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San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris spent much of her campaign last year pledging to improve the DA’s office and its performance. Now, she just needs the money to do it. Harris wants to add about $2.5 million to her $30.7 million budget so she can hire 22 more people. “We do not have adequate attorney and investigator staffing, office infrastructure or support staff needed to be, at a minimum, a functional public law office,” Harris wrote in a budget request to Mayor Gavin Newsom, dated March 11. But persuading city officials to add to her budget may be a tall order this year. So far the instructions to city departments have been, “�No new money, and cut,’” Controller Ed Harrington told The Recorder earlier this month. The city has projected a $260 million shortfall in its $2.2 billion general fund budget next year. Mayor Newsom has directed city departments to identify 5.5 percent in cuts from the general fund portion of their budgets and has asked for contingency plans showing how they would cut an additional 15 percent, if needed. The 5.5 percent reductions would amount to about $1.1 million for the DA, her proposal says. If the city doesn’t let her keep at least $1 million of that in her budget, the proposal says, she will be forced to lay off eight attorneys: four from misdemeanor trials and one each from narcotics, preliminary hearings, sexual assault and domestic violence. “When we desperately need to rebuild the city’s capacity to solve and prosecute crimes, the loss of additional prosecutors would be a serious threat to public safety,” Harris wrote. She didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment Friday. In addition to keeping her current employees, Harris is asking for six new felony attorneys, two quality-of-life attorneys, two paralegals and eight investigators to support felony prosecutions, two technology staffers, one neighborhood safety coordinator and one administrative employee. The new hires would bolster some current units and help create new ones dedicated to gun crimes, nuisance crimes, child abuse and public corruption and crimes by police, the DA’s proposal says. Harris has asked the city controller to do a management and financial audit of her office, which she will likely use to help make her case for more funding. The DA’s budget request indicates the audit will show “glaring staff disparities” between the DA’s offices in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. Harris’ request also says the caseloads of San Francisco prosecutors in some units are too large and compares them to those in Alameda County, where the recently hired No. 2 in her office used to work. The new DA’s strategy echoes that of Public Defender Jeff Adachi last year, shortly after he took office. Adachi asked for a controller’s audit then, which ultimately suggested his office should add more positions and develop caseload standards. He got funding for 18 new employees. Arguments about ensuring high quality legal representation, as well as finding cost efficiency, were key to capturing more funding last year, Adachi speculated. He argued at the time that adding staff to his office would save money by decreasing the need for pricier private defenders who handle cases when the public defender declares a conflict. Harris emphasizes public safety much more than cost savings in her request, though she does argue that reducing homicide prosecutors’ caseloads would move convicted defendants more quickly to state prison from local jails, where county taxpayers “spend more than $35,000 per year for each murderer housed.” This year, Adachi is asking to add about $1.1 million to the public defender’s $16 million budget, in part to hire 22 new employees. “It’s great that the district attorney is seeking to enhance its programs,” Adachi said Friday. “However, the mayor and the Board of Supervisors should be fully aware that if they increase the prosecutorial resources by $2.5 million and provide additional attorneys and staff, they also will have to increase the defense resources. � They will generate more work for the defense bar.”

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