Statement on the Suspension of SF Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and Ethics Commission Proceedings

As an organization of Bay Area attorneys, legal workers, law students, and community members, the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter urges the City of San Francisco to stop using public resources to oust Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office. We are deeply concerned that his suspension without pay by Mayor Ed Lee is an affront to the democratic will of the people of San Francisco, and that the current efforts to remove him from office both lack sufficient due process protections and are politically motivated. We take the accusations of Eliana Lopez very seriously and believe domestic violence must be dealt with in a way that respects the survivors and reduces harm. However, the official reaction to the abuse Mirkarimi undoubtedly committed has been dominated by political grandstanding, not concern for domestic violence survivors. Notwithstanding this criticism, the Guild also calls on Sheriff Mirkarimi to take full responsibility for his behavior and, if he retains his office, to work with community based organizations on restorative approaches to domestic violence beyond the criminal justice model.

We take seriously the need to protect and support people who are subject to violence of any kind, including within the family. Here, the needs of the Sheriff’s wife, Eliana Lopez, and their child, are of utmost priority. Lopez’s wishes, her definition of her experience, and her desire to rebuild her family are being completely ignored. Ms. Lopez has stated as much:

I am sad and hurt by the elected officials of the city of San Francisco: Mayor Lee, City Attorney Herrera, District Attorney George Gascón, and Judge Wong. I believe what Judge Wong, the District Attorney, the City Attorney, and Mayor Lee have done to me is far worse than anything they accuse Ross of doing. I hope they realize after reflection that what they have done is irreparable and perpetually damaging to me and my family.

We cannot support efforts that deny a survivor any voice and undermine her opinions and experiences. Doing so contravenes the purpose of domestic violence protection.

Because Mirkarimi has a record as a political progressive who has championed policies that many in law enforcement vigorously oppose, we believe this process is largely motivated by politics and not concern for victims of domestic abuse. Mirkarimi has been a strong supporter of San Francisco’s Sanctuary city policies that protect immigrants, has consistently opposed racial profiling by police, and supports efforts to decrease the jail population as part of the budget and jail re-alignment processes. In contrast, Mayor Lee has recently called for NYC police style stop-and-frisk programs in San Francisco. If District Attorney Gascon and Mayor Lee succeed in removing Mirkarimi from office, we are concerned that law enforcement policies in San Francisco will become more oppressive, and the jail population will increase.

By suspending an elected official for a misdemeanor committed before taking office, Mayor Lee is subverting democratic will before Mirkarimi has even had a chance to put his policies in place. A recall would be the appropriate, democratic mechanism for accomplishing Lee’s stated goals. Instead, the process before the Ethics Commission, and ultimately before the Board of Supervisors just before an election, disenfranchises San Franciscans.

Unlike the accused, the Mayor has the unlimited resources of the City Attorney at his disposal; and four of the Ethics Commissioners are appointed by people who are or will be directly involved in this case: the Mayor, the City Attorney, the District Attorney and the Board of Supervisors. At the very minimum, the situation raises the appearance of impropriety, conflict of interest and bias.

For the reasons stated above, we request that Mayor Lee immediately stop using scarce city & county resources to attack a democratically elected official. Should neither the Mayor nor the Commissioners have the integrity to end this assault on democracy, we ask that the Board of Supervisors vote to uphold the will of the voters.