When San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith announced his impending retirement in February, it provided a rare opportunity for local aspirants to run for an often appointed position: judge.
Now three local lawyers are contending for the post as one of The City’s more than 50 Superior Court judges who rule on and oversee civil to criminal trials. One is a sitting police commissioner, another works for Mayor Ed Lee on public safety issues and a third practices private law.
Whichever two candidates voters choose in the June 7 primary election will go head-to-head in November, unless a single candidate takes more than 50 percent of the votes and is therefore declared the winner in June.
Victor Hwang: Hwang was born in New Jersey and raised with his brother by Chinese immigrant parents. He came west in 1985, when he began his undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley, which was followed by law school at Univeristy of Southern California. Hwang worked as a deputy public defender for four years in Los Angeles in the 1990s before working as a deputy district attorney in San Francisco from 2007 to 2014, where he prosecuted hate crimes and human trafficking, among other cases. Hwang works as the deputy director for the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach and was appointed to the Police Commission in April 2014 after the controversial removal of Angela Chan. The San Francisco Bar Association ranked Hwang as more qualified than his opponents. Hwang lives with his fiance, Ivy Lee, and their three children in the Inner Sunset.
Campaign finances: Since January, Hwang has raised $80,619 and spent $55,458. His largest single contributor by far, Eileen Hwang of San Francisco, gave $20,000.
Paul Henderson: Henderson is a native San Franciscan who grew up in the Bayview and has worked in The City’s legal system for decades. He attended UC Los Angeles and Tulane University. Henderson was formerly District Attorney Kamala Harris’ chief administrator and a prosecutor. He served as a temporary magistrate in the superior court, and has been a political pundit. Since 2011, he has worked as the deputy chief of staff and public safety liaison in Lee’s administration. Henderson was endorsed by the local Democratic County Central Committee in a close match with Hwang. “At the end of the day, building a stronger, more equitable justice system cannot happen without judicial officers who actually reflect the communities that they serve,” reads a statement on his campaign website. Henderson lives in the Haight with his partner, Kevin.
Campaign finances: His campaign has raised $88,561 and spent $41,202. His biggest donor is a George Hall from Sacramento who donated $10,000.
Sigrid Irias: Born and raised in San Francisco by a Nicaraguan immigrant and the daughter of a policeman, Irias grew up with four siblings. A graduate of UC Berkeley and UC Hastings, Irias raised three children in the Portola neighborhood and has worked for more than two decades as a trial lawyer for Sedgwich LLP, an international law firm. Outside of work, she has represented Central American children facing deportation, and as president of San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association, she helped craft an amicus briefing in right-to-marriage cases. According to her campaign website, “Sigrid’s interest in being a judge stems from a belief that fairness and social justice require an informed, broadly experienced judiciary.”
Campaign finances: Irias has raised $34,894 since January and spent $19,333. Her biggest donor, Christopher Seiwald of Alameda, gave $9,999.
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