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Jeff Adachi: A Champion for Justice

I awoke on Saturday morning the 23rd of February to several emails telling me that Jeff Adachi, San Francisco's superb elected Public Defender and a national figure of energy, passion, and vision, had died overnight at the age of 59. 



I awoke on Saturday morning the 23rd of February to several emails telling me that Jeff Adachi, San Francisco's superb elected Public Defender and a national figure of energy, passion, and vision, had died overnight at the age of 59.  Paul DeWolfe, NAPD's Chair, sent me a note to send out to our leaders and members, and I did.  I posted several articles on our Facebook page.  Then I sat back and waited as members from around the country flooded my inbox with and Facebook pages with memories and accolades.  Nothing can better demonstrate Jeff's contribution and affect on this community than recounting them.  His influence continues to ripple throughout American.  I expect more to come.  Here are those I captured:
 
NAPD Chair and Maryland's Paul DeWolfe: ““On behalf of the 19,000 plus members of the National Association of Public Defense, it is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our colleague, Jeff Adachi, the Public Defender for San Francisco. First elected to the office in 2002, Jeff has been a leader in the fight for human rights, racial justice and reform in the criminal justice system. He has been a champion to public defenders and social justice advocates throughout the country. Our community will greatly miss his fearless leadership.”
 
Miami's Carlos Martinez: “Beautifully stated, Paul. Tremendous loss.” 
 
NAPD's Engagement Director Heather Hall: “I had a colleague who lamented that many public defenders were like “elephants tied with string” - all they need to do is flex and they would be free! Jeff Adachi was one liberated elephant, one who built a career on flexing and in his freedom, was able to earn the admiration of so many for his fearlessness, his creativity, and his community power. As an elected public defender, one might have thought that he was compromised or beholden to too many interests, but I found Jeff's moral clarity to be among the most immediate and concise of any leader I have ever met. Ever need a pep talk, or to strengthen your backbone, or a little orientation to the path of righteousness? Jeff was a source - both knowledgeable and available. He loved people ad was “political” in the best of ways. I was awed by Jeff for the way he mentored his staff, by the talent of his own lawyering, for his ability to give a great talk, for the power of his personal story, and for believing that public defenders are the heroes of this country and that their client's stories are as compelling as anything created in Hollywood. He didn't abide excuses, and I felt firsthand the way he was disappointed in my own battles with the strings that kept me bound. Jeff was usually way out in front, and always trying to help others catch up. I'm just…. stunned that he is not with us anymore. His absence is a hole, but I beg us all, and tell myself, that his absence has to be inspiration. We're elephants only tied with string. Jeff leaves a legacy worthy contemplating, adapting and carrying forward. Damnit, Jeff. You are missed.”
 
North Carolina's James Williams.  “Ernie, I hurt…. Jeff was like a meteor, shining star burning brightly with passion and knowledge and courage, a beauty to watch and behold and then gone too soon. I did not know him as well or as long as some of you. I was aware of his work for at least two decades but only got to meet him 7 or so years ago. I have used his Racial Facial video on several occasions, most recently when I was keynote speaker for a Black History event in Carrboro. One so dedicated to racial justice. He died during Black History month, the same month of the birth and death of Frederick Douglass. He died one day before the birth of W. E. B. Dubois 151 years ago. I will honor Jeff by trying to fight harder to dismantle racialized mass incarceration and insuring a vibrant and well-resourced indigent defense.”
 
Virginia's Dave Johnson: “Such an innovative and inspirational leader! RIP.”
 
Massachusetts' Anthony Benedetti: “What tragic news.  An incredible advocate for justice.”
 
Minnesota's Daniel Lew: “This is a devastating loss.  I'd add in Jeff's memory he was one of four Asian Pacific American Chief Public Defenders in the nation, a role model for many of us in the county.”
 
Tulsa's La-Mer Kyle Griffiths: “So very sad. A weakening of the light.”
 
Philadelphia's Randy Fensterer: “Truly saddened by the loss.  There are so many on this server who continually inspire me to raise the bar, and think outside the box in representing my clients, and Jeff Adachi was at the top of the list. I am praying for his family and our community.”

Duluth's Fred Friedman: “This is terrible. Only 59 and dies of a heart attack. Enormous loss.”

Harlem's Rick Jones: “Words fail to express the depth of our loss…. I can't express my sorrow. He was such a powerful force for good and an even better friend.”

North Carolina's David Clark: “This is a tremendous loss!  Not only for his defense colleagues across the nation who admired him and learned from the example he set every day but more-so for the indigent population of San Francisco who will sorely miss his groundbreaking social justice advocacy.   May he rest in peace knowing how many innocent people he helped.”

