Adachi, ACLU call for Police Commission review of public defender's arrest

COURTESY PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICEDeputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson was arrested and booked Tuesday for refusing to let a client of hers be questioned by a police investigator who was also trying to take the client's pictures.

COURTESY PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICEDeputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson was arrested and booked Tuesday for refusing to let a client of hers be questioned by a police investigator who was also trying to take the client's pictures.

An American Civil Liberties Union representative voiced his organization's concern Wednesday to the San Francisco Police Commission regarding the arrest of a deputy public defender last week inside the Hall of Justice.

“I think this incident raises questions. Do the police have a practice of photographing people in court rooms?” said Alan Schlosser, the ACLU's legal director for Northern California, about the arrest of Deputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson Jan. 28.

“What's happening out in the community where there are no video cameras and no lawyers?” he asked.

After a police officer had attempted to take photos and question Tillotson's client, she informed the client that he did not have to answer the officer's questions. When she protested the actions of the officer – identified as Inspector Brian Stansbury – he placed her under arrest, an incident captured on video that was disseminated by the Public Defender's Office. She was detained for about an hour and then released.

The commission was also addressed by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who relayed the details of the incident and expressed his outrage over the arrest of an 18-year veteran of his office.

“I still want an apology,” Adachi said to Police Chief Greg Suhr and the commission, whom he beseeched to not remain silent on the matter. “I've been around the Hall for 30 years and I've never seen anything like this.”

Suhr did apologize for any stress the incident induced, but defended his officer's actions.

“I do apologize for any distress to Mrs. Tillotson,” he said. But he also said that the inspector whom Tillotson addressed had reasonable suspicion to take the photos.

The case, which Suhr said he'd been briefed on, will not result in any criminal charges.

But the issue did not end there; it sparked a brief but slightly heated exchange among commissioners.

Commissioner Petra De Jesus questioned the chief about what policies exist around police taking photos of people when their lawyers are present to make sure people's constitutional rights are being adhered to.

Suhr replied that police action in the courtroom has always been off-limits, but outside a courtroom, in the hallway, is another matter.

But De Jesus argued, “We can't go around arresting attorneys.”

“Unless they're breaking the law,” interrupted commission President Suzy Loftus, who pointed out that the incident is being investigated by the office of citizen complaints and there will be an inquiry into whether any discipline is called for.

In response to Adachi's request for commission comment, Commissioner Thomas Mazzucco pointed out that since the commission will stand as a judge over the matter, it cannot comment on an ongoing case.

The ACLU, however, sent a letter to the Police Commission demanding that it undertake a thorough review of the arrest of Tillotson.

ACLUBay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsDeputy Public Defender Jami TillotsonPublic Defender Jeff Adachi

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, which features a comprehensive water-recycling system, on July 30, 2021. Water recycling in office buildings is seen as a promising sustainability effort, as well as a smart hedge against rising costs and future shortages. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
Salesforce Tower is part of a nationwide water recycling trend: Here’s how it works

By Patrick Sisson New York Times When Salesforce Tower in San Francisco… Continue reading

Folks wave from the side of a Muni cable car as it heads down Powell Street after cable car service returns from a 16-month COVID absence on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s cable cars return after 16-month absence

San Francisco’s cable cars are back, and they’re free for passengers to… Continue reading

An East Palo Alto resident is inoculated during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by Ravenswood Family Health Network at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters)
COVID vaccinations lag for people on Medi-Cal

By Ana B. Ibarra CalMatters Low-income Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal have been… Continue reading

Most Read