San Francisco lost a true believer on February 22, Jeff Adachi. The City’s Public Defender died unexpectedly at 59. His professional life was dedicated to defending whoever needed defending, no matter what. To that end, he did not observe political niceties, and preferred instead to go after the likes of powerful unions and their potentially unsustainable public pensions, City officials that did not hold police accountable for unwarranted shootings, and Board of Supervisor members who wavered on funding to defend the undocumented when necessary.
Perhaps a less publicized side of Adachi were his California Bar exam guides and books, and the time he spent selflessly preparing both traditional and non-traditional students for the grueling California Bar exam. His dedication to ensuring that everyone had the tools to succeed on a notoriously difficult test was unwavering; so much so that many California lawyers often credit Adachi for being the sole reason they passed the Bar.
Jeff Adachi took seriously one of the basic principles of this republic – Justice is blind. Justice should not look to whether your wallet is full, your skin is of a certain color, or your papers are in order. Justice’s only job is to review the case of any accused and determine what needs to be done under the law.
Adachi’s Public Defender’s Office was not the usual staid lawyer’s den. It was a place where questions were raised, public officials were called into account, and the rich or powerful got the same treatment as the downtrodden.
We will see who takes Adachi’s place. Matt Gonzalez, Deputy Public Defender, an equally true believer who is not know for running away from a good fight? Let’s hope that the Chief Public Defender that follows Jeff Adachi truly defends and does not merely appease the powerful. Let’s hope he or she is as dedicated in providing a level playing field.