Assistant District Attorney Jean Roland is running in the March election to become a judge in San Francisco. Her tough-on-crime backers say she'll hold drug dealers and users accountable. But critics are raising questions about what she knew about her husband’s past drug use and professional misconduct—and whether she acted appropriately when she became aware of it.
Jean Roland’s husband, Robert Roland, was convicted of drug possession and lost his job as a San Francisco prosecutor in 2006 after he prosecuted two men with whom he had a conflict of interest, according to State Bar court records. They were apparently his drug suppliers, but he did not disclose their relationships to his superiors. (There is no indication Jean Roland was involved in his drug use.)
He was disbarred in 2007. A decade later, in 2016, he was readmitted after Jean Roland and others testified to the State Bar, vouching for her husband’s recovery and asking for his reinstatement.
“She testified that petitioner is now a completely different person; his priorities are so different,” according to the State Bar court records. “She believes that he was a genuinely good person, a kind person. She knew that he had an addiction issue; she stayed with him because she did not want him to go back into his addiction.”
But those records also indicate that Jean Roland knew of her husband’s drug issues as early as 2002 and confronted him about it.
Jean Roland did not respond to a request for comment about whether she reported her husband’s drug use to her superiors in 2002.
But in an interview with The Standard, Jean Roland said her support for her husband should not play a role in the election and that she has never claimed publicly that drug users shouldn’t get a second chance.
“I am not defined by the man who is with me,” she said, adding that she “would find it offensive” if she were judged by her husband's actions.
Jean Roland said that, in fact, in 2013, she helped create the DA’s restorative justice program at Juvenile Hall, which was all about giving people second chances.
But others say Jean Roland’s advocacy for her husband and knowledge of his drug use while in the DA’s Office are marks against the temperament needed to be a judge.
“At a minimum, it calls into question whether she has judicial temperament,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said, questioning whether Jean Roland had an ethical or legal obligation to report her knowledge of her husband's drug abuse to her superiors. “What did she know, and who did she fail to tell?”
But Jean and Robert Roland’s boss from the early 2000s disagreed.
Jerry Coleman, who was both of their supervisors at the time, said there was no obligation for anyone to tell him about Robert Roland’s drug problems in the early 2000s.
“I don’t think anyone like that had an obligation to tell,” he said. “That was their personal situation.”
Coleman would not say if Jean Roland told him about Robert Roland's drug use.
The only mistake Robert Roland made, Coleman said, was not disclosing his relationship with the two men he was prosecuting, adding that his former employee’s private life never interfered with his work.
Drug Dealing and the Election
Much of the rhetoric around the March election for two open judge seats on San Francisco Superior Court has centered on open-air drug dealing and what some call the unaccountable revolving door of drug abusers and their suppliers in the courts. Groups like Stop Crime Action and Stop Crime SF have criticized judges they deem too lenient on dealers, users and other criminals.
Stop Crime Action, which is Stop Crime SF’s sister political nonprofit, backs both Jean Roland and Albert “Chip” Zecher. Roland is challenging Judge Patrick Thompson. Zecher, a corporate lawyer and board member of UC Law San Francisco, is challenging Judge Michael Begert.
While Jean Roland is barred by judicial ethics from saying exactly how she will rule on the bench, she said in a recent event that San Francisco’s current judiciary is not holding criminals accountable. Her campaign literature highlights the fact that her family were the victims of a brutal robbery, which inspired her to become a prosecutor who fights for victims.
But her backers have been far less circumspect, claiming she will hold drug dealers and users accountable in ways Thompson has allegedly not. Thompson has only been on the bench since 2023 and oversees a preliminary hearing court, which does not involve the initial charging and detention decisions. Preliminary hearings are held to decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
“Judges Begert and Thompson both demonstrate a catch-and-release philosophy regarding serious criminal conduct,” Stop Crime Action said in a message retweeted by Stop Crime SF in which public safety issues were laid in the lap of judges.
Addiction, Conviction, Disbarment
According to a 2016 State Bar court decision recommending his reinstatement to the State Bar, Robert Roland was addicted to drugs when he started working for the DA’s Office in 2002, the same year he met his wife-to-be, Jean Kang.
“By then, he was addicted to methamphetamines and MDMA (ecstasy). Soon he led a double life,” state bar court records say. “Eventually petitioner’s two worlds collided.”
Robert Roland allegedly bought drugs from a childhood friend, Eric Shaw, “a small-time drug seller” who purchased drugs from Ryan Nyberg.
In 2002, Shaw was arrested on felony charges of possessing ecstasy, and the case came before Robert Roland, who did not disclose their relationship to anyone even though he was assigned the case. Shaw eventually made a plea deal wherein he pleaded to misdemeanor possession and was sentenced to three years probation and 10 days in jail that could be served instead as part of a sheriff's work program. After the case was completed, Robert Roland continued to solicit drugs from Shaw, State Bar court records say.
In 2003, when Shaw’s alleged supplier, Nyberg, was arrested and charged with possession, Shaw called Robert Roland, asking if there was anything the prosecutor could do to help Nyberg. While Robert Roland told Shaw he could do nothing for Nyberg, he was assigned Nyberg’s case, according to State Bar documents.
Robert Roland did not disclose that he and Nyberg had numerous phone conversations. The judge granted Nyberg release without bail while his case was pending, a move that Robert Roland did not object to as the prosecutor in the case. After Nyberg’s release, the State Bar’s decision states that Robert Roland solicited, and obtained, drugs from Nyberg.
During this period, Jean Roland knew about her then-boyfriend's addiction and confronted him about it, State Bar records said, adding that she said her husband had stopped using hard drugs by 2004.
Jean Roland testified that “in and around 2002 she could tell that petitioner was using drugs and confronted him. He took a look at his life and tried to shed that juvenile behavior. He wanted to change. She saw that changes were happening in 2003; he was a different person.”
A federal investigation eventually led to Robert Roland’s 2005 indictment and eventual conviction, federal records show. When Robert Roland pleaded guilty in federal court to drug possession charges, he admitted to taking two ecstasy pills from Shaw and Nyberg, but denied giving them any special treatment.
“He readily admitted that what he did was dishonorable, consequently causing damage to his office and the criminal justice system,” according to State Bar court documents.
Jean Roland stuck by her husband. While awaiting his prison sentence, the couple married. He served six months; she visited monthly, State Bar records say.
After his release, he went to rehab, volunteered in a number of capacities and took ethics training, according to State Bar documents.
But it took two attempts at reinstatement for Robert Roland to finally get back his license to practice law. He does not work as a lawyer, according to his LinkedIn profile, but for a medical device company. The State Bar’s website lists him as active.
He could not be reached for comment.