Two sitting San Francisco Superior Court judges and their challengers will face off at a debate Thursday night, months before the March 2024 judicial election that has become a central ideological battleground over how the city handles its public safety and ongoing drug crisis.
Judge Patrick Thompson will debate Assistant District Attorney Jean Myungjin Roland, and Judge Michael Begert will debate attorney Albert "Chip" Zecher, a corporate lawyer and board member at UC Law San Francisco.
Begert and Thompson are among a number of judges who have come under scrutiny recently by groups that claim their rulings threaten public safety by allowing repeat offenders back onto the streets.
Begert’s and Thompson’s challengers are backed by the same tough-on-crime groups that helped oust former District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
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.
Appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Begert has been on the bench since 2011.
Judge Patrick Thompson was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022 after working in private practice for years.
The event is sponsored by a number of organizations, including Stop Crime Action, which has vocally criticized both incumbents and said it backs both challengers.
The Dec. 7 event begins at 7 p.m. at the San Francisco County Fair Building at 1199 Ninth Ave. in Golden Gate Park.