Baltimore's Kirsten Downs: “What a devastating loss. Much peace to a justice warrior.”
 
Teri Moore: “Extremely sorry to hear of this tremendous loss of Jeff. An inspirational advocate and a powerful force to many.”
 
New Orleans' Derwyn Bunton: “So sad today.  Jeff was that shining light on the hill for many of us.  His loss is immeasurable.”
 
John Piro: “This is both a tragic loss, and a call to action.  We are going to have to pick up and continue carrying the torch and preserving his legacy.”
 
St. Louis' Steve Hanlon: “Huge loss.  Great visionary.  Jeff changed how we think about public defense. He will be sorely missed.”
 
Cook County's Amy Campanelli: “I just opened my email. I have lost a true friend. As many of you and many colleagues in my office know I spoke of Jeff's leadership often. I looked to him for answers when I had none. He helped and inspired me to put together my first ever Annual report (which I thought was pretty good until his latest calendar honoring women leaders just blew me away). He and his team have been working w/me to start a new immigration unit here in Chicago, and god dammit I'm going to do it, b/c Jeff would want me to. He knew our plight as Public Defenders like no one else. He knew our struggle to change culture in our offices, to always be client-centered, to fight against racial injustice, make sure we had diversity in our hiring practices, training and resources needed for our staff, and always compassion for every client, no matter the crime, political pressure, or possible enemies we would make along the way. I feel a huge hole in my heart today. I am so sorry for all of us and all our clients who benefitted from Jeff's wisdom and perseverance. I found myself tearing up listening to Freddy Mercury sing ‘We are the Champions' on the radio just now. Jeff was and always will be a champion for all of us.”
 
Maryland's Patrice Fulcher: “Oh no! I can't believe it…Truly heartbreaking.” 
 
Ohio's Tim Young: “What a profound loss.  He was the public defender that we all hope to be.”
 
Boston's Nancy Bennett: “Terrible! A real hero. Not only did he show our community how to teach the wide world to love public defense, he also had so much more to do in life. With his vision and amazing personal power, I hoped and expected he would be running the country very soon. Following his inspiration, we should make a powerful statement for the whole world to hear about his achievements and ideals.”
 
New York's Tina Luongo: “He was truly and inspiration to so many of us.”
 
Augusta's Kate Mason: “He always had time for colleagues and freely shared his ideas and help when needed.  He took the time to talk with me when I was a new chief.  I am forever grateful.”
 
Philadelphia's Keir Bradford-Grey: “I didn't want to open my e-mail because I didn't want to believe it was true.  I am so sad about this.  Jeff's work keeps me going when the waters get extremely rough for me.  It's not easy to push against a system but Jeff made me feel like anything was possible.  I have great admiration for this guy and the passion he had to change this oppressive justice system.   This is a big loss for our community.  I just told my neighbor whose daughter is from San Francisco how much I loved and admired Jeff.  I hope we do something very special to remember him.  I have all his calendars hanging in my office.”
 
Washington's Lorinda Youngcourt: “A bright light has dimmed. Devastating to our community. His talent and drive were amazing to behold.”
 
Missouri's Michael Barrett: “Talk about a life well spent. Most courageous and capable leader. He served us all well by his example. God speed. “
 
Colorado's Doug Wilson: “So damn sad. This can't be. We lost a friend and mentor. RIP Jeff”
 
Louisville's Dan Goyette: “This is a real shocker and tragic news for San Francisco and the entire defender community nationwide.”
 
Wyoming's Diane Lozano: “Even in Wyoming, we followed what Jeff was doing; we have implemented his checklists and studied his caseload management, among other things.  He will be greatly missed. We have lost a true warrior.”
 
Andre Vitale: “I am still struggling to get my mind around this news.  Jeff was a true champion of the indigent.  He was a real-life hero of mine, inspired me even though we never met.  His words always remain with me and drove me to always fight to achieve a higher plane.  I feel great loss with his passing.  I also feel comfort because as I read the condolences on this string and others, I see the names of so many other inspiring leaders and realize the future of indigent defense is truly bright.”
 
Hennepin County Public Defenders: “'But Adachi's legacy is harder to detect. And that's because it lives in the people society makes a point of not seeing. The marginal people. The oppressed. The homeless. The accused. The undocumented. The railroaded. The cash-poor men and women rotting in jail, unable to afford bail. The innocent. The guilty. The incredibly guilty.'”
 
