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Layoffs in the San Francisco public defender’s office will be unavoidable if the city forces deep budget cuts, PD Jeff Adachi warns. Former Mayor Willie Brown in December asked city departments to submit plans showing how they would trim 7.5 percent of the general fund portions of their budgets before the end of the fiscal year, June 30. The plans were due Friday. In his plan, submitted to the city Friday, Adachi said a cut of that size would force him to lay off 10 trial lawyers, or 11 percent of the attorneys in his office. District Attorney Kamala Harris, sworn in about a week before the Friday deadline, has asked for an extension to submit her contingency plan. City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office was uncertain Friday whether it was among the departments required to submit a plan. “I’m not aware of any special directives from the mayor’s office,” said Alexis Truchan, a spokeswoman for Herrera. Following a recent conversation with a budget analyst in the mayor’s office, the public defender says he’s optimistic the city won’t ask him to make such severe cuts from his budget before the fiscal year ends. Adachi appears to be laying the groundwork early to avoid cuts next fiscal year, something he did successfully last year. While several other departments were forced to trim their budgets last summer, Adachi persuaded city officials to add more than $2 million to his budget, allowing him to add 18 new positions to his staff. He argued that additional staff would allow his office to handle more work so that fewer cases would be referred to more expensive private defenders who handle cases when the PD declares a conflict. He has a similar argument this time around. Ten fewer lawyers for his office would force the city to spend $3.1 million more on private defenders, Adachi said. “In the case of our department, you can’t cut costs without incurring costs.” And he’s adamant about maintaining the caseload limits that he established last year. If he doesn’t have enough deputy PDs to provide effective legal representation, which he says is required by federal and state constitutions and professional codes, he contends his office will be forced to declare conflicts for staffing reasons. A spokeswoman for Mayor Gavin Newsom, Darlene Chiu, declined to elaborate on the Brown administration’s instructions, saying that the new mayor is reviewing the budget situation. Chiu said Brown’s office asked all city departments that receive general funds to submit contingency plans. The public defender, district attorney and city attorney depend on general funds to varying degrees. General funds account for all but $500,000 of the public defender’s $16 million budget this fiscal year. In contrast, those funds make up $21.9 million, or 71 percent, of the district attorney’s $30.7 million budget; and $7.1 million, or 15 percent, of the city attorney’s $46.1 million budget, according to budget documents. DA spokeswoman Debbie Mesloh said it’s too soon to say whether layoffs will figure into Harris’ contingency plan. “She really wants to do a thorough assessment.”

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