Retired San Francisco Judge Blasts SF Mayor London Breed, SF DA Brooke Jenkins Over Record Drug Deaths

Pills & drugs, healthcare photo. Free public domain CC0 image.

By Sunny Zhou

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – This week, a retired San Francisco Superior Court Judge blasted Mayor London Breed and DA Brooke Jenkins for “failing on drugs” in the face of a record 41 percent increase in fatal drug overdoses from last year.

“Mayor London Breed and her handpicked district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, have been busy launching another war on drugs, eliminating access to treatment and services, and complaining about a San Francisco crime narrative that they now own,” retired Superior Court Judge Ellen Chaitin wrote in an op-ed for SFGate.

The SF Chronicle reported that 200 people died from accidental drug overdoses in the first three months of 2023—a nearly 41 percent increase from the first three months of 2022.

Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a UCSF professor of family and community medicine, attributed the increase to Breed’s closure of the Tenderloin Center in December 2022.

“During the two and a half years Chesa Boudin served as district attorney, the city deemphasized arrests and incarceration in favor of a safe consumption site and connecting those arrested with court-supervised treatment and services,” Chaitin wrote.

Citing her 30-year-long tenure within the San Francisco criminal court system, the retired judge wrote she had “harbored genuine optimism that, given time and support from other city departments, these initiatives would make major strides in solving problems that have plagued the city.

“There are no easy solutions or quick fixes,” Chaitin wrote of the drug crisis. “Supervised consumption sites have been proven to save lives. Drug treatment leads many to recovery. Astonishingly, the city is rejecting both treatment and supervised consumption sites. We should be outraged by politics, the policies and the scapegoating.”

Chaitin continued, “Instead of doing the difficult work of addressing these challenges, our current government officials are playing politics and moving us backward with fatal consequences.”

Breed and Jenkin’s carceral approach to dealing with the drug crisis did not show results within a “few months” as promised, Chaitin argued.

In addition to the 41 percent increase in fatal overdoses, Chaitin cited, “drug-dealing trials in which Jenkins failed to obtain a single conviction, massive increases in police spending, and a dystopian ‘San Francisco crime is out of control’ narrative that is as persistent as ever.

“What happened to Boudin’s causing these problems? It was a lie—plain and simple,” Chaitin wrote. “[W]e were asked to believe these were solvable problems if only we had the right DA to set a tough tone. Instead, as fatal overdoses skyrocket, Breed and Jenkins are begging state and federal authorities for help with a problem they are not up for solving.”

Chaitin criticized city leaders seeking federal law enforcement involvement was not only hypocritical, but had been “tried and failed many times,” in addition to being “one of a series of tactics that make clear that Breed and Jenkins have transitioned from blaming Boudin for the city’s problems to now scapegoating immigrants.”

SFist reported that Jenkins sought one-time carve outs to San Francisco’s immigrant sanctuary city policy for serious and violent charges, while the District 6 Supervisor sought a permanent exemption of sanctuary protections for fentanyl dealers.

“Any noncitizen prosecuted in federal court will be handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation proceedings,” Chaitin pointed out. “Some of the young men…who are disproportionately arrested for drug sales claim to be victims of human trafficking, and so far, San Francisco jurors believe them.”

The SF Chronicle reported two defendants, both immigrants from Honduras, beat drug dealing charges after lawyers argued they were victims of human trafficking. Testimonies of $1,000 debts and threats to family members appeared to sway jurors, resulting in hung juries and dismissed charges.

“Breed and her allies got Boudin recalled, relaunched the war on drugs, and shuttered a life-saving safe consumption site. Desperate for a new scapegoat, they shifted the blame to immigrants,” Chaitin concluded. “City elites may be happy, but should voters be?”

About The Author

Sunny is a third year Political Science student at UC Davis. She is passionate about the intersection between law, justice, and creative media. In her spare time, she enjoys watching films, playing TTRPGs, and creating animated shorts.

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  1. Walter Shwe

    I completely agree with retired Judge Chaitin. Breed and Jenkins closed an evidence-based and harm reduction safe consumption site in favor of reinstituting a failed policy from the past, the War on Drugs. This has directly led to a drug overdose catastrophe in San Francisco. Shame on Breed and Jenkins for falling back on a typical conservative tactic, wrongfully blaming immigrants.

  2. Keith Olsen

    Regarding retired Superior Court Judge Ellen Chaitin, seems she was a Chesa Boudin supporter.

    Regarding “Boudin recall has had key moments” (Bay Area & Business, May 8): The opinion of 17 retired California judges should be considered a fact of significant moment. Collectively, we, the below signatories have more than 250 years of judicial experience. We believe the District Attorney Chesa Boudin should be given a full term to demonstrate how his programs will benefit the city, safety and law enforcement.
    The recall campaign against him is not justified and should be rejected by the voters.
    Demetrios Agretelis, William Cahill, Ellen Chaitin, George Choppelas, LaDoris Cordell, John Dearman, David Garcia,Martha Goldin, Joseph Grodin, Harlan Grossman, Richard Hodge, Ken Kawaichi, Tomar Mason, Kevin McCarthy, James Robertson, Julie Tang, Daniel Weinstein

        1. Walter Shwe

          District attorneys are elected officials. Of course, politics are frequently involved. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

        2. David Greenwald

          I think you’re leaping to a lot of conclusions here. For one thing – is opposing the recall the same as supporting Boudin? The group of people you cited actually signed that letter not necessarily because they supported Boudin, but because they thought the recall was not warranted. You are then using the letter as a cudgel to then discredit any further viewpoints as being invalid. It seems like a giant leap on your part and at the end of the day, none of that discredits her present analysis (even if your broad assumption were true).

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