Missouri's Cat Kelly: “Jeff was one of the good ones and taken way too young. He will be missed not just in the Bay Area, but in the national criminal defense community. My heart goes out to his family and staff. RIP, Jeff. You left a hell of a legacy.”
 
Kentucky's Rodney Barnes: “RIP Jeff Adachi, an inspiration to Public Defenders everywhere who believe in client-centered practice & an angel to those he represented. Such a tragic loss, heartbreaking...”
 
Kentucky's Brian Hewlett: “This was terribly sad news to wake to this morning. Mr. Adachi was a fearless advocate for public defense and clients. I met him a couple of times and we hung out one evening at a conference. He was a nice man, respected leader and champion for justice. You fought the good fight Jeff. Thank you.”
 
Charles Chuck Wynder, Jr.: “Saddened by this. I was just reading Audre Lorne's Burst of Light and came across this article while taking a break as I get ready for Sunday services. I remember Jeff Adachi from my time with The National Legal Aid & Defender Association.”
 
Wisconsin's Gina Pruski: “This breaks my heart. Jeff was an amazing person. The work he did in the public defender community was innovative and inspiring. The people we admire and respect...the people we care about...the people we love—let's tell them today how we feel about them. Let's tell them and show them every day.”
 
Alaska's Cathy Bennett: “We lost a leader who worked every day to make real a vision for true justice. He saw the humanity in his office's clients, the staff who worked there and the people in the community he served. Way too young. So much left to do. #itsonusnow. #carryingthetorch
 
California's Lesli Caldwell: “Jeff Adachi.  My heart is broken. Jeff mentored me thru several difficulties as I led my office in the face of an increasingly hostile board (as I implemented many of the ideas he championed.) He helped anyone who needed help - especially our clients, so many of whom were in deep pain. He was a magnificent leader and wonderful friend. We will all miss him, his brilliance, his energy, his smile. “
 
California's Jose Varela: “Jeff was a trial warrior and believed in the transparency of trial.  Police misconduct came out as a result of a trial.  Systematic exclusion by court systems came out in trials.  Jeff and I spoke of this often.  But I also remember when Jeff accepted our invitation to join us at the Community Oriented Defenders meeting at the Brennan Center at NYU Law School.  We also invited Mike Judge from Los Angeles.  Holistic representation was in keeping with Jeff's community work.  His balance of continued assertive trial work with an accompanying commitment to holistic community engagement in other areas is a balance that should be a model for all defender offices.  The work continues Jeff!”
 
New Mexico's Ben Baur:  “I've read all the articles, and many of the other posts about Jeff and his life and work.  Beyond the grief and sense of loss, my take-away, and my tribute to Jeff, is to be less cautious and more forceful in my advocacy for my clients and for my lawyers.”
 
Jessica Chandler Brown: “Heartbreaking and devastating news. Jeff had an impact on the Defender community nationwide. My deepest condolences to the SF Defender community. Please know that Defenders around the country are holding you in our hearts as you grieve this loss and also as you find the strength to continue Jeff's work and carry on his legacy.”
 
Richard Pittman: “A public defender from before public defenders were cool. Hell, he's one of the ones who made it cool.”
 
Nina Marie: “Mr. Adachi was a giant in the field of public defense. My deepest condolences to those who worked with him, those who loved him, those who were inspired by him, and those who relied on him for the protection of their most basic rights.”
 
Catherine Pugh: “Fifty-nine. That's young. Social justice warriors be aware. This takes its toll. #RIP, Adachi.”
 
Haydeh Takasugi: “A valiant warrior who left us way too early.”
 
Laura C. Jackson: “Adachi sounds like a real champion. A true loss.”
 
Martin Flores: “May he rest in paradise! I am shocked and heartbroken to learn of Jeff Adachi's death. A true advocate for the people! I know the San Francisco Public Defender's Office will keep his legacy alive”
 
Toussaint Romain: “He just texted me on Thursday!!!!! No way. Jeff and I served on several panels together. He became a mentor and confidant. Very few people knew, but Jeff helped me navigate an election and he predicted every step along way. He's been trying to get me out to San Fran to view/join his office. I can't believe he's gone. He was the ULTIMATE public defender.”
 
Bel-Ami de Montreux: “Paix à son &me! Mes sincères condoléances !!!”
 
Harolyn Howard: “Terrible loss, not only to his family and friends, but the justice and public defender systems as well as the people he represented.”
 
Anna Kurien: “This makes me so sad to hear. His work and life were such an inspiration to me. Rest in power Jeff Adachi.”
 
Bonnie Rose: “Sad News, Sounds like a Noble Man!”
 
