Public Defender Seeks Supervisors’ Approval to Fill Essential Positions

San Francisco – The Public Defender had previously submitted a request to the Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office to allow the hiring of several attorneys and paralegals, which the Mayor rejected.  Under the City Charter, the Public Defender may appeal the Mayor’s decision to the Board of Supervisors.

Adachi said he had specifically requested that Mayor allow him to fill seven vacant positions to replace staff that had left or retired from the office.  Adachi also noted that in the past six months, the Mayor’s office had approved over 200 hires for the District Attorney, Police, Sheriff, Probation departments and the Court.  “It creates a huge imbalance in the system when the Mayor liberally hires police, prosecutors and sheriffs, but no public defenders.”

Adachi also said that it would cost the city more not to fill vacant positions in his department, since he would be forced to refer cases to private attorneys at a greater cost to the city.  “I’ve been saying for many months that it is penny wise and pound foolish to continue to cut public defenders while paying private attorneys to handle the cases that we can’t because we don’t have the staff.”  A Controller’s Study, issued in July, found that Adachi’s public defenders had caseloads which exceeded the number of cases that a public defender should be handling by 50%, and that his lawyers were working 60 hour weeks to keep up with their caseloads.  Adachi estimated that he would have to refuse about 1,500 cases this year without the staffing requested, noting that he had already declined representation for about 300 people since July.

“I know that our work is not always popular, but it is necessary to ensure that innocent people are not convicted of crimes they did not commit and that the 28,000 people we are assigned to represent each year are properly represented,” Adachi said. 

Adachi said that Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi had agreed to introduce a resolution to fill the vacant positions at Tuesday’s Board hearing.  The resolution is expected to be heard on November 4, 2009, in the Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee.  

Text of Resolution