HomeBad Ass AsiansUPDATED:SF Public Defender and Film Director Dead at 59
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UPDATED:SF Public Defender and Film Director Dead at 59

Jeff Adachi
By Pax Ahimsa Gethen – via Wikimedia Creative Commons

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

San Francisco’s outspoken public defender, Jeff Adachi, died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 59.

The five-term elected official was a frequent critic of police misconduct.

He is also a film director and producer with four films to his credits, all of them dealing with various racial issues.

His latest, Defender, followed his own efforts to free a Black man accused of assaulting police officers after falsely being accused of a crime.

His first film, The Slanted Screen, featured actor Daniel Dae Kim as narrator and focused on the portrayal of Asian Americans in Hollywood.

Adachi has worked in San Francisco’s public defender’s office for 33 years, the last 16 years as public defender, and is one of the few elected public defenders in the country.

“He pioneered efforts to change the media representation of Asian Americans through his film projects, fought to end racism in the criminal justice through bold policy initiatives, and gave every single one of his clients his all regardless of the odds against them or how severe the acts they were accused of,” Vincent Pan, Co-Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action in San Francisco, said to AsAmNews.

Pan said just last week, Adachi came by CAA to ask if Mayor London Breed was being responsive to community needs and offered to be of assistance.

Aarti Kohli, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice_ALC of San Francisco, said “he was so much more than the SF Public Defender. He was an artist, thought leader, and lifelong warrior for criminal justice reform. As the child and grandchild of interned Japanese Americans, he knew the cost of incarceration.

“We will strive to continue fiercely advocating against the criminalization of vulnerable community members in his honor,” Kohli said.

Jane Kim served as a San Francisco Supervisor from 2011 to 2019.

Jeff Yang is a journalist and blogger who has commented on many Asian American issues.

California Assemblyperson Phil Ting represents San Francisco and is a former Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus.

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story.


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