David Fuller: “So sad! A true gentleman lawyer, dignified; dedicated and honorable RIP Jeff.”
 
Amy Metzinger Commean: “This is so very sad”
 
Kelli Childress: “A devastating loss to our community. He was a pioneer. Fearless.”
 
Karl A. Doss: “Very sad news. He was an excellent and innovative attorney and public defense leader.”
 
Angie Pagan: “Awful news. May he rest in peace”
 
Brian Rodgers: “Terrible news”
 
Martin Flores: “I am shocked and heartbroken to learn of Jeff Adachi's death. A true advocate for the people! I know his office will keep his legacy alive”
 
Collier Goodlett: “Way too young. Such a loss to us all.”
 
Art Rogers: RIP. Thank you for your service to mankind.


North Dakota's Marquis Bradshaw.  “Rest in Power, Jeff Adachi.”
 
Janice Lagerlof: “Nothing more that a criminal defense lawyer would want to be said
“He/She defended the hell out of the public”.  He was fearless!!”
 
Shannon Phillips: “Thank you Jeffrey Adachi!!!”
 
Jan Lecklikner: “It is hard to watch this knowing Jeff is gone. Also, Judge Louie, another special person gone also. So many memories of those hallways and holding cells.
 
Karen Cotton: “He was so good.”
 
Richard Hutt: “This is what Jeff did. This is what we all do.”
 
Bruce Eli Mosbacher: “This is how great Public Defenders relate to their clients. He left this world yesterday.”
 
Ruth Barajas Cardona: “Jeff Adachi, such a beautiful, intimate short clip of Jeff and his empathetic treatment of the people his office defended.”
 
Hanya Ruane-Gonzales: “RIP Jeff Adachi.”
 
Renata Newbill Jallow: “RIP”
 
And a few articles:
 
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/amp/Public-Defender-Jeff-Adachi-dies-13638785.php?__twitter_impression=true
 
https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2019/02/22/san-francisco-public-defender-jeff-adachi-dies/
 
https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/02/22/san-francisco-public-defender-jeff-adachi-dead-at-59/
 
https://missionlocal.org/2019/02/a-valediction-for-jeff-adachi-who-defended-the-public/?fbclid=IwAR0hx58S6-jqsO1KtzN2FtijKaq7QB15teN8NKb25-fgnoMVqD6mA_TdQsM
 
https://www.publicdefenders.us/blog_home.asp?Display=754&fbclid=IwAR2bOYIzTsJr82iwrlkNZJT-GWZ8_PpzZ6l16CjrgmJkGIX7z4qXFweTQf8
 
https://www.sfgate.com/news/bayarea/article/Public-Defender-Jeff-Adachi-Mourned-13639510.php
 
https://www.kqed.org/news/11728381/san-francisco-public-defender-jeff-adachi-dies-at-age-59
 
https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/video/4035018-friends-colleagues-mourn-death-of-sf-public-defender-jeff-adach/
 
https://www.thebaycitybeacon.com/politics/jeff-adachi-the-best-defender/article_756052e0-3888-11e9-84af-d31d275fdbc5.html
 
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/SF-police-investigating-death-of-Public-Defender-13640319.php
 
 
 
 

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NAPD News

December 15, 2018: Registration is now open for NAPD's Spring Events:
  • Executive Leadership Insitute (Frankfort, KY)
  • Train the Trainer (Frankfort, KY)
  • "We the Defenders" Investigators Conference (Biloxi, MS)
  • "We the Defenders" Social Workers/Sentencing AdvocatesConference (Biloxi, MS)
  • Team Mitigation Institute (Atlanta, GA)
Click on Events Tab for more info and to register.
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October 30, 2018: NAPD releases a video about its achievements over the 5 years since forming in November in 2013. This films was coordinated by NAPD Steering Committee Member and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and debuted at the Racial Justice Training and 5 Year Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. You can watch the video HERE

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July 1, 2018: General Registration opens for the “WE THE DEFENDERS” TRAINING CONFERENCE,  November 26-29, 2018, Indianapolis, IN

You can watch a video about the event HERE 

Due to overwhelming demand, NAPD will again offer this comprehensive Investigator and Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate training experience! The program will include one track for Investigators and a separate track for Social Worker/Sentencing Advocates.  Hear from nationally recognized experts who will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the work you do each and every day.  Network with other criminal defense practitioners from around the country and find your tribe. 
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January 23, 2018: In response to US Attorney General Jeff Session's reversal of prior policy on the imposition of fines and fees for criminal defendants, NAPD submitted the following letter on behalf of the public defender community. You can read the letter HERE
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