Former SF D.A. and Supervisor Terence Hallinan Has Died

Doug Sovern
January 17, 2020 - 11:18 am
 San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan speaks to the press after the arraignment of Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel for the dog mauling death of Diane Whipple March 29, 2001.

Justin Sullivan/Newsmakers


Former San Francisco District Attorney and Supervisor Terence Hallinan has died, his family said Friday. He was 83 years old. 

He died peacefully in his sleep, his family said. 

In 1988, Hallinan became a San Francisco supervisor. He served two terms before becoming the city’s district attorney, known for his controversial liberal politics and practices.

He opposed the death penalty, advocated for gun control and did not believe in jailing non-violent offenders in a time when much of the United States was cracking down on crime indiscriminately. Hallinan served another term in 1999, before being bested in 2003 by now Senator Kamala Harris. 

Former Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who worked with Hallinan, remembers him fondly. 

“He took a lot of hits, you know,  from what we now call mainstream media for his set stances on social justice,” said Ammiano.

Outside of the courtroom, Hallinan was known for his tendency to talk with his fists.

“Terrence himself was, unto himself, a brilliant man, he definitely had his flaws,” said Ammiano. “He was very pugilistic, literally he was a boxer at one time. He didn’t truck with fools lightly.”

Because of this, the former D.A. was quite familiar with the criminal justice system from the other side, as well. 

Before becoming an attorney, Hallinan had his share of run-ins with law enforcement, first at civil rights demonstrations and then for fighting. So long was his list of criminal violations that the state bar initially refused to admit him, before former Mayor Willie Brown, state assemblyman at the time, and John Burton testified on his behalf. 

Hallinan eventually took his case to the state Supreme Court and won.

Hallinan is one of the sons of lawyer Vincent Hallinan.