2012 Recipients

You are here

Where presented : 
NLADA Annual Conference
Recipient(s) name: 
William G. Hoerger, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., and Adachi, San Francisco Public Defender's Office
Reason for selection of recipient(s): 

Bill Hoerger recently completed his 30th year with CRLA, the last 16 in his current role. He joined CRLS to be trial counsel for farmworkers, small farmers and consumers suing the Regents of the University of California, challenging
their use of federal Land-Grant university research appropriations in a case that acquired national notoriety as the so-called “tomato-harvester”, or [anti-] “mechanization” lawsuit. That action, developed by legal services giant Ralph
Abascal, encountered unexpected twists that consumed five years of trial(s) and appeal.

Subsequently, Hoerger become one of CRLA’s Regional Counsel, ultimately for CRLA’s statewide Migrant Project. In 1996, he became one of CRLA’s original DLATs. Hoerger’s focus has been employment law, collaborating with CRLA’s farmworker advocates to develop litigation as well as statutory and regulatory frameworks to ensure wage payments to workers. This work resulted in two significant California Supreme Court decisions: one which reversed a lower appellate decision and established the widely-cited California standard for distinguishing between employees and independent contractors (Borello & Sons v. Dept. of Industrial Relations); the second, a 7-0 decision holding that employer liability for wages was defined by century-old, Progressive-era state wage promulgations – rather than either federal standards or common law – essentially reversing the same panel’s unanimous decision five years earlier (Martinez v. Combs). Hoerger has influenced a wide array of developments in the law with enormous positive impact for employees in California by authoring California Continuing Legal Education texts to pioneering other creative and far-reaching litigation campaigns.

Jeff Adachi exemplifies the spirit of the “Reggie” by providing extraordinary and successful legal advocacy on behalf of approximately 25,000 indigent people who are accused of crimes in San Francisco each year. Since his election in 2002, Adachi has turned the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office into a top notch criminal defense firm that boasts a 50 percent win rate of all cases taken to trial. Under Adachi’s leadership, the office has developed an aggressive training program in which deputy district attorneys, investigators, paralegals and members of the office staff keep their skills sharp and current. As a result, those who cannot afford an attorney are provided competent, vigorous legal representation.

Adachi has significantly advanced the cause of equal justice for both individuals and communities outside the courtroom as well. He founded the Clean Slate program, a free service that offers people with old convictions a chance to clear their records, which has led thousands of people over the past decade to find vocational, educational and housing opportunities. He has taken a holistic approach to justice, providing a panoply of innovative programs to public defender clients such as drug court, behavioral health court, a full service juvenile division and on-site social workers. In 2011, Adachi exposed to the public numerous instances of police misconduct inside San Francisco’s residential motels. The revelations resulted in an ongoing FBI investigation, the dissolution of a troubled undercover unit, and nearly a dozen problem police officers being taken off the streets. Over three months, Adachi and his staff released surveillance video from the hotels to media outlets. Caught on camera were police officers entering rooms and searching without warrants or permission, using excessive force and stealing property from San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents.

Adachi’s efforts were featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and numerous other media outlets, calling national attention to routine injustice against the poor. The same year, Adachi produced a television PSA, “Innocent Until Proven Guilty,” which takes aim at racial profiling while illustrating for viewers the presumption of innocence. In 2009, Adachi successfully challenged budget cuts to his office by refusing to take on new cases, rallying the public in front of San Francisco City Hall, writing numerous op-eds, taking on the mayor and lobbying the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Adachi is also an outspoken defender of civil rights for San Franciscans who do not have a strong voice in the public sphere. He has vigorously opposed laws such as sit-lie that attempt to criminalize homelessness and has successfully defended individuals who were barred from their neighborhoods due to being unfairly placed on gang injunction lists.

The recipient of numerous awards, former president of the Asian American Bar Association of the Bay Area and consummate scholar and trainer, Adachi is a tireless advocate for the rights of the accused.