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Lee vs. Maloof vs. Zareh

The battle for SF Superior Court Seat #9

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Cynthia Lee

Current role

SF Superior Court Judge (1998-Present), Appointed by former Governor Pete Wilson; Re-elected in 2012




Golden Gate University Law School
Mount Holyoke

Personal life

Raised in NYC’s Chinatown. A single mom who raised two sons. Has lived in SF for 40 years.

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.

Kwixuan Maloof

Current role

SF Deputy Public Defender




New College of California School of Law ('98)
San Jose State University, M.A. ('95)
San Jose State University, B.A. ('90)

Personal life

SF native. Racially profiled by Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy in 2010. Married for 22 years and father of two children.

Elizabeth Zareh

Current role

Attorney and SF property assessment commissioner




Hamline University, School Of Law, Dean's Honor Roll
Purdue University ('82)

Personal Life

Born in Tehran, Iran. Moved to the US when she was 16-years-old. Has lived in SF for 23 years.

Meet the incumbent

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Understanding Cynthia

How Cynthia describes her candidacy
“My perspective may give me a greater understanding of facts presented in a case, but ultimately any decision rests upon the evidence and applicable law.”

Vision for the court

Expand a new judicial settlement program to expedite lengthy cases and free up courtrooms to try more civil cases.

Dealing with a Moral Quandary

"As a judge, I have not had to make a judicial decision which I felt violated my moral compass. I have made decisions based on the prevailing law and evidence with which I did not personally agree and I followed the law."
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Cynthia's Experience

Cynthia's contributions to the legal and local community

Legal experience

Judge, SF Superior Court (1998-Present)

  • Presided over civil and criminal cases
  • Served as the first Asian-American Woman Presiding Judge in SF Superior Court history (2013-2014)
  • Founded the SF Veterans Court to emphasize rehabilitation instead of punishment for veterans
  • Co-founded the Truancy Action Project to help parents get their kids to schools
  • Instituted mandatory domestic violence training for all Superior Court judges

Assistant District Attorney, SF District Attorney’s Office (1977-1998)

Overachiever points

  • Head, Asbestos Case Management and CA Environmental Quality Act Department
  • Member, Asian-American Bar Association and CA Judges Association
  • Trial Judge of the Year Award, SF Trial Lawyer Association (2014)

Meet the challenger (1 of 2)

Understanding Kwixuan

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How Kwixuan describes his candidacy
“I will judge people based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

Vision for the court

Use alternative dispute resolution, community courts and mediation to reduce the backlog of civil cases in the court system.

Dealing with a Moral Quandary

"I enforce laws prohibiting illegal searches in violation of the 4th Amendment even when the search discovers evidence that is contrary to personal and moral beliefs. Example: dead body found in the trunk of a car that was illegally searched.

Kwixuan's Experience

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Kwixuan's contributions to the legal and local community

Legal experience

Trial Attorney, SF Public Defender’s Office (2001-Present)

Interviewing Attorney, Alameda Public Defender’s Office (1998-2000)

Overachiever points

  • Member and former president, Charles Houston Bar Association
  • Outgoing President, CA Association of Black Lawyers
  • Board member, Bar Association of SF
  • Unity Award for Outstanding Service to the Community, Minority Bar Coalition
  • Northern California Top Attorney Award
  • National Institute of Trial Advocacy Award

Meet the challenger (2 of 2)

Understanding Elizabeth

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How Elizabeth describes her candidacy

Vision for the court

Fix the Court’s e-filing system so attorneys and self-represented litigants can submit case documents more efficiently.

Dealing with a Moral Quandary

“I can’t think of one.”

Elizabeth's Experience

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Elizabeth's contributions to the legal and local community

Legal experience

Temporary Judge, SF Superior Court (2016-Present)

  • Presiding over Small Claims and Unlawful Detainer settlements

Commissioner, SF Assessment Appeals Board (2017-Present)

  • Helps to resolve tax disputes between the city and property owners

Attorney, Zareh & Associates

  • Appeared before state and federal courts
  • Tried jury and non-jury trials
  • Handled 100+ depositions and cross-examinations

Overachiever points

  • Member, The Queen’s Bench and SF Women’s Political Committee

What others think

Endorsements for individuals. See endorsements for the slates in our overview.

About Cynthia

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.
Bar Association of San Francisco

About Kwixuan

Rating: “Qualified” – meaning that the candidate possesses the attributes listed above so as to indicate the ability to satisfactorily perform the judicial function for which she or he is being considered.
Bar Association of San Francisco

About Elizabeth

Rating: “Not Qualified” – meaning that the candidate lacks one or more of the attributes required for a rating of “Qualified” to such an extent that the Committee doubts the candidate’s fitness to perform satisfactorily the judicial function for which he or she is being considered.
Bar Association of San Francisco

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.

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