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May 5, 2005

MAY 15: Jeff Adachi, San Francisco’s high-profile public defender, to speak at 2005 Commencement

San Francisco’s public defender
2005 Commencement speaker
Jeff Adachi inspired by family’s history
to advocate for equal justice
Jeff Adachi’s parents and grandparents spent part of WWII in the Japanese internment camps. His family’s experience was the impetus for his career as one of the Bay Area’s most high-profile defenders. For 25 years, the Sacramento native and fourth-generation Japanese American has fought to seize equal justice for the young, the immigrants, the poor and the minorities of California.

At age 19, Adachi got his start in law when he volunteered in the case of Chol Soo Lee, a Korean immigrant who was convicted of murder and later exonerated.

Since 2002, Adachi has served as the elected Public Defender of the City and County of San Francisco. He ran against the appointed public defender who fired him in 2001 from his longtime post as the office’s chief attorney for what was widely believed to be political reasons.

He will speak at the University of Oregon School of Law 2005 commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15 at 1:00 P.M. in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 7th Avenue and Willamette Street in downtown Eugene. The ticketed event costs $2 per person.

In 15 years with the defender’s office, Adachi worked his way from misdemeanors through over 100 jury trials to his present position overseeing 23,000 cases each year with 90 attorneys, 50 support staff and a budget of $17 million. His office has developed programs such as Drug Court, Clean Slate expungement services, and a complete juvenile division, as well as an active internship program for law students and graduates.

In 2004, Adachi called for a moratorium on sending youth to the California Youth Authority, the state’s facility for juveniles, after a series of reports revealed poor treatment of youth.  Eleven other counties throughout the state later passed similar moratoriums.  The office sponsored a juvenile justice summit, which organized youth advocates from around the Bay Area around local and statewide juvenile justice reform.
He was featured in the 2002 PBS documentary, Presumed Guilty  a film about the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, its difficult cases and complex defense strategies.

In 1995, Adachi founded the Asian American Arts Foundation, which produced the Golden Ring Awards from 1995-1999 — the Asian Oscars — which honored artists such as Chow Yun-fat, John Woo, Ming-Na Wen, Oliver Stone and others, and provided critical arts funding to emerging Asian American artists and arts organizations.  He also served as chairperson of the Asian American Theater Company and is a past president of the San Francisco Japanese American Citizen’s League.

Most recently, Adachi launched an organization known as Bayview MAGIC (the Mobilization for Adolescent Growth in our Communities), which is a collaboration between 40 youth and family agencies in the predominantly African-American community in Bayview Hunters Point in San Francisco.

Adachi has received awards for public service from the California State Bar Association and the  Asian American Bar Association.

Jeff Adachi is the son of a Sacramento auto mechanic and a laboratory assistant. He graduated from University of California-Berkeley and earned his law degree from Hastings Law School. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Mutsuko and daughter Lauren.

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