Before graduating from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Daniel “Danny” Adelman knew he wanted to study law. Accounting was something he “fell into,” but studying law was something he was passionate about. Adelman, founding partner of Adelman German law firm, was recently named executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. He will replace outgoing director Tim Hogan, who has led the center for 26 years, in early 2018.
The center has long played a role in Arizona politics, tackling issues pertaining to public education, child welfare and the environment. How does it feel to take over such a big-name nonprofit law firm?
It’s clearly an awesome responsibility. I understand a lot about how much the center has accomplished over the years and it’s really mind blowing how much such a small organization has been able to accomplish. The work that the center has done for children, for public education, for the environment is truly amazing, so I’m humbled by it, but I’m up for the challenge.
You’ve served on the center’s board for 23 years. When did you first become involved with the center and why?
I actually learned about the center when I was in law school at ASU like 32 years ago. … When I got out (of school), I was already involved in some charities that helped children and part of what we did was we would go to different schools to try to get children for this camp for underprivileged kids that I helped run. The schools were just atrocious, the disparity between the haves and the have nots. That was while the center was prosecuting the lawsuit that had the Arizona school finance system declared unconstitutional. And after the center won that lawsuit I would go back to those same schools and it made a huge difference. They were able to rebuild and refurbish and make the schools really good. … (The center has) always been a big part of what I’ve cared about in Arizona.
In your private practice you focus on personal injury and medical malpractice cases. How will that experience translate to your new position?
You’re always going up against huge corporations or insurance companies that have unlimited resources. Well, that is definitely a thing that I’ll be doing in all the litigation that the center does. I do a lot of work involving medical malpractice. I’m not a doctor, but in each case I have to learn a whole new area of medicine and sort of become an expert on this one little issue. Well I’m going to have a lot of learning to do as the executive director for the center. And I think those skills of finding the right expert and really learning a whole new area will serve me well.
The center has focused on public education, the environment and health care. Do you see yourself continuing to pursue those themes? What other areas are you interested in tackling?
Continuing those topics is definitely a big part of where I see the center going in the future. So I do not have a goal to totally change the direction of the center. … Recently the center took on a case for families with children with autism where insurance companies, either public or private, are denying services to children with autism. If you looked five years ago, that wasn’t a case that we were already doing, but it was a good area to expand into. So I want to look for areas like that that we can expand our mission to as long as the idea of the mission, advocating for people who otherwise would have no voice, stays consistent.
Going forward, what are some of your goals for the center?
One of my goals for the center is to reach out to more people so that they can kind of see what the center is and support us. We don’t take any government money so we just have small individual donations from people who care about children and health care and we’re constantly going to battle with people and institutions with a ton of power, so it really is a true grassroots kind of organization. … I want to help get an educational system that isn’t so unequal. People can argue about whether they have privilege or whether other people should overcome odds, but in Arizona our Constitution says that the government needs to provide this and it’s not fair that kids in an affluent district have so many advantages, just as to the structure of their school, that children in poor districts don’t have. I want to fight that.
You play in a band called The Philosophisers.
I play the guitar, rhythm guitar, in a rock and blues band, which actually sounds way more exciting than it really is. I also play the harmonica in the blues part of it. I started playing the guitar right out of high school and was a song leader at a camp. And then a group of friends just decided to put together a band. … It’s a lot of fun and it’s good to keep the other half of the brain engaged.
You also wrote a fiction novel about two NASA scientists who develop technology that can solve world hunger. How did the idea come about?
I started writing the book as a whim. My son, who was a journalism major, and I decided we’d write a book. And I wrote the first chapter and then he was going to write the second chapter but he was too busy being in school and having fun so then I wrote the second chapter and just kept going. … So it was just for fun. I self-published it on Amazon. I have my idea for my next book. The star character will be a preschool teacher. And of course it will be a murder mystery.