AACTLA TRIBUTE TO JEFF ADACHI

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Pioneer. Leader. Father. Husband. Son. Advocate. Boss. Friend. Mentor. Ally.

These are just a few of the many roles Jeff Adachi played in our lives. Jeff was a tremendous force within the criminal defense community, the Asian American community, and the community at large.

Jeff believed the public defender's office should do more than provide the best representation to people accused of crime. He believed public defenders were activists in the courtroom and in the community. With his vision, the SF Public Defender's Office was on the cutting edge of holistic representation. National conversations about where public defense should go in the future--with respect to law enforcement accountability, pretrial justice, early representation, reentry, immigration, and more--start with the question, "What is Jeff Adachi doing in San Francisco?"

In addition to his leadership in the fight against mass incarceration, Jeff demonstrated what it meant to be a trial lawyer through his representation of clients in court and as a mentor and sponsor of hundreds of criminal defense attorneys. He experienced, and drew energy from, the challenges of criminal defense firsthand:

"When you go to court your client is presumed to be guilty; he or she is wearing red or orange; the prosecutor wants to win the case and wants to see your client convicted; the judge is often an ex-prosecutor who is also against your client; the jury is often--at least in the beginning--predisposed against your client; and it is just you against everyone else. Being able to turn that around is what appeals to me about being a defense attorney."

AACTLA is indebted to Jeff for his very early support since AACTLA’s inception. He keynoted our first Installation gala. He used his voice to support the presence of Asian Americans in the criminal defense bar.

"There are a lot of battles to be fought, so I just hope that the next generation that is coming up does not shy away from that challenge. I hope that they realize and recognize the sacrifices that people have made to put myself and other Asian American leaders in the positions that we are in. I hope we are able not only to leverage that and do greater things for ourselves, but to also make room for the next generation of attorneys who are coming up. They are the ones who will pick up the mantel and continue the fight against injustice."

Jeff made us braver in our daily battles. He lives in our hearts. We will carry his fighting spirit forward everyday.

- AACTLA Board

Note: The quotes are from an interview with Jeff in the Asian American Law Journal. Asian American Law Journal, Jeff Adachi, 15 Asian Am. L.J. 225 (2008). You can read the entire interview herehttps://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/aalj/vol15/iss1/8/.


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Welcome to AACTLA!

The Asian American Criminal Trial Lawyers Association is a non-profit organization of criminal defense attorneys, judges and law students dedicated to serving the Asian American community. The mission of AACTLA is to improve the study and practice of criminal defense, to promote the fair administration of justice for all by ensuring the meaningful participation of Asian Americans in the legal profession.  Through the volunteer work of its members, AACTLA offers a variety of service programs, including regular free legal clinics, professional development programs for attorneys, and mentorship for law students and attorneys. 

AACTLA strives to provide a voice for the Asian American community in our advocacy both in and out of the courtroom.


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Keker, Van Nest, & Peters

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Union Bank


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