Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Jeff Adachi, call your office


San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Photo: Robert Fujioka
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San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi must provide sensitivity training for his attorneys. Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof misgendered a transgender crime victim during the suspects' arraignment in Superior Court Friday, November 20, in which a man and a woman are accused of assaulting a transgender woman.

Maloof repeatedly referred to Samantha Hulsey, who was not in court, as a "man." He seemed to suggest that Hulsey allegedly was "legally a male swinging at a female." And, in a stunning display of ignorance, Maloof said, "Unless he's had an operation," Hulsey is still a man. Hulsey claims that the couple, Dewayne Kemp and Rebecca Westover, assaulted her on a South of Market street about two weeks ago. (Both Kemp and Westover pleaded not guilty.) The suspects, in separate jailhouse interviews with the Bay Area Reporter, said that Hulsey called Kemp, who is black, the N-word. Kemp admitted calling Hulsey, who is white, a "fag." So, there is racial, homophobic, and transphobic name-calling shared by all parties. So why did a public defender add to the pile with his own anti-transgender references? It's outrageous that an attorney whose salary is paid through public funds referred to a trans woman as a man.

In San Francisco.

In 2015.

On the Transgender Day of Remembrance, no less.

Maloof's remarks in open court are out of character for the public defender's office, which Adachi, a progressive ally, has run for years. And that's partly what makes the episode so jarring. Adachi expects his attorneys to mount vigorous defenses for their clients, and that's what they should do. Those charged with crimes are entitled to an attorney, and the public defender's office here has some excellent ones who provide top-notch legal services and regularly get their clients good plea deals or acquittals at trial. But Maloof stepped over the line last Friday with complete lack of respect for a human being. His comments were unprofessional. Even the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case expressed his objections. Assistant District Attorney Blair McGregor told the court that the defense was speaking from "cisgender privilege." He said that Hulsey is "female gendered." Kudos to him for speaking up.

The judge who presided over the arraignment doesn't get off the hook either. Superior Court Judge Edward Torpoco said nothing from the bench to correct or reprimand Maloof. Governor Jerry Brown appointed Torpoco to the bench last year. His term expires in 2016 but barring a challenge, he'll continue to serve. Before his appointment, Torpoco, according to Ballotpedia, served as senior director and legal counsel supporting international projects for eBay. He's also a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California and former trial attorney for the Department of Justice. At the least, Torpoco should have corrected and scolded Maloof.

This is about more than San Francisco values. Transgender people, especially trans women of color, continue to experience horrific violence. Many regularly complain about mistreatment – and misgendering – by police and other authorities who are supposed to help them. Now we can add a deputy public defender to this list, and while he's not Hulsey's attorney, his comments about her are prejudicial.

At Transgender Day of Remembrance observances all over the country last Friday, participants read the names of trans people who have died in the last year by homicide, as well as others whose lives were lost. This is a real crisis that has killed more than 20 trans people in the U.S. so far this year. According to a recently released report by the FBI about its 2014 hate crime statistics, bias-motivated incidents based on gender identity grew from 31 reported to the FBI in 2013 to 98 last year. And that doesn't include all incidents because it is not mandatory for law enforcement agencies to report them to the FBI.

The Human Rights Campaign last week released a statement on the FBI stats. It included a call to amend the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to require reporting. It also called for an expansion of education and training initiatives designed to reduce prejudice. These are both good ideas, but probably won't be implemented anytime soon.

Along with the FBI's report is another one produced by HRC and the Trans People of Color Coalition. Titled "Addressing Anti-Transgender Violence," the report explores realities, challenges, and solutions for both policymakers and community advocates. Writing in the introduction, Kylar W. Broadus, TPOCC executive director, noted, "Discrimination and stigma mean that transgender people not only face violence from partners, but we are also more likely to experience harassment and violence from police officers, in homeless shelters, or when seeking emergency care."

It's unfortunate that this stigma was perpetrated and perpetuated by an attorney in the public defender's office. Mr. Maloof needs to be called out on his atrocious conduct. The next time he appears in court for this case, he should refer to Hulsey as the woman she is.


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