Juvenile Court Judge ‘Blanket Challenged’ by District Attorney in San Francisco

By Noah Friedlander
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By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – With little notice, in late 2022, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ office began a “blanket challenge” to one of the state’s most experienced judges, preventing him from hearing juvenile cases, according to a news report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Invoking a state law on “judicial impartiality,” said the Chronicle, Jenkins suggested Judge J. Anthony Kline, a 42-year judicial veteran retired from the First District Court of Appeal in 2021, is biased and her office would remove him from juvenile cases. 

The Chronicle wrote the “state Supreme Court upheld the judicial removal law in 1977, acknowledging in an opinion by Justice Stanley Mosk that it ‘may be used for judge-shopping,’ but saying the Legislature had given both sides in civil and criminal cases ‘an extraordinary right to disqualify a judge’ in a newly filed case.

“Dissenting from the 5-1 ruling, Justice Mathew Tobriner said the use of blanket challenges because of a judge’s philosophy or past rulings ‘seriously undermines the principle of judicial independence.’”

And Jenkins’ office was not forthcoming on the actions in late 2022, “other than the language Deputy District Attorney David Mitchell submitted a sworn declaration to the court…stating that Kline ‘is prejudiced against the (prosecution)” and the DA Office ‘cannot have a fair and impartial trial or hearing,’” wrote the Chronicle.

Kline had been a juvenile court judge before former Gov. Jerry Brown picked him for the appellate court, where he became the state appeals courts’ senior justice. He also was legal affairs secretary for Brown before that.

The SF Chronicle noted that under state law, DA Jenkins’ office is “not required to state its reasons. Neither the defense lawyer nor the judge has a right to object or ask for an explanation and the case is automatically assigned to another judge.”

“We’re seeing the District Attorney’s Office do a blanket challenge on Judge Kline for all new cases coming into the system,” said Emily Goldman, in Public Defender Mano Raju’s office, to the Chronicle, adding, “I don’t know why they’re doing it, but I think it’s very unfortunate.”

In a Chronicle interview, Sidney Holler, a member of a panel of defense lawyers who represent juveniles when Raju’s office is unavailable, said Kline is “one of the top jurists in our state, if not our country. I don’t see how the D.A. can say in good faith that he can’t be fair and impartial…. It’s really wrong and unfair.”

Another panel member, George Lazarus, said to the Chronicle, “This is a guy who has absolutely no prejudice toward anybody. I think it’s a political move on their part. It has a lot to do with the fact that Brooke Jenkins is running for office in November…. Jenkins has taken a position to be tougher on juveniles.” 

Jenkins, the Chronicle wrote, said she would be “willing to prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for ‘egregious crimes,’” which reversed former DA Chesa Boudin’s “policy of handling all of their cases in juvenile court. Such prosecutions would require approval by a juvenile court judge.”

The Chronicle story quotes U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who was a prosecutor in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office from 1966 to 1973 and returned in 1979 as chief assistant district attorney, noting his office “never blanket-challenged a judge. I think some explanation ought to be provided to the citizens.”

And, said the Chronicle story, Therese Stewart, “nominated by Gov. Gavin Newsom to Kline’s former seat as presiding justice of Division Two on the First District Court in San Francisco, after serving alongside Kline on the court for eight years” said “Kline is ‘a role model…the trial court is lucky to have him.’”

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1 Comment

  1. Walter Shwe

    By seeking to remove all juvenile cases from a highly respected judge, Jenkins has proven that the only thing that matters to her is to win at all costs bar none. This is nothing more than a political stunt to help her get elected.

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