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Tuesday June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
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San Francisco County Superior CourtCandidate for Judge, Office 7

Photo of Maria Evangelista

Maria Evangelista

City and County of San Francisco Public Defender's Office, Attorney
92,425 votes (45.75%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Incorporating the community and its values into the bench.
  • Bringing a unique perspective as a woman, Latina and daughter of immigrants.
  • Addressing recidivism from a scientific principle-based perspective.



Profession:Attorney - Deputy Public Defender
Deputy Public Defender, San Francisco Public Defender's Office (2003–current)


Vanderbilt Law School Juris Doctor (2000)

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Jeff Adachi - San Francisco Public Defender
  • Dean Preston
  • Supervisor Hillary Ronen

Organizations (9)

  • United Educators of San Francisco
  • San Francisco Women’s Political Committee
  • National Union of Healthcare Workers
  • Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
  • San Francisco Tenants Union
  • San Francisco Latino Democratic Club
  • Black Young Democrats
  • San Francisco Berniecrats

Elected Officials (3)

  • Supervisor Jeff Sheehy
  • Michael Guingona - Former Mayor of Daly City
  • Matt Haney - San Francisco School Board Member

Individuals (5)

  • Kitman Chan - Chairman of the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce
  • John Avalos - Former Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
  • Matt Gonzales - Chief Attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender's Office
  • Ronald C. Tyler - Stanford Law School Criminal Defense Law Clinic
  • Honorable Perker Meeks (Retired)

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of San Francisco (2)

What do you view as the biggest challenge in the justice system?
Answer from Maria Evangelista:

The biggest challenge in the justice system is the disparate outcomes and incarceration rates for people of color and recidivism. The status quo is simply not acceptable.  I would seek to expand the use of collaborative courts and meet with colleagues to take a different approach to stem the tide of recidivism by examining and addressing the disparate outcomes for people of color in the criminal justice system.  There is a deep and growing divide here in San Francisco that can not be ignored. I believe that part of the problem is that we are not attributing any of these disparities to the judiciary when we should, in fact, also hold them accountable. There is a reason that the our constitution provides for judicial elections. It is in times like these that we need to empower the electorate to act for change.  Now is the time because the statistical data is stark and we can not continue to tolerate that one segment of the population, African Americans, are being incarcerated at roughly 10 times the rates as their white counterparts. The solution is that we need judges who are mindful, concerned AND willing to talk about these realities. To that end, the judiciary should reflect the population that it serves to be healthy.  If elected, I would be the first Mexican American woman to get elected to the San Francisco bench.


The judiciary should have a healthy mix of attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office and the DA’s office.  Public defenders do not get appointed directly from our office to the bench as frequently as prosecutors do. I believe there has been only TWO public defenders appointed from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office to the bench in 40 years.  The value of going from this work to the bench, particularly from my area of expertise in collaborative courts, is that I have the unique experience of a LARGE volume of