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HALLINAN RINGS IN THE NEW YEAR WITH A DEPLETED DA STAFF San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan says that as 2003 begins, he’ll be down at least eight prosecutors. Hallinan said Mayor Willie Brown’s office will allow him to replace only three of the departing assistant DAs. His office is authorized a staff of 120 lawyers. “The mayor’s not letting us fill them all,” he said. “But if we get [the three] I think we can function. This will cramp us, but I think we can survive.” Three of those who have left — Philip Kearney, Anthony Brass and Susan Jerich — are joining the U.S. attorney’s office. Alfred Giannini and Eric Hove have become prosecutors in the San Mateo County district attorney’s office. Jennifer Yasumoto left to join the Napa county counsel’s office. Sandra Benabou quit to take maternity leave and then intends to work for a law firm in the East Bay. Kimberly Guilfoyle-Newsom starts a leave in March to work on the expected mayoral campaign of her husband, Supervisor Gavin Newsom. Hallinan said he probably won’t be endorsing any of the mayoral candidates in the November election. He apparently has learned the perils of embracing a candidate: The district attorney has had a cool relationship with Brown ever since Hallinan attended a campaign rally in 1999 for then-mayoral candidate Tom Ammiano. Although Ammiano is expected to run again, Hallinan said he will remain on the sidelines this time around. He called Newsom “a friend.” Hallinan reiterated his intention to seek a third four-year term in November and said he wants to leave a legacy of uncovering corruption in city government. So far he has charged former Planning Commission President Hector Chinchilla with violating city and state conflict of interest laws in connection with projects that came before the permit agency. — Dennis J. Opatrny LEGAL BRASS For a couple of weeks each year, John Busterud, the head of PG&E’s corporate legal department, exchanges his business suit for something a bit more intimidating. For the past 12 years, Busterud, 48, has served in the U.S. Army Reserve as a judge advocate general, also known as a JAG officer. In this role he has provided legal counsel to the commander of the U.S. Army’s 351st Civil Affairs Command, located in Mountain View. Responsible for helping restore order in war-torn areas, the Army Civil Affairs Command acts as a liaison between the Army and local governments. Army Civil Affairs units have recently worked in Bosnia and are part of the rebuilding process in Afghanistan. “Members of the unit are deployed on missions in relation to ‘Enduring Freedom,’” Busterud said. “Our motto is ‘secure the peace.’” JAG officers can serve a number of roles — from sitting as judges in military tribunals to counseling commanding officers on the law of war and human rights issues. But recently Busterud left his job as a JAG officer to take a more hands-on role. Now as a civil affairs officer, Major Busterud no longer counsels commanding officers — he is one. “I became the client. I am now someone who helps get the mission done,” he said. With a war with Iraq seemingly imminent, Busterud realizes he may be called on for full-time service in the near future. “Ninety-five percent of civil affairs soldiers are reserves, and the Army relies on them heavily,” he said when describing his chances of being called to duty if there’s war. If this happened, he would be deployed with the 351st to work on a wide range of operations. Being both an attorney and an Army officer is not a unique role in the Busterud family. His father, former state Assemblyman John Busterud, served under General Patton in World War II. Busterud Sr. practiced for a time at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, in the 1950s, before leaving to start his own firm. — Jason Dearen HELPING HAND Sometimes a piece of mail can change your life. That’s what Rhonda Elston discovered two years ago. She had recently lost her job in a fast-food outlet when she received a flier inviting her to join a legal training course offered by the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Volunteer Legal Services Program. Dubbed the Legal Employment Action Program (LEAP), the course prepares welfare recipients for jobs in the legal services industry. Elston joined the 15-month program, taking computer classes, learning legal terminology and interviewing skills and interning for three months at Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe. Heller subsequently hired her to work full-time in its conference services department. “My whole life changed” as a result of the program, Elston said. “I was working a minimum wage job with no benefits. Now my salary is much higher, and I had the privilege of moving out of a low-income area infested with drugs.” Heller has hired three LEAP graduates since the program began in 1998 and currently has a fourth person in an internship position. In recognition of Heller’s support for the program, BASF awarded Heller its “Outstanding Law Firm in Public Service” award earlier this month. “We know we can always go to Heller, even at the last minute,” said Ponta Ghofrani, LEAP’s legal employment specialist. “They will go to bat for us in getting a position.” Heller is among more than 100 firms that have participated in LEAP. To date, the program has placed more than 90 people in legal jobs and boasts an 85 percent retention rate. The first welfare-to-work program in any legal community, LEAP offers its graduates a better standard of living than other programs. LEAP interns earn $9 per hour, and once employed at a firm they get a boost in income. At Heller, their entry-level salary ranges from $20,000 to $28,000. “They get good living wages, great benefits and an opportunity to move up,” Ghofrani said, noting that one LEAP graduate recently received a paralegal certificate. “I’ve been in a lot of welfare-to-work programs and this one is better,” Elston said. “There’s more stability in the job, the pay is pretty good and there are benefits.” — Brenda Sandburg PARKING PUZZLES Pity the poor staff of Thelen Reid & Priest’s San Jose office — they can no longer tell with a glance whether the boss is in. When Thelen moved its Silicon Valley office last month, office Managing Partner Kenneth Nissly had to give up his coveted parking space right next to the door. So now, not only does Nissly have to park wherever he finds a slot, just like everyone else, his staff doesn’t get an early warning of his presence unless they happen upon his green Mercedes somewhere in the garage. “The employees loved it,” Nissly said. “When they came in, they could see my car.” He was partial to the privilege, too. But so far, he hasn’t missed it too much because the building isn’t completely rented. Not all of the law firm moves of late have created parking woes. Fenwick & West moved from Palo Alto to Mountain View the weekend before Christmas and now partner Scott Spector has an underground parking space for his beloved Porsche. “You don’t have to worry about the few times it does rain,” he said. And in the first day back to work after the move, Spector had already scoped out some safe havens for his car. “If you park it against the wall, no one can possibly hit you,” he said. — Renee Deger

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