In his fight for a slice of the city’s ever-shrinking budget pie Public Defender Jeff Adachi used a unique argument: that more money for his department equaled more for the city, and likewise a smaller budget and layoffs equaled a greater general fund imbalance.

How, you say? The city must pay for legal representation, and Adachi’s attorneys are at full capacity, he says. So, for every case the public defenders’ office turns away, the city must hire more costly, better-dressed private attorneys at a greater cost (2.5 times as much cost, according to former city public defender and Golden Gate University Law School dean emeritus Peter Keane).

That argument fell on deaf ears Wednesday, as legislation promising Adachi more allowance is stalled at the Board of Supervisors’ Budget Committee, which seemed less friendly than it has been in the past to Adachi’s plight.

More friendly, certainly, than has been Adachi’s experiences with Mayor Gavin Newsom, with whom Adachi has clashed publicly over both his reluctance to trim his staff and over the Community Justice Center. But Newsom will in the next month still have to sign off on extra spending caused by the lawyering outsourcing, and will have to find a cut somewhere in the budget to do it, according to City Controller Ben Rosenfield.

It’s like this: there’s a $3.2 million bill waiting at the Superior Court for the outsourced lawyer fees, a tab that’s only going to grow (Adachi asked for about $900,000 $640,000 to hire more staff, which he argued would ultimately save $1 million down the road, a figure the Budget Analyst Office disputes, although there is universal consensus that it would save some money). Adachi was turned down for his $640,000 ask in part because the Controller’s Office cannot certify that the city has the $640,000 or any other sum of money, including the $3.2 million bill that must be paid.

In other words, services will be cut and jobs will be lost to pay to represent those people that the police and District Attorney bring to court, and which services and whose jobs those will be is up to the Mayor.

“It’s a very tough position,” Rosenfield told the Appeal at today’s hearing. “The Mayor has a lot of very tough decisions to make.”

Indeed — this puts the Mayor in more of a political pickle than a fiscal one. Don’t think that Adachi won’t forget to tell which departments get the axe that — in his mind’s eye, anyway — their jobs or services could have been saved had someone, anyone listened to him.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • Greg Dewar

    It’s really amazing to see Avalos once again get played by Gavin Newsom. What is the point of electing a progressive if they just capitulate to the Mayor? I guess all Avalos really knows how to do is listen to his own voice. Shows once again why inexperienced people should not be elected, and most certainly shouldn’t be made budget committee chair when they are still on training wheels!

  • Greg Dewar

    It’s really amazing to see Avalos once again get played by Gavin Newsom. What is the point of electing a progressive if they just capitulate to the Mayor? I guess all Avalos really knows how to do is listen to his own voice. Shows once again why inexperienced people should not be elected, and most certainly shouldn’t be made budget committee chair when they are still on training wheels!

  • bloomsm

    @Greg:where is the Avalos/Newsom angle in this story because it’s not described well in Chris’ filing. The problem here is that the U.S. Constitution guarantees indigent defendants the right to a public defender, regardless of whether a given community can afford it or not (i.e., the U.S. Constitution mandates the attorney, but it provides no method of how a city or state should pay for it). In some communities, private lawyers literally survive on court-appointed public defense appointments (in federal courts, the hourly rate is about $75 per hour; not bad). Adachi’s not persuading anyone with his numbers or his logic. Time for a re-think.

  • bloomsm

    @Greg:where is the Avalos/Newsom angle in this story because it’s not described well in Chris’ filing. The problem here is that the U.S. Constitution guarantees indigent defendants the right to a public defender, regardless of whether a given community can afford it or not (i.e., the U.S. Constitution mandates the attorney, but it provides no method of how a city or state should pay for it). In some communities, private lawyers literally survive on court-appointed public defense appointments (in federal courts, the hourly rate is about $75 per hour; not bad). Adachi’s not persuading anyone with his numbers or his logic. Time for a re-think.

  • James

    Avalos is out of his league as chair. Newsom and Kawa are the beneficiaries of this inexperience, and probably thank their lucky stars that they can snow him on a regular basis.

  • James

    Avalos is out of his league as chair. Newsom and Kawa are the beneficiaries of this inexperience, and probably thank their lucky stars that they can snow him on a regular basis.