Jeff Adachi
Jeff Adachi
jeff adachi, jeff adachi bar breaker.
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Jeff Adachi
Jeff Adachi (29 August 1959 - 22 February 2019) was the elected Public Defender of San Francisco, a pension reform advocate, and a candidate for Mayor

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Jeff AdachiSan Francisco Public DefenderIncumbentAssumed office
January 10, 2003Preceded byKimiko Burton Personal detailsBorn(1959-08-29)August 29, 1959
SacramentoDiedFebruary 22, 2019(2019-02-22) (aged 59)
San FranciscoNationalityAmericanPolitical partyDemocratSpouse(s)Mutsuko AdachiChildren1EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (B.A.)
University of California, Hastings (J.D.)ProfessionLawyer
PoliticianWebsitePublic Defender website

Jeff Adachi (29 August 1959 - 22 February 2019) was the elected Public Defender of San Francisco, a pension reform advocate, and a candidate for Mayor of San Francisco.

  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Legal career
  • 3 Professional activities and recognition
  • 4 Pension reform advocacy
  • 5 San Francisco mayoral candidacy
  • 6 Film credits
  • 7 Death
  • 8 Sources
  • 9 External links
Early life and education

Adachi is the son of a Sacramento auto mechanic and a laboratory assistant. His parents and grandparents spent part of World War II in the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas.[1] Adachi was a notably poor student at C.K. McClatchy High School with numerous absences due to the many hours he spent on his part-time jobs. He attended Sacramento City College before transferring. Adachi received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1981 and his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1985.[1]

Legal career

Adachi began his career as a deputy public defender for fifteen years with the San Francisco Public Defender's Office. He ultimately rose to the rank of chief attorney of the office and served in that capacity for three years. Adachi has tried over 100 jury trials and handled 3,000 criminal matters during his career.[2]

In 2001, Kimiko Burton-Cruz, the daughter of then State Senator John Burton, was appointed Public Defender by Mayor Willie Brown. After taking office, Burton-Cruz forced Adachi out on her first day on the job, apparently for political reasons.[3] The following year, Adachi ran against Burton-Cruz for her position and defeated her by a 55%–45% margin. Since then Adachi has been re-elected twice, both times running unopposed.

Adachi was featured in the 2002 PBS documentary Presumed Guilty, a film about the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, its difficult cases and complex defense strategies.

Adachi is the only elected Public Defender in the state of California and runs an office of more than 100 attorneys and 60 staff members. The office's 2018-19 budget is $37.6 million.[4] According to estimates, the office represents over 23,000 people each year who are charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses. The office is known for several innovative criminal justice programs, including Drug Court, Clean Slate expungement services, and a full-service juvenile division.[2] In 2017, Adachi launched an Immigration Unit to represent undocumented immigrants locked in detention facilities and facing deportation. It is the third jurisdiction to offer legal representation for immigrant detainees in removal proceedings.[5] New York City and Alameda County have similar programs.

Adachi was a frequent police misconduct watchdog[6][7][8] and bail reform [9] advocate.[10]

Professional activities and recognition

Adachi was previously the president of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area and the San Francisco Japanese American Citizen's League, in addition to serving as a board member of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the San Francisco Bar Association.[2] At the national level, Adachi was a member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigents and is a member of the National Board of Trial Advocacy.[2] Adachi served on the board of California Humanities until 2018 and currently serves as a board member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association for Public Defense.[11]

He is the author of a series of books[12] on passing the bar exam, including the Bar Exam Survival Kit, Bar Breaker, the MBE Survival Kit and the First Year Law School Survival Kit. He was a BAR/BRI bar review professor for over 20 years.

