A great light has dimmed. San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi (Hastings ’85) has died, leaving behind a tremendous legacy of advocacy of the highest quality for the indigent and disenfranchised. The Chronicle reports:
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, a renowned advocate for the accused and an outspoken watchdog on police misconduct, has died.
He was 59.
Mayor London Breed confirmed Friday night that Adachi had died, saying that San Francisco had “lost a dedicated public servant.” He was the only elected public defender in California.
The exact circumstances and cause of Adachi’s death were not immediately known, but sources said he died of a heart attack.
“As one of the few elected public defenders in our country, Jeff always stood up for those who didn’t have a voice, have been ignored and overlooked, and who needed a real champion,” Breed said in a statement. “He was committed not only to the fight for justice in the courtroom, but he was also a relentless advocate for criminal justice reform.
“Jeff led the way on progressive policy reforms, including reducing recidivism, ending cash bail, and standing up for undocumented and unrepresented children.”
What a shocking loss, and what big shoes for all of us to fill. Jeff fought injustice and cruelty at every junction; I encountered him near San Quentin, working to abolish the death penalty, and at the courts fighting against cash bail. I found him in reentry meetings advocating for clean records and at the helm of realignment, probation, and community corrections. San Francisco is a beacon of common sense in an ocean of California counties that still massively incarcerate largely because of him. He will be, and is already, gravely missed.