SF judge resigns soon after ruling SFPD can’t fire cops who sent racist texts

If you’ve ever thought elections don’t matter, take this story as a cautionary tale.

Remember the judge who ruled on a group of San Francisco police officers who sent racist text messages last year? After the officers were brought up on disciplinary charges in early 2015 — the racist text messages were revealed during a police corruption case in federal court — 10 of the officers filed suit, arguing The City had waited too long to take disciplinary action.

Then in December, Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith determined the San Francisco Police Department waited too long to punish the officers involved.

Well, as it turns out, he’s retiring.

Goldsmith, who was appointed in 1996 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, and whose term is set to end in 2017, plans to permanently put down his gavel.

Goldsmith was re-elected in 2011 to serve his current term, the term in which he ruled the police department waited too long to take action against a handful of police officers caught sending racist text messages.

That, of course, was just one of his rulings. Early in his current term, a Goldsmith ruling put a halt to the state’s cap and trade emissions plan when he said the state failed to include enough plan alternatives. His ruling was later overturned in appeals.

“These years have been by far the best of my professional life,” Goldsmith said. “I have enjoyed my tenure immensely. I consider myself fortunate to have had so many interesting and challenging cases, including the asbestos cases which I lost count of, and years of environmental cases. It brings to mind a comment by one of my colleagues when I first came to the bench: ‘Do they really pay us for something we enjoy so much?’ The relationships with my colleagues through the years have been gratifying beyond my powers of description.”

Before his time as a judge, Goldsmith served for a time as a prosecutor in San Francisco in the 1970s.

Now, voters will be given an chance to choose his replacement.

According to a news release, Goldsmith’s retirement leaves three vacancies on the San Francisco Superior Court Bench, which has 52 judges.

Three contenders have already filed papers for the June election to fill the seat, including a sitting police commissioner.

Police Commissioner Victor Hwang, Paul Henderson and Sigrid Irias have all filed paperwork to run in the coming election.


Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeink

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