After Jeff Adachi’s passing, the SF Public Defender’s Office sent over this summary about him, and comments from his many staff members, to Zennie62Media.
San Francisco, CA — It is with very heavy hearts that our office announces the passing of Public Defender and dedicated activist for criminal justice reform Jeff Adachi.
Jeff Adachi began in this office in 1987 as a deputy public defender and through his drive and dedication, became a five-time elected Public Defender for San Francisco. He revolutionized our office, bringing in much-needed technology and greatly increasing crucial support staff such as paralegals, investigators, and social workers. Jeff knew how many public defender offices across the country were struggling with high caseloads, no resources, and low morale, and he set a goal to not only overcome that here, but to create an agency that would become a guiding light for all other offices around the country. It worked. On a weekly basis we hear from public defenders as far-flung as North Carolina and Maine about how we inspire them to keep going.
We are all devastated. Public Information Officer Katy St. Clair has asked a few members of our staff to share their thoughts about Jeff, and they are attached to the end of this press release.
We do not yet have solid details as to the cause of his death, but we do know that he was out in North Beach for dinner with a friend at at some point he began to have trouble breathing. EMTs were able to recover a pulse but he later died at the hospital. He is survived by his beautiful wife Mutsuko and his daughter Lauren.
We are also unsure how the office will be structured in the interim, but Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez will continue to lead us on a day to day basis. One thing Jeff instilled in all of us was independence, hard work, and a tireless adherence to doing everything we can for our clients. That can never, and will never, stop.
Messages from SF Public Defender staff:
“For over 20 years, Jeff was a mentor, a friend, an inspiration and a true leader—always bringing out the best in each & every one of us. He was always there, answering my late night texts and picking up midnight or early morning phone calls. He was one of the most compassionate, fierce, fearless, dedicated agent for social change this city has ever seen. He broke the mold, not making decisions based on political expediency, but on simply what was right. There is no replacing a man of his magnitude but, he of all people, would be the first to say, “keep fighting on!” There is too much work left to do. So we will fight on so that his work continues to be done and his vision of social justice is realized. – Niki Solis, Deputy Public Defender
“I am still in shock and disbelief that Jeff Adachi passed last night. Much will be said about this once-in-a generation hero in the coming days. The breadth of his accomplishments, and the number of people he has personally touched, is boundless.
At the public defender’s office, we knew he was always there for us, no matter what. We could do the most daring, radical, and aggressive lawyering on behalf of the most marginalized people, even if that meant making powerful people angry—because he would have our back, always. And when Jeff had your back, you felt safe.
He empowered us to vigorously fight for the rights of immigrants and the undocumented, and he knew the only way to defeat Trump and anti-immigrant forces was to stand up straight in their faces and fight back. On a personal level, his belief in me transformed my life and gave me a confidence in my own work I never dreamed possible. He made us believe in the impossible, and empowered us to fight injustice with every ounce of our soul.
No one lived life more fully than Jeff. And he would want us—in fact, he would demand us—to be strong. And we will be strong.” A Deputy Public Defender in our Immigration Unit
“I am still processing this huge and devastating loss. I met Jeff Adachi before he took office as public defender and he hired me in 2003. At that time I barely understood the magnitude of his passion for the work that we do, and the breadth of his abilities and interests. He was a true renaissance man. But, at his core, Jeff lived and breathed public defense, and he was visionary in reimagining and implementing the work that a public defender’s office can do in support of justice and our indigent clients. Jeff created social service networks for underprivileged youth and summer camps and backpack giveaways, stocked the office w a team of social workers and support staff for clients, created the first clean slate program to expunge client’s old convictions (that became a national model), a bail unit that interviewed clients and their families as soon as they were arrested rather than days later, a cadre of top immigration lawyers to fight deportations… the list goes on and on. He was the most inspiring (and demanding) person I have ever encountered – motivated by his steadfast pursuit of justice for our clients and fueled by his indefatigable spirit. Nothing on this earth could stop him when he believed in his cause. By his example, Jeff made me a better person, and he made me think, every day, how I could be a better public defender. He may be gone from this earth, but his legacy will endure…I promise you that Jeff Adachi. My heart is broken, but not my resolve and commitment to continue the fight for fairness and justice for the clients that you loved so much.” – Tal Klement, Deputy Public Defender
“I feel blessed to have been hired by Jeff and to have had the opportunity to work closely with and learn from him. He continually pushed himself and our staff to do the very best for our clients. Equally importantly, his connection to the community and commitment to civil rights and racial justice leave a far reaching legacy that has and will continue to support individual and collective freedom efforts. His life was a beautiful one.” – Felony Manager Mano Raju
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