Public Defenders at Forefront of Reforms in 2014

San Francisco, CA — As the national mood shifted from “tough on crime” to “justice for all,” public defenders in 2014 led reforms in racial justice, education, immigration, and rehabilitation, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.

The year-end report of accomplishments and statistics was released this week in “The Art of Justice,” San Francisco Public Defender’s 2014 Annual Report and 2015 Calendar. The report is illustrated with the artwork of San Francisco Public Defender clients, employees and supporters.

“In 2014, our staff provided extraordinary legal representation for more than 20,000 people. We fought in the courtroom for reasonable bails, argued for treatment over incarceration, and fiercely guarded the right to due process,” Adachi said.

Public defenders also tackled injustice outside the courtroom, such as racial disparities in arrests and prosecutions, as well as unequal access to health, educational and housing resources.

As shootings of unarmed black men highlighted racial inequality nationwide, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office in 2014 partnered with a national research and policy hub to identify racial disparities in San Francisco’s criminal justice center and advance solutions locally. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Quattrone Center for Fair Administration of Justice will examine traffic stops, plea bargains, charging and sentencing throughout 2015.

In November, Californians rejected overcriminalization by passing a law to reduce nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors. San Francisco public defenders wasted no time implementing Proposition 47, helping 38 clients reduce their felony charges to misdemeanors, and helping 150 people terminate or reduce their probation. In addition, the Public Defender’s Clean Slate program assisted 5,202 law abiding citizens in cleaning up their old criminal convictions, giving them greater access to jobs, housing and college financial aid.

Other year-end accomplishments detailed in the report:

  • Securing acquittals in more than a third of the office’s 64 felony trials and 113 misdemeanor trials.
  • Hiring a full-time civil immigration attorney to help clients facing deportation.
  • Earning both national and local honors for keeping at-risk youth in school through its Legal Educational Advocacy Program. LEAP’s education attorney and youth advocate held 237 meetings with client families and made 525 school visits, resulting in no LEAP clients being expelled.
  • Linking hundreds of clients to treatment and services through the office’s social workers and collaborative courts.
  • Distributing more than 4,000 backpacks and school supplies to children and providing literacy and agency support through our community-based MAGIC programs.
  • Avoiding 772 “strike” convictions on behalf of clients facing felony charges.
  • Launching public affairs show “Justice Matters” to educate San Franciscans on their rights.

The annual report and calendar was not printed at public expense and is available, free, to the public at the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, 555 Seventh St. The document can be can be accessed here.