Newly appointed District Attorney George Gascon (left) smiles as he listens to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom speak in the City Hall on Sunday. (Brant Ward/The Chronicle)

Outgoing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made a bold announcement this week when he tapped the City’s police chief, George Gascón, as the new District Attorney.

Here in Arizona, we recall Gascón as the former top cop in Mesa. There, he made headlines for butting heads with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As Newsom and his staff ruminated on a new police chief (just before the mayor was about to leave to begin his new job as California Lieutenant Governor), someone recalled that Gascón is also a lawyer (he graduated from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, Calif., and was admitted in 1996).

Read more about the appointment here.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi

That new hire helps seal San Francisco’s ranking as top city for unique criminal law leaders. Jeff Adachi, the city’s Public Defender, also has a reputation beyond the state’s borders. We wrote about Adachi here, when he visited Arizona in regard to a movie–and a protest in regard to the signing of SB1070, our immigration law.

As always, the city is worth watching.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi


You may never have heard of Jeff Adachi. After all, how many people can name the Public Defender, whether in a large city or small town? But Adachi has worked hard to rectify that, both in his own San Francisco—where he is the elected P.D., the only one in California—or here in Arizona, where he visited in the past week. 

Adachi was here for an appearance at a screening of a movie, one that he wrote, directed and produced. It’s called You Don’t Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story. According to the Web site: 

“You Don’t Know Jack tells the fascinating story of a pioneering American entertainer Jack Soo, an Oakland native who became the first Asian American to be cast in the lead role in a regular television series Valentine’s Day (1963), and later starred in the popular comedy show Barney Miller (1975-1978).” 

You can read more about the movie here. 

Actor Jack Soo


But suffice it to say that Adachi has wide-ranging interests. For instance, he carved out time to attend an immigration rally—anti-SB 1070, as you might have guessed. And he’s not the only out-of-stater to arrive. 

Arizona’s newest immigration law is making national headlines, good and bad. That has led immigrants in the state—legal and otherwise—to promise that they will move out of a state that they say is encouraging racial profiling. 

But it also has led to an influx of protestors and other public figures who claim to want to make a difference. Think Linda Ronstadt. Or Shakira. And now Jeff Adachi. 

Governing Magazine recently ran a brief piece about Adachi, whom they name the “populist public defender.” 

And Adachi makes a name for himself and his office by speaking on topics that are traditionally far afield of a typical P.D.’s brief. For example, he recently insisted that ballooning employee pensions in the Bay Area city must be reined in, quickly, or the city will be hobbled even further. That kind of position doesn’t sit well with those whom you’d think a campaigning lawyer is trying to woo. But he continues to speak out. 

And then, this week, he visited Arizona. While here, he spoke with protestors and others and operated as a reporter of sorts. 

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom


Meantime, other elected officials are taking varying approaches to the SB1070 firestorm. 

Speaking of San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday “imposed a moratorium on city employee travel to the state of Arizona for official business and announced the creation of a task force to determine how best to extricate the city from its Arizona-related contracts” (San Jose Mercury News). 

In Phoenix, Democratic Mayor Phil Gordon has suggested that he will order his City Attorney to challenge the new law. He has gotten pushback from Republican members of the City Council, but Gordon says the City Charter permits him to move forward without a council vote. 

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon


Meanwhile, farther north in Flagstaff, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to oppose the new law. It was reported that the council chamber was packed with residents as the council considered their decision. 

All of that leads to many fascinating legal questions. 

  • For instance, the lawmakers who passed the law argue that the law is aligned with—not in opposition to—federal law, so there is no need to raise the specter of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Most scholars are reported to disagree.
  • And how do you square Terry v. Ohio, which allows police officers to proceed on reasonable suspicion that there may be a weapon present, with this new law, which requires officers to act on reasonable suspicion of a person’s status—and to do it without resort to racial profiling? The Arizona Peace Officers Association has been charged by the Governor with coming up with standards—I don’t envy them.
  • And state legislators, who take pride in the state’s independence and refusal to kowtow to a centralized power, also bristle at the notion of sanctuary cities, or cities that think they can carve themselves out of the new regime.

As I write this, the news just broke that the very first two lawsuits against the new law have been filed. These opening salvos came from the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, and a Tucson police officer. The story is here. 

Curiouser and curiouser. But it’s a fight that’s worth watching. 

And click here for more information on the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.