An Interview With Kim Burton
Kim Burton is our current endorsed candidate for San Francisco Public Defender. She is a native San Franciscan from Potrero Hill. She attended Everett Junior High School and graduated from Lowell High School. She went on to college at UC Davis and then attended Hastings Law School. On January 26, Mayor Brown appointed Kimiko Burton San Francisco Public Defender.

Q: What was it like growing up in a pro-Union family?

A: There was a strong commitment to working people and to social justice on both sides of my family. My maternal grandfather was a labor organizer in Hawaii in the 1940’s and 1950’s. He was tried and convicted for violating the Smith Act. I also remember marching with the unions at an early age. Growing up, I was not allowed to eat grapes because of my family’s support of the farmworkers. They told me various stories to prevent me from thinking that they were even available. I remember going to friends’ houses and being amazed that they had grapes! I also was taught at an early age never to cross picket lines.

Q: Where do you stand on Union issues?
A: I believe in Unions and the protection that they provide to workers. It is different to be in management though, because it is not always as clear. I definitely support the firefighters even though there is not much direct contact between the Public Defender and the Fire Department.

Q: Your father sponsored a Senate Bill that gave additional retirement benefits to Police and Firefighters in California. Where do you stand on additional retirement benefits to keep SF Firefighters in parity to the rest of the State?
A: SF Firefighters should be entitled to those retirement benefits. I think that the fact that the City Charter has a carve-out that prevents the Firefighters from receiving these benefits is wrong.

Q: What were you doing prior to your current position as Public Defender?
A: Right after graduating from law school I served as a felony trial attorney at the Public Defender’s Office for nearly five years. I then worked as counsel for Johan Klehs, State Board of Equalization. I learned two very important things in this position: 1) Tax law is interesting and 2) Tax law is not for me.

In 1996, I was appointed Director of the Criminal Justice Council for the City. In this position I was responsible for working with the various public safety departments and coordinating collaborative efforts around criminal justice. I did a lot of work with community based organizations that work with juvenile delinquents, drug treatment, and rehabilitation programs. I oversaw the disbursal of millions of dollars and worked hard to get more state and federal dollars for San Francisco. I am responsible for getting money to rebuild the City’s juvenile hall.

One of my proudest achievements was the Life Learning Academy out on Treasure Island. The Life Learning Academy is a charter school run by Delancey Street for 14 to 18 years olds. The program was designed to fill one of the most critical gaps in San Francisco’s juvenile justice system, the school provides intensive services for youths at risk as well as youths already involved in the juvenile justice system. Mike Delane, Local 798 teaches fire science at the Academy.

Q: What is your role as the Public Defender?
A: To defend any indigent person accused of a crime. Over 15,000 adults and over 1,000 juveniles a year are represented by the Public Defender’s office. The court appoints a Deputy Public Defender when it is determined that the defendant cannot afford to pay for an attorney.

Q: How is your job similar in values to the Firefighters?
A: There are similar foundations. Unions help working people against unfair treatment and working conditions. The Public Defender helps protect the least fortunate from unfair treatment by the law.

Kimiko Burton will be running for the Public Defender’s office in March 2002. As per our Union meeting on April 12, 2001, she is Local 798’s endorsed candidate.


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