as 200 misdemeanor cases at any given time or 50-70 felony cases. According to Adachi, the office is currently contending with a dramatic increase in the representation of defendants facing serious criminal charges, including a 35 percent increase in homicide and other serious felony cases.

Adachi will appear before the Board of Supervisors on June 18 and 25 to advocate for the restoration of the Public Defender’s Office budget.

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.

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