In 1995, he founded the Asian American Arts Foundation to help emerging artists. The foundation and produced one of the first Asian American awards programs, the Golden Ring Awards, which honored artists such as Chow Yun-Fat, Joan Chen, Oliver Stone and John Woo. The foundation awarded over $100,000 in grants.[13]

Adachi has received several accolades for his tenure as Public Defender. In chronological order, Adachi has received: the California State Bar Association's Hufstedler Award for public service; the Asian American Bar Association's Joe Morozumi Award for exceptional legal advocacy; the Mayor's Fiscal Advisory Committee's Managerial Excellence Award; the California Public Defender Association's Program of the Year Award; the American Bar Association's national award for excellence in public defense; and the California Lawyer Attorney of the Year award (CLAY) for his work in the field of prisoner reentry; the National Legal Aid and Defender Association's Reginald Heber Smith Award; Vanguard CourtWatch's Elected Official of the Year award; and the Elected Official Award for transparency from the Northern California chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists.[2]

He is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law (the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization) and a former Certified Specialist in Criminal Trial Advocacy (National Board of Trial Advocacy).

Pension reform advocacy

In 2010, Adachi placed "Proposition B" on the ballot, which would have required employees to increase the level of their contribution to defray the cost of both their pension and health care benefits.[14] Proposition B was defeated, having faced significant opposition from unions and elected officials.[15][16]

In 2011, Adachi has again placed a charter amendment on the ballot – "Proposition D"—which would require all employees to pay a base contribution rate towards their pension costs, require higher-earning employees to contribute an additional amount based on their salary level, cap the maximum size of pensions, and eliminate abusive and wasteful practices such as "pension spiking."[17] In response to criticisms leveled at Proposition B, Adachi's new plan exempts the lowest-paid workers from any cost increases, uses a progressive income scale to determine contributions, and does not require any health care contributions. According to the City Controller, Proposition D would save San Francisco as much as $142 million a year, and $1.6 billion over the next ten years. Mayor Ed Lee has offered a competing plan – "Proposition C"—which would similarly require employees to contribute at a higher level to their pensions, but also requires contributions to cover health care costs. Proposition C is projected to save the city an estimated $1.29 billion over the next ten years.

His campaign has been opposed by the police and firefighter unions, as his pension reform plan would require them to contribute more to their own retirement pensions. When Adachi went to pay his respects at the June, 2011 funeral services honoring San Francisco firefighters, Lt. Vincent Perez and Anthony Valerio who were killed in a house fire in San Francisco's Diamond Heights neighborhood, he was asked to leave by a firefighter.[18] The Fire Chief was unaware that Adachi had been asked to leave and stated that everyone had the right to show their support and respect, and that she did not support the request to leave.[18]

San Francisco mayoral candidacy

In August 2011, Adachi formally entered the race for Mayor of San Francisco.

After filing his papers Adachi stated, "I've decided to run for Mayor of San Francisco to restore integrity and financial accountability to the city." He then added, "It wasn't until I really listened to what the candidates were saying in the last few debates about pension reform that I became convinced that either the candidates don't get it or they don't want to get it, and I want to make sure that there's a voice in there talking about the fiscal realities of this city."[19] Adachi added, "This debate needs to be about what is best for the city, not about what is best for City Hall".[20]

Adachi declined public financing under the City's new public financing law, stating that although he believes in public financing, he did not feel it was right to take the $900,000 that each candidate could receive "at a time that we are cutting summer school for 10,000 kids because we don't have $1 million to pay for it." However, Adachi has agreed to abide by the voluntary spending limits contained in the new law.[21]

In addition to restoring fiscal integrity to San Francisco through saving the City $1.7 billion over the next decade, Adachi has proposed a job creation program by investing $40 million in micro-loans to small businesses, creating up to 15,000 new jobs and $1 billion of new economic activity. Adachi is also proposing reforming the business tax through elimination of the current payroll tax system, which discourages hiring of new workers, and replacing it with a new business tax based upon net business revenue.[22]

A cornerstone of Adachi's plan is improving education by providing additional funding from the City's reserve funds to restore summer school, which has been eliminated for the last two years because of the City's fiscal crisis.[23][24]

On October 12, 2011, the San Francisco Chronicle named Adachi one of the "3 S.F. Mayoral Candidates to Consider," stating: "Talk about courage. One of the city's most liberal politicians took on labor over the bedrock issue of pensions. He lost in his first attempt last year, but is back with a revised version after he wouldn't back a compromise measure also on the ballot. He's been unfairly vilified by much of the city's political establishment for daring to raise the pension problem that others preferred to ignore. His campaign shows he's more than a one-issue candidate. He has a clear grasp of a variety of issues ranging from homeless policies to taxes. His independence is unassailable."[25] He placed 6th out of 16 candidates.

