In times of tense budget talks (like now), be careful about alleging that another department is better off financially than your own. That’s the implicit message of a letter the San Francisco County Superior Court presiding judge sent to the city's mayor Tuesday.
In the two-pager, Presiding Judge James McBride made it clear that he did not think an Oct. 28 press release issued by Public Defender Jeff Adachi was fair to the court. In that release, Adachi had noted that the mayor’s office had approved filling 200 positions for the district attorney, police, sheriff, probation departments and the court while rejecting the public defender’s seven requests to fill positions in his department.
After the jump, a note on timing: Budget blah blah blah isn't water under the bridge, ever, anymore. Why just yesterday, the mayor's office asked the city's legal offices and other departments to make more cuts ...
McBride’s letter came as pressure mounts to cut budgets. Yesterday, the mayor’s budget director asked departments to submit proposals for cuts by Dec. 4, given a controller’s report (.pdf) out Monday that says the city faces a $53 million general fund deficit in the current year. The office sent out reduction targets (which a mayoral spokesman emphasized are merely suggestions) of $1.2 million for the district attorney, $904,000 for the public defender and $325,000 for the city attorney, based on each department’s share of the general fund.
McBride is taking issue now with Adachi citing 10 positions filled in the court in the past six months, a figure which includes the five judges the governor appointed to the bench in September. It’s misleading, the judge agued, since the vast majority of court costs are paid by the state (read the letter in toto (.pdf) to see just how gi-normously vast a majority he means). And the court’s been hit hard, too –- the fiscal crisis and judicial cuts have closed the trial courts one day a month, and the local court has instituted a hiring freeze. Open positions have reached an 8 percent vacancy rate, he said.
“Given the magnitude of the impact on the public, the San Francisco Bench, and our employees, the inaccuracies concerning the Court in Mr. Adachi’s news release are particularly troubling,” McBride wrote.
Adachi said he stands by his news release.
— Kate Moser