The Examiner Endorses Judges Cheng, Karnow, Lee, and Ross

Four San Francisco deputy public defenders are running against four sitting Superior Court judges. Maria Evangelista, Kwixuan Maloof, Niki Solis and Phoenix Streets portray the sitting judges as conservatives appointed by Republican governors, and are running on a platform of greater diversity on the bench and judicial reforms, such as decreased use of money bail.

These are laudable aims, but there appears to be little substance to the attacks on the incumbents, all of whom boast impressive résumés.

Judges Curtis Karnow, Cynthia Lee, Jeffrey Ross and Andrew Cheng are all registered Democrats, three of them lifelong. (Lee recently changed her registration from “decline to state” after a previous stint as a Republican in the 1990s.) Two are Asian, including Cheng, who is the son of immigrants.

Karnow, the author of an influential article on bail reform is one of only 18 judges in the state handling complex litigation, with current cases including lawsuits stemming from the recent North Bay fires and the listing Millennium Tower. Lee served as presiding judge during a time of budget cuts and founded San Francisco’s Veterans Justice Court, which provides drug and mental health services to veterans after arrests. Ross, a former criminal defense and civil attorney, has overseen the Veterans Justice Court and worked on cases defending First Amendment rights and Planned Parenthood. Cheng is a former deputy city attorney who recently moved to triple the damages against notorious landlord Anne Kihagi after a jury found she wrongfully evicted tenants from an apartment.

The four public defenders are excellent attorneys, and we would be happy to see any of them on the bench at some point. However, in a race against four well-qualified sitting judges, the best arguments they have come up with are vague allegations of biased behavior by their opponents in the courtroom that we found don’t hold up well under close examination.

That simply isn’t enough for us.

Endorsement: Curtis Karnow, Jeffrey Ross, Cynthia Lee and Andrew Cheng for Superior Court Judge

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