Editorial: Lillian Sing for Superior Court

Two candidates, Lillian Sing and Eric Safire, are vying for a seat on the San Francisco Superior Court bench in the June 6 election.

Sing served on the bench for more than 20 years, developing a reputation for integrity and even-handedness. She stepped down in 2004 to make an unsuccessful run for the Board of Supervisors, and has served as an assigned judge since then.

Safire, an attorney who has built a litigation practice over the last 25 years in the areas of criminal, employment, civil rights and appellate law, has no experience as a judge but points to his record of settling cases as an example of his mediation skills. Clearly outmatched by Sing in the area of judicial experience, Safire has gone on the offensive during the campaign, saying his opponent has used the bench as a stepping stone to higher office and attacking Sing’s record on the bench.

The negative campaign reached a troubling apogee when Safire sent a blistering, anti-Sing campaign mailer to voters alleging she botched a murder trial when she declined to poll a deadlocked jury, a procedural move that another judge later ruled should allow the defendant to go free. What the mailer failed to mention was that Sing was vindicated by a later Court of Appeal ruling that found she had done nothing wrong, and that the defendant — rather than escaping murder charges as Safire’s mailer suggested — was in fact retried. Safire nonetheless maintains that Sing should have polled the jury, thus avoiding the costs of appeal.

Misleading attack ads may be common in rough-and-tumble political races but are at odds with the sober and even-handed temperament desirable in a jurist. It raises questions about Safire’s suitability for the position.

There are no such questions about Sing. Respected by her peers and long known for her fairness and solid legal mind, she has nurtured innovative courtroom initiatives, including a children’s waiting room at the courthouse and the successful Drug Court, which has lessened the burden on the criminal courts. Sing also advocates for satellite access centers in the neighborhoods to help residents file court forms, expansion of early-resolution and mediation services, and electronic filing as is done in the federal courts.

Lillian Sing has the experience and temperament to resume a seat on the Superior Court bench, and we enthusiastically supporther candidacy.

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