SF DA hires bi attorney to provide trainings

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 24, 2020
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San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Arcelia Hurtado. Photo: Courtesy Arcelia Hurtado
San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Arcelia Hurtado. Photo: Courtesy Arcelia Hurtado

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has hired a bisexual female attorney to oversee updated trainings for staff, particularly with regard to the office's relations with transgender and immigrant communities.

Arcelia Hurtado, 49, has been the managing attorney in charge of diversity, equity, and inclusion since April 20.

The Bay Area Reporter first learned that the office was making these changes when Boudin was asked what he was doing to train people in his office regarding the transgender community during a panel discussion with San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, and Public Defender Mano Raju.

"We just hired a new manager, a queer woman of color, for trainings, including the one addressed in the question," Boudin said at the time.

The panel was held by the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club after Rubin Rhodes, a nonbinary San Francisco police officer, was reprimanded for wearing earrings after he knelt in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters in front of Mission Station June 3.

"Arcelia comes to us with decades of legal experience, having fought for civil and constitutional rights at every step in her career," Boudin told the B.A.R. in a June 16 email. "Her background and experience are truly one of a kind. She is the perfect person to train the lawyers and help shape the culture in my office."

Range of experience

Hurtado has a broad range of experience in the legal community, telling the B.A.R. in a June 15 phone interview that "I've done everything you could do in the legal profession."

She was born in Mexico but raised and grew up just across the border in Texas, having learned English for the first time at school. At 18 she moved to the Bay Area and attended undergraduate and then law school at UC Berkeley.

After finishing her J.D., Hurtado went on to work for the San Francisco Public Defender's office for four years before moving on to the state public defender's office, where she handled death penalty appeals for about six years.

After that, she was the executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, a San Francisco-based legal nonprofit that focuses on protecting the legal rights of women and girls, before she moved on to become a policy adviser and deputy director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, where she said she worked closely with Shannan Wilber, an attorney who's the agency's youth policy director.

"Our expertise was in juvenile justice and how it relates to the LGBT community," Hurtado said. "It gave me a lot of background about how the community intersects with the criminal justice system and how it can be more sensitive to the needs of the community."

Wilber did not respond to a request for comment. NCLR referred the B.A.R. to Cathy Sakimura, a deputy director with the San Francisco nonprofit.

"Arcelia's long career in civil rights focused on the rights of women, LGBTQ people, and people of color will be invaluable in this position, and her hiring furthers the DA's commitment to impartial and fair administration of justice," Sakimura wrote in a June 16 email. "Arcelia has the rare combination of being both a powerful storyteller and an empathetic listener, which are both so important in a leader focused on advancing equity. We look forward to all that is to come under her leadership."

Concurrent with her work at NCLR, Hurtado also served on the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board for the state as an assistant general counsel. For the past four years she has been at the Oakland firm of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, where she has helped to handle a case over Johnson & Johnson's talc-based baby powder.

"I believe that just got taken off the market," Hurtado said.

In fact, the New York Times reported in May that Johnson & Johnson was discontinuing North American sales of the talc-based baby powder. It has faced dozens of lawsuits filed by patients who say it caused cancer.

Hurtado said she knew many people who supported Boudin's campaign for San Francisco district attorney and supported him herself.

As the B.A.R. previously reported, Boudin, a former deputy public defender, ran last year as one of a number of progressive prosecutors in major American cities who pledged to make the criminal justice system more equitable.

Some of the issues Boudin ran on have gained even more salience in the wake of renewed activism following the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, among other Black people killed by police.

"As soon as our DA was elected [last November] ... I was in conversation with people who were on the transition team, and we had conversations about me joining the office," Hurtado said, adding that the timing wasn't good then considering her other work. "I thought it wasn't clear what role I could take. I wasn't particularly looking to make a move, but his platform and vision is inspiring."

New training

Hurtado said part of her role as a newly-minted assistant district attorney is "overhauling the training our attorneys and summer interns receive" within the next two months.

"We need to overhaul our attorney training curriculum to create more connections with the communities we serve," Hurtado said. "For example, we need to be doing better serving the LGBT community, the immigrant community, and different sectors of our communities who did not have a strong voice until now."

When asked how specifically the office needs to change its attitude toward these communities, Hurtado said that the DA's office needs more data collection and changes in office culture.

"We need to do a better job at data collection. Our systems need to be able to show police misconduct and the status of the victims we serve, their immigrant status, their status as members of the LGBT community, so we know where we can do better," Hurtado said. "We need to create a culture where everyone feels included and create a family culture within the office."

Hurtado also said that the office needs more attorneys who take cues from the "progressive prosecution movement."

Hurtado was with a female partner 16 years who is currently a deputy public defender. The couple are no longer together and they co-parent two adolescent boys. Hurtado lives in San Francisco.

Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks have heartened Hurtado, who said she was involved in protesting about similar issues at a younger age.

"I want to say as a woman of color, as an immigrant, as someone who grew up as someone whose first language was Spanish, and as an attorney and as a mother that I think we can do better," Hurtado said. "I look forward to the work that lies ahead. I hope to work more closely with the community in San Francisco.

"We can fulfill the promises we've made and have equal justice for everyone," she added.

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