Film credits

Adachi wrote, produced, and directed The Slanted Screen, a 2006 documentary film about stereotypical depictions of Asian males in American cinema. He also directed "You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story"[26][27] about Jack Soo, a Japanese American actor (well known for his role in Barney Miller) who took a Chinese name. In 2016, he made the film "Racial Facial," an eight minute history of racism in the U.S.[28] His 2017 documentary "Defender" won best documentary at the Independent Television Festival. The 70-minute piece followed a racially charged case tried by Adachi as well as an case handled by the office's fledgling immigration unit.[29]


Adachi passed away unexpectedly at age 59 on February 22, 2019.[30] He is believed to have suffered from a heart attack.[30]

  1. ^ a b "Presumed Guilty. Defenders. Adachi – PBS". Retrieved 19 September cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ a b c d e Leadership | San Francisco Public Defender's Office Archived 2011-04-17 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Bay News: Adachi Sworn Into Public Defender’s Office
  4. ^ "Mayor's Proposed Budget 2017-18 and 2018-2019" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Public Defender's immigration team hits a milestone — but there are so many miles yet to go - Mission Local". Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  6. ^ "SF cops allegedly caught in misconduct on video". SFGate. 2011-03-08. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  7. ^ "More SFPD Drug Cases Tossed Amid Surveillance Video Probe". 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  8. ^ "Deputies in SF beating video say they feared for their safety". Times Union. 2016-03-25. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  9. ^ "SF public defender challenges bail system". SFGate. 2017-10-26. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  10. ^ "SF releases more inmates ahead of trial after landmark bail reform decision". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  11. ^ "Jeff Adachi, San Francisco Public Defender | SF Public Defender". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  12. ^ "Survival Series Publishing Company". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  13. ^ "Woo, `Flower Drum Song' Stars to Get Golden Rings / Asian American Art Foundation awards". SFGate. 1997-10-09. Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  14. ^ San Francisco Pension Reform, Proposition B (November 2010) – Ballotpedia Archived September 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Defeat of Proposition B Cements Labor’s Power –
  16. ^ "S.F. Public Defender's Name Becomes Synonymous With Pension Reform Measure". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Pass SF Prop. C for down payment on pension reform". SFGate. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  18. ^ a b Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (June 12, 2011). "Jeff Adachi persona non grata at funeral". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  19. ^ Gordon, Rachel (August 13, 2011). "Jeff Adachi jumps into S.F. mayor's race". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  20. ^ Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (August 14, 2011). "Jeff Adachi could upend S.F. mayor's race". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  21. ^ Jeff Adachi on why he won't take public financing for mayor on YouTube
  22. ^ "". Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  23. ^ "". Archived from the original on 17 January 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  24. ^ "Web Exclusive: SF mayoral candidate Jeff Adachi". KALW. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  25. ^ "3 S.F. mayoral candidates to consider". SFGate. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  26. ^ "You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story". Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  27. ^ Asia Pacific Arts: More Stories from Jeff Adachi
  28. ^ "Racial Facial". CHOPSO. Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  29. ^ "'Defender' Wins Best Documentary at Film Fest | SF Public Defender". Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  30. ^ a b Sernoffsky, Evan; Johnson, Lizzie; Knight, Heather (February 22, 2019), "S.F. Public Defender Jeff Adachi dies", San Francisco Chronicle
External links
  • Official San Francisco Public Defender website
  • You Don't Know Jack on IMDB
  • Slanted Screen on IMDB
  • Adachi for Mayor website
  • Interview with SF Mayoral Candidate Jeff Adachi
Authority control
  • VIAF: 45960979
  • WorldCat Identities (via VIAF): 45960979



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