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San Francisco judges ‘crash’ mansion party, get booted from challengers’ event

A gray mansion with Christmas lights with cars parked in front of it and a family walking across the street.
On Monday night, Martha Conte hosted a forum for judicial candidates at her home on Monday night and denied entry to two sitting judges without explanation. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

Two San Francisco Superior Court judges were kicked out of what they thought was a public forum for judicial candidates Monday night by event coordinators who have criticized their rulings and said they crashed the event, according to both jurists and an event participant.

Philanthropist Martha Conte, a Republican, billed the event at her stately Presidio Heights home as a “judicial candidates forum.” The emailed invitation noted a representative from the tough-on-crime group Stop Crime SF would illustrate the “weak links in our judicial system that prioritize ideology over public safety.” 

The event’s participants included Marie Hurabiell of Connected SF and Stop Crime SF. Both groups have received funding from billionaire William Oberndorf, who supported the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin in 2022.

“I thought, well, if they are advertising this as a judicial candidate forum, I should go,” Judge Michael Begert, who is up for reelection, said. “I don’t know what happened, because I was asked to leave.”

But Hurabiell said the private event, which included about 50 people, was not an open forum.

“It would be like Chesa Boudin showing up for a meet-and-greet for Brooke Jenkins,” she said of the former DA and the prosecutor who took his place. 

A woman stands in a crowd cheering.
Marie Hurabiell, center right, listens to speeches at the School Board Recall Election Night party at Manny’s in the Mission District in 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Begert is one of a number of judges who have come under scrutiny recently by groups claiming their rulings are threatening public safety by allowing repeat offenders back onto the streets. Now Begert and another judge face challengers backed by the same tough-on-crime groups who helped oust Boudin. 

Appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Begert has been on the bench since 2011 and is facing a challenge from Albert “Chip” Zecher, a corporate lawyer and board member of UC Law San Francisco. 

Judge Patrick Thompson, who did not attend the event and was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022 after working in private practice for years, is facing a challenge from Deputy District Attorney Jean Myungjin Roland. 

Begert’s colleague on the bench, and another target of the groups at the event, Judge Linda Colfax, was also asked to leave, she said. Neither Colfax nor Begert were told the event was private or why they were asked to leave. 

“I thought it was a forum. This process is really important to me, it’s part of our democratic process,” Colfax, who doesn’t face reelection next year, said. “It was clear they didn’t want me there. He literally escorted me out.” 

Zecher and Roland were present at the forum. A text message of the invite viewed by The Standard listed the two as “our two candidates.” It did not say the event was closed to the public or required an invitation.  

The incident highlights the increasingly heated debate over public safety in San Francisco. Groups like Stop Crime SF and officials —including Jenkins, the district attorney, and Mayor London Breed—are pointing fingers at judges and others.

But others, such as Supervisor Aaron Peskin, have warned such criticism is unfairly politicizing the criminal justice system and scapegoating judges for the city’s problems. 

The host, Conte, did not respond to a request for comment. She has been a vocal opponent of one of the judges, Colfax, who was told to leave her home. 

Two months ago, Conte posted a letter on her LinkedIn opposing Colfax’s appointment to the state Appeals Court. The letter was written by Stop Crime Action, Stop Crime SF’s sister organization.

Conte is the vice president of an organization called No Labels, which is attempting to back a third-party bipartisan candidate for the presidency in 2024.  

Connected SF’s Hurabiell, meanwhile, sits on the board of Stop Crime Action, a political nonprofit funded by backers of Boudin’s recall. Connected SF received much of its funding from the same charity that Stop Crime SF and Stop Crime Action did—Neighbors for a Better San Francisco Advocacy. The head of that charity is Oberndorf.

A man in a suit stands before a lecture speaking.
Superior Court Judge Michael Begert speaks at San Francisco’s inaugural CARE Court meeting at the State of California office building in San Francisco on Sept. 18. Begert is the presiding judge of CARE Act Court, which aims to help individuals who have schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

The second speaker was Stephanie Lehman, who sits on the board of Stop Crime SF. She did not respond to a request for comment. But Stop Crime SF’s head, Frank Noto, told The Standard he was not aware of any judicial forum his organization was participating in. 

“Stop Crime SF did not sponsor a forum last night about judges,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “While I was not present at the event you mentioned, I was surprised today to hear from others that both Judge Begert and Colfax crashed the private party last night to distribute his campaign literature,” he wrote in a follow-up email.

Stop Crime Action has advocated against the appointment of Colfax to a higher judicial office, calling her work on the bench a danger to the public. Stop Crime Action also opposes the reelection of Begert and Thompson.

Clarification: This article was altered to reflect the fact that the invitation to the judge forum was emailed by the host.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at