An unknown party is posting flyers with names of alleged fentanyl dealers and Superior Court judges they allege ordered their release in the Mission District.
One of the flyers names a defendant, Yomara Gomez, as having been arrested for dealing fentanyl and having been released twice in 2020 and once in 2023. It also lists Superior Court Judges Richard Darwin and Patrick Thompson as judges who allegedly ordered their release.
Another flyer lists a defendant named Nicol Palma as arrested in 2021 and 2022, along with Judges Michael Begert and Christine Van Aken as allegedly ordering their release. Both flyers highlight the amount of fentanyl the defendants were allegedly arrested with and the potential deaths the drugs could have caused.
They include no other information, including about who created and disseminated them.
According to the Superior Court, Gomez is expected to appear in court Oct. 17. No cases involving Palma are available for lookup on the Superior Court website, but it has been previously reported in The Standard that Palma was involved in one or more cases that were dismissed due to allegations that the arresting officers’ search of Palma was illegal.
The flyers, which have no attribution, are raising questions about political pressure on San Francisco’s courts as at least two of the named judges are up for election in March 2024. They also highlight contentious debates in the city over drug policy, with residents and some lawmakers calling for tougher penalties for drug-dealing amid rising overdose deaths.
Scrutiny has increasingly fallen on the judiciary in recent months, with Mayor London Breed, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, and business figures such as John Kilroy criticizing judges perceived as too lenient.
At the Jewish Community Center in June, Breed cast the city’s “broken” justice system as a revolving door for drug defendants: “Part of what I can do is bring attention to it, to get other people to run for judge,” Breed said.
Stop Crime SF, a public safety advocacy group, announced last month that it was going to monitor the performance of criminal court judges and eventually publish “report cards” on those jurists up for retention.
A spokesperson for Stop Crime SF said that members had been informed of the flyers early this morning but the group wasn’t involved in them and is checking to see if the information on the flyers is correct.
Fourteen Superior Court Judges are scheduled to stand for retention elections next March, judges Thompson and Begert among them.
Vidhya Prabhakaran, board chair of the Bar Association of San Francisco, called the flyers a "below the belt shot at judges."
"We share the anonymous poster’s exasperation with the drug problem in San Francisco, but demonizing individual judges for doing their jobs without providing all the facts or an appropriate understanding of the law is nothing more than an attempt to scapegoat the judiciary as a whole for the problems we face in San Francisco," Prabhakaran said.
Mike Ege can be reached at email@example.com