Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Torn Between Two PDs

When PDR first read about Jeff Adachi, San Francisco's Chief Public Defender, and his handling of proposed budget cuts to his office, PDR began began writing his name in big puffy letters on her trial notebooks, dotting the "i" with a heart, and making plans to move to SF for some serious pd work. We devote our defense to you! our beaten up and toughened little heart cried.

Why did Adachi have us giggling and twirling our hair? Because this is what he told the San Francisco Board of Supervisors when he was told to cut his budget by 1.9 million.

In a nutshell, Adachi told them: If you cut my budget by 1.9 million and 23 lawyers, I will refuse to accept

additional cases into my office, and then you will have to pay private lawyers millions more than you would paid my office, which is really frigging stupid. When the city refused to give in, Adachi mounted a public relations campaign, complete with posters.

According to the SF Weekly, Adachi "was unrepentant about failing to buy into City Hall's 25 percent off sale, claiming that, unlike every other department head in the city, he simply cannot cut his budget -- at risk of violating the United States Constitution."
When PDR's county public defender budget began to shrink--lawyers who left were not replaced, new duties were given to already stressed lawyers, the seriousness-level of all felony caseloads increased due to plead-em-fast early resolution dockets handled by other attorneys--PDR thought: Why can't we be like San Francisco? Or, more precisely, why can't our boss be like him.

And people replied, of course, that Adachi lives in San Francisco for god's sake, not the remote inland northwest. After a couple of years of watching PDR's resources dwindle, PDR decided that maybe San Francisco and a boss like Adachi were an unattainable dream.



According to the December 25, 2009 Whidbey News Times, head Island County Public Defender Thomas Pacher refused to accept a budget cut requested by the county commissioners, despite the fact that his office had a few months earlier received a 50% budget increase. In the face of "heat" given to him by county commissioners for failing to share in the budget crunch, Pacher explained that there was no way he could cut his budget and still comply with the caseload standards the county had recently adopted. Pacher's letter to the county echoed Adachi's play: Pacher "argued that cutting his budget wouldn’t save the county money anyway because the county would end up hiring more outside attorneys to handle what his firm couldn’t."

Now our PDR heart is divided against itself. Adachi--bold, photogenic, on posters and TV, but he is also elected by a liberal public and not chosen by the very officials he was fighting against. Pacher--the head of a 7-lawyer office on a frigging Island in Puget Sound, stands up to the commissioners who have the power to remove him as head PD, right after he received a 50 % budget increase, and in a place that could care less about indigent rights.

Our defender heart is torn.

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