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Attorneys both in and outside the public defender's office theorize that Brown may have felt sidelined by his brilliant protégé. Just last fall Willie Brown named Adachi the best manager in city government.
"There's no question he's the best trial lawyer I have ever seen in 33 years of being a criminal defense attorney," Keene says. "He's a charismatic leader who is absolutely held in awe by the people in the public defender's office who are there now -- the line troops -- because they know what a superb public defender he is."
Attorneys who spoke off the record describe a public defender's office whose morale has been crippled by Burton-Cruz's appointment. Attorneys haven't been impressed with the leadership of Burton-Cruz, who worked a few years as a low-level attorney in the Public Defender's office before being given a job in Willie Brown's office overseeing criminal justice grant programs.
"I hired both of them," Keene says. "She was a student of mine at Hastings when I taught there. And I supervised both of them in the public defender's office. Kim [Burton-Cruz] was only in the office a few years. She only got involved in a few felony cases," Keene says. "Adachi, on the other hand, has done the toughest cases in the office. He knows the day-to-day work of a criminal trail lawyer, just pouring out one's spirit to protect the rights of poor people who are suspected of crimes. You don't have anywhere near that passion in Kim. She is a smart individual. She didn't show a tremendous amount of zeal or dedication that I saw when I was there and supervising her. She was appointed because she was John Burton's daughter. To me that's not a qualification."
For his part, Jeff Adachi seems to bear no ill will toward his political father, despite the fact that Brown appears to have abandoned him.
"He really helped me in terms of growing as a leader and as a person," Adachi says. "He introduced me to a lot of people and really took it upon himself to help me. He's given me what he's given me. It's now a matter of what I can do with it."
Supervisor Mark Leno is less philosophical as he describes the circumstances under which he learned that his political mentor Carol Migden had endorsed former supervisor Harry Britt to replace her as a San Francisco representative in the California Assembly.
Britt, who occupied Harvey Milk's supervisor's seat from 1978 to 1993, is running for Assembly at the request of Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano. Migden, who is apparently betting on the insurgent Ammiano-progressive political machine, let it slip a week ago that she would back Britt. Migden had taken over Britt's Supervisor seat when he left in 1993. Still, Leno felt deeply hurt by the endorsement.
"I was her major gay and [lesbian] community organizer. I put together her core support group and was her major fund-raiser. It intensified from the years 1993 and 1994 up until my run for public office in 1998. I was completely devoted to her. Before I decided to run for Assembly, after I was elected for supervisor in District 8, I told her of my interest in her seat," Leno says. "I let her know I was going to run. She never discouraged me. I never asked for her endorsement, but she never discouraged me, and I moved forward."
Britt helped Migden get her start in San Francisco politics, and she suggests that's where her loyalties lie.
"You don't replace old friends for new. It was a very tough personal, painful choice. I have strong relationships to both, and I made a difficult choice, and one I'm resolved about and confident in," says Migden, who plans on running for a post on the State Board of Equalization next year. "I'm with Harry Britt. I think he's a link to Harvey Milk and an extraordinarily undiluted progressive version of the world. His exceptionally intelligent progressive connectedness is absolutely unparalleled."
Intrigued, I called Britt to get a taste of his intelligent progressive connectedness. I had watched him give a talk at a candidate's night last week that had consisted mostly of him parrying audience questions by saying that he had been out of politics for nine years and needed to do some catching up. When asked how voters might distinguish between him and Mark Leno, he warmed to his subject, characterizing his longtime friend as a captive of campaign contributors.
"That's not a criticism of Mark. It's just that in this last election there was a lot of money, presumably from the Brown interests. I just know that when you look at candidates, the first thing you look at is where the money is. I've been able to get things done because I wasn't constrained by big money interests," Britt said.
So does that mean Carol Migden, one of the most successful fund-raisers in the California Assembly, is "constrained" by big money interests?
"I haven't been watching what she's been doing. I don't know what the word "constrained' means here," Britt said.
Did Britt wish to use a different word?