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Karnow vs. Evangelista

The battle for SF Superior Court Seat #7

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Curtis Karnow

Current Role

SF Superior Court Judge (2005-Present), Appointed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005; Re-elected in 2012




University of Pennsylvania Law School
Harvard University

Personal life

Son of foreign diplomats. His father died when he was two; Mother remarried Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stanley Karnow. Grew up in Vietnam, Algeria, France and Hong Kong. Married with two adult children.

Maria Evangelista

Current role

SF Deputy Public Defender (2003-Present)




Vanderbilt University Law School ('00)
San Francisco State University, Summa Cum Laude

Personal life

Daughter of Mexican immigrants. Grew up in SOMA in SF. One of the first Mexican American women to graduate from Vanderbilt Law School. Mother of twin girls.

Why this race matters

We highly recommend you read our overview so you know what a Superior Court judge does and why this year's race is unusual.

Meet the incumbent

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Understanding Curtis

How Curtis describes his candidacy

Vision for the court

Improve access to justice by expanding state-funded pilot programs, like Civil Gideon, enabling more lawyers to represent low-income residents in civil cases. Offer more services to help explain legal options and court procedures to residents.

Dealing with a Moral Quandary

"Every year there are some occasions where I rule contrary to my beliefs of what the law should be, but in conformity to what the law is; and in those situations, I make a record and urge the appellate court to change the law. I have gone to the extent of certifying important questions to the court of appeals, asking them to reverse me."
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Curtis' Experience

Curtis' contributions to the legal and local community

Legal experience

Judge, San Francisco Superior Court (2005-Present)

  • Worked in the Complex Civil Litigation department and was presiding judge of the Court’s Appellate Division

Attorney, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal

Law clerk, US District Court Judge in Philadelphia

Assistant US Attorney (1978)

Overachiever points

  • Author and co-author of 16 books, including “The Rutter Guide,” the bible of California’s civil lawyers
  • Published a paper about bail reform
  • Taught implicit bias courses (with Judge Jeffrey Ross) to lawyers and judges
  • Lectured at University of Michigan Business School, the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and law schools at Stanford, New York University, Yale, Hastings and University of San Francisco

Meet the challenger

Understanding Maria

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How Maria describes her candidacy
“Writing a paper, talking about bail isn’t enough. Action needs to be taken as a judge.”

Vision for the court

As a judge, I would use evidence-based practices to get to the root causes of crime and ensure people are not just recycled through our system. I would be part of the solution.

Dealing with a Moral Quandary

As an officer of the court, I am obligated to uphold California’s laws and constitution. As a public defender, I have defended many individuals who were charged with serious crimes. I represent people, not crimes. My moral obligation and the oath that I took requires that I presume every client is innocent and to fight for a just process.

Maria's Experience

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Maria's contributions to the legal and local community

Legal experience

Felony litigation and trial attorney, SF Public Defender’s Office (2003-Present)

Handled thousands of cases in our Behavioral Health Court, Veteran’s Court, and Drug Court

Overachiever points

  • Director-at-Large, Board of the La Raza Lawyer's Association
  • Board member, La Raza Centro Legal, which helps immigrants, elderly and tenants with legal assistance
  • Guest instructor, Hastings College of the Law though the Trial Advocacy Program

What others think

Endorsements for individual candidates. See what people said about the slates in our overview.

About Curtis

Rating: “Exceptionally Well-Qualified” – meaning that the candidate possesses all the attributes required for a rating of “Well-Qualified” and possesses several or all of those positive attributes to such an extremely high degree to be indicative of exceptional fitness to perform the judicial function for which she or he is being considered.
The Bar Association of SF

About Maria

"Maria is fierce, smart, progressive, and has spent the last 14 years as a public defender. The very act of her decision to run for Judge against an incumbent in San Francisco is a brave and political act since judges guard their appointed seats with a mafia like system backing them"
Hillary Ronen, SF District 9 Supervisor
Rating: “Well-Qualified” – meaning that the candidate possesses all the attributes required for a rating of “Qualified” and possesses one or more of those positive attributes to such a high degree as to be indicative of superior fitness to perform the judicial function for which he or she is being considered.
The Bar Association of SF

More reading

Other articles, analyses, and opinions. Let us know if there's another perspective we should include:

Ready to judge a judge?

If you haven't already, read our overview about why this year's Superior Court race is unusual.

And helping your friends vote is .cool too

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