District Attorney Chesa Boudin has fired a number of veteran prosecutors and hired two former public defenders in his first days on the job. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

New DA Boudin hires public defenders amid staffing shake-up

After firing at least six prosecutors last Friday within days of taking office, new District Attorney Chesa Boudin has hired two deputy public defenders to work in the District Attorney’s Office.

Attorneys Tal Klement and Dana Drusinsky of the Public Defender’s Office are among four new hires that Boudin made Monday, according to an internal memo obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.

Boudin also made several promotions from within the office to replace attorneys who were fired Friday in what critics have dubbed the “Friday Night Massacre.”

Drusinsky, an ardent Boudin supporter who has worked in three public defender’s offices around the Bay Area, is expected to work in the Trial Integrity and Brady unit, according to the memo. Klement, a 16-year veteran public defender, has been assigned to the Intake Unit.

Tal Klement, a veteran of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, was among four new hires made by new District Attorney Chesa Boudin in his first days in office. (Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

In addition to Klement and Drusinsky, Boudin hired Nabilah Hossain, an assistant district attorney from New York, and Asit Panwala, a former assistant district attorney in San Francisco who has worked as a criminal defense attorney for the last six years.

The District Attorney’s Office confirmed the shake-up Monday.

“We’re excited about all the new hires and promotions,” Boudin said in a statement. “Bringing diverse perspectives into the office is critical to fulfilling the promise I made to San Francisco.”

The staffing changes come after sources with knowledge of the situation say Boudin fired at least six prosecutors including Michael Swart, Linda Allen, Thomas Ostly, Todd Barrett, Ana Gonzalez and Kara Lacey.

On Monday, he promoted attorney Diane Knoles to replace Swart as the managing attorney of the Homicide Unit.

Michael Swart, former managing attorney for the District Attorney’s Office Homicide Unit, was among those let go shortly after District Attorney Chesa Boudin took office. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

He also promoted prosecutors Julia Cervantes, a homicide attorney, and Lili Nguyen of the Gang Unit to replace Allen and Barrett as managing attorneys of the General Felonies Unit.

“I’m excited to be able to promote from within our ranks three amazing experienced women are going to be taking on management roles in key units,” Boudin said. “I’m optimistic that they will be able to lead and work effectively in their new positions.”

The shake-up also means that the Gang Unit lost its managing attorney, Gonzalez, as well as attorneys Cervantes, Kathleen McBride and Aaron Laycook, who were reassigned.

But Paula Lehman-Ewing, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said the unit has not been officially dismantled at this point.

“There has obviously been personnel shuffling but there is nothing official in terms of dismantling any units,” Lehman-Ewing said.

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported on the firings Friday.

On Sunday, the San Francisco Municipal Attorneys Association, which represents attorneys in The City including prosecutors, released a statement condemning the “Friday Night Massacre” and calling on Boudin to reverse the decision.

“If Boudin had consulted the managers who know them best, he would have learned that the attorneys he fired are among the most talented and hardworking in the entire criminal justice system,” political consultant Nathan Ballard said in the statement on behalf of the union.

“A prosecutor’s office cannot properly function if the public fears that its decisions are made on a political basis,” the statement continued. “When a D.A. fires attorneys who were in the middle of important cases and had won the trust of victims and witnesses, there is a negative impact on the public trust in the criminal justice system — and on public safety.”

Boudin’s decision to fire prosecutors shortly after taking office is not unprecedented. Former San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan reportedly fired 14 senior prosecutors when he assumed office in 1996.

And in January 2018, progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner fired more than two dozen attorneys within days of being sworn-in, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

When asked in an interview before his swearing in whether he would make staffing changes like Krasner, Boudin told the Examiner, “there will have to be some changes to staff, but I want to move slowly.”

“I want to see what is going on for myself and see how we can make the changes needed with the staff that are there, that have been serving The City for so long, to the extent that’s possible,” Boudin said.

“I hope to make some changes in terms of policy and staff within the next week or so,” Boudin continued. “But I think broader changes will take time. I don’t want to run before I can walk.”

Boudin said he would “explore restructuring the management apparatus in the office” within the next six months.

“I have received a ton of resumes from people from across the country who are really excited to come be a part of what we have the opportunity to create,” Boudin said.

This story has been updated.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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

Just Posted

SF e-scooters burst into flames in Golden Gate Park, ex-contractor reveals

Photographs obtained Wednesday by the San Francisco Examiner show the charred remains of at least two Skip e-scooters

SF politico who authored vape ban takes money from JUUL lobbyist, returns it after media call

Supervisor Shamann Walton made national news after he proverbially smoked e-cigarette company… Continue reading

8 months later, SF has yet to put new conservatorship program into effect

Implementation of SB1045 delayed by need for superior court approval

Stories of political struggle on tap for SF Opera’s 98th season

‘Fidelio,’ ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ ‘Der Zwerg’ come to War Memorial

Chinatown fixture Yuet Lee prepares for New Year with new leadership in the kitchen

Although Chinese New Year is a holiday, at newly anointed legacy business… Continue reading

Most Read