As a new public defender takes the helm, allegations are still being lobbed at his predecessor, the late Jeff Adachi.
No one expected interim San Francisco public defender Matt Gonzalez to be named as a full-time replacement for Jeff Adachi, after Adachi’s sudden death from an apparent heart attack two weeks ago. While Gonzalez stepped in to the position in the immediate wake of Adachi’s passing, Mayor London Breed is not considered a fan of Gonzalez’ poetry-loving, Green Party rabble-rousing that puts him far to the left of the mayor on the political spectrum. (Gonzalez once endorsed Breed’s District 5 opponent, and despite him quickly un-endorsing that candidate, Breed presumably remembers the score.) It was Mayor Breed’s appointment to make, and she went another direction in an announcement and press conference Monday morning.
Meet your new San Francisco public defender Manohar “Mano” Raju. According to the San Francisco Examiner, Raju has served in that office for more than a decade, had previously managed the Felony Unit, and “is known as one of the best trial attorneys in the office.” Mission Local’s Joe Eskenazi quotes sources in the public defender’s office who hailed the appointment as a “sigh of relief” and “definitely a merit-based choice.”
Matt Gonzalez himself was gracious and seems pleased with the appointment. “Mano is just a fantastic choice, and I could not be happier with this decision,” he said, per SF Weekly. “He has a key intellect, he is an exceptional trial lawyer — and I can tell you I’ve seen a lot of trial lawyers — he may be the best I’ve seen. I really mean that… I know that he’s going to do a terrific job carrying on Jeff’s legacy.”
Gonzalez is expected to remain with the office and serve as chief attorney to Raju, who was reportedly once Gonzalez’ intern.
There was already curiously manufactured controversy around Adachi’s death, with a number of personal details surrounding his passing leaked to the media via police reports. Axes continue to grind against Adachi, for whatever reason, with Heather Knight’s deeply researched Chronicle report insinuating that Adachi had accepted plea deals from the district attorney without informing his clients. Knight spoke with three former defendants who make the claim, some on the record and some anonymous, about these allegation that Knight says “could get an attorney disbarred.”
The public defender position will be on the November 2019 ballot, so Gonzalez will have another shot at the position should he choose to run. George Gascón’s district attorney seat will also be up for grabs this coming November 5, as will the city attorney position, and of course, the mayorship of San Francisco.