Judicial Records

Judge Andrew Cheng

  • Tripled the amount of damages against a notorious landlord. Judge Cheng levied a $3.5 million settlement on a notorious landlord who evicted a family from its home of 21 years to rent the unit at a higher price. It was the largest judgment in a single-unit landlord-tenant case in the nation.
  • Sided with veterans to preserve rent-free status in War Memorial Building. Cheng issued a ruling that sided with veterans who argued they were being pushed out of the War Memorial Veterans Building. The ruling allowed veterans to continue to use the San Francisco War Memorial at no cost.
  • Presided over the largest plaintiff’s asbestos jury verdict in 2017. Judge Cheng presided over the jury trial that awarded a former longshoreman $24.26 million for a rare, aggressive cancer he contracted after exposure to asbestos while taking breaks in the engine rooms of ships to keep warm.
  • Resolved the Robin Williams trust dispute. Judge Cheng presided over the settlement agreement that resolved the dispute over the late actor-comedian’s estate.
  • As an attorney, Cheng worked to achieve a $500 million settlement from tobacco companies that resulted in the renovation of Laguna Honda Hospital. 

Judge Curtis Karnow

  • Karnow has been credited with saving San Francisco City College (CCSF). In 2015 and 2016, he issued rulings against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and in favor of CCSF. The rulings prevented CCSF from losing its accreditation and shutting down.
  • Judge Karnow is also an accomplished author. His most recent book, “Litigation in Practice” was heralded as one of the “8 Best Litigation Books of All Time.”
  • Curtis Karnow has lectured at the University of Michigan Business School, the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and the law schools at Stanford, New York University, Yale, Hastings and University of San Francisco.
  • His pro bono work as a lawyer included major appellate work for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and representing indigent San Francisco families to obtain guardianships of children.
  • Judge Karnow and Judge Ross have taught ethics and bias classes for attorneys who volunteer as pro tem judges; they are bound by the ethical standards applicable to judges. They work to help people recognize and overcome implicit bias.

Judge Cynthia Ming-mei Lee

  • Judge Cynthia Ming-mei Lee was the first Asian American woman Presiding Judge in San Francisco history.
  • Judge Lee founded the San Francisco Veterans Court that emphasizes rehabilitation and services over punishment for veterans who are in the criminal justice system. The court provides individualized treatment plans to help veterans re-enter society instead of re-entering the criminal court system. As of January 2018, the court has 124 graduates and has been widely viewed as successful.
  • Judge Lee instituted mandatory domestic violence training for all judges and received a commendation from the Commission on the Status of Women.
  • She founded the Truancy Action Partnership to work with parents, school staff and child welfare agencies to help parents overcome obstacles to school attendance and made changes to increase court support for dependent children and the elderly.
  • Judge Lee was one of two lead judges in the California Risk Assessment Pilot Program (CALRAPP)  when San Francisco was selected to participate in a statewide program. The program incorporated evidence-based practices and developed a risk/assessment tool for use in pre-trial release decision-making to reduce incarceration before trial.
  • As an SF assistant district attorney, Lee worked to establish the first Juvenile Drug Court (YTEC).

Judge Jeffrey Ross

  • Judge Ross was a Veterans Justice Court judge at the Hall of Justice; he worked with military veterans to avoid incarceration and to get them housing, mental health and drug treatment and employment services.
  • As the chair of the Superior Court treatment court committee (Drug Court, Behavioral Health Court, Young Adult Court, Community Justice Center and VJC), Judge Ross works with representatives of city departments to provide effective alternatives to incarceration.
  • Judge Ross and Judge Karnow have taught ethics and bias classes for attorneys who volunteer as pro tem judges; they are bound by the ethical standards applicable to judges. They work to help people recognize and overcome implicit bias.
  • As 1997 president of the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF), Ross established the Law Academy — first at Mission High School and then at Balboa High School. The Law Academy mentors students, provides them with summer jobs in law offices and prepares them for college
  • Also as 1997 BASF president, Judge Ross was active in the efforts to avoid the effects of Proposition 209 (the anti-affirmative action initiative) on the University of California and later he worked to defeat both Proposition 22 and Proposition 8, which were created by opponents of the court’s same-sex marriage decision
  • Ross was lead counsel for the Los Angeles Unified School District in Williams et al. vs. State of California, which addressed a student’s constitutional right to a good education. He worked with San Francisco Unified School District’s counsel to resolve the case to avoid costly litigation.
  • As an attorney, Ross was appointed by the California Supreme Court to represent death-row inmate James Robinson, a 22-year-old African-American charged with killing two white teenagers as part of a Subway sandwich store robbery in Los Angeles in 1991, in his habeas challenge to his conviction and death sentence.
  • Ross was on the Board of Directors of San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance (now “Bay Area Legal Aid”) and the Volunteer Legal Services Program (now the “Justice and Diversity Center”), both of which provide legal representation to the poor and under-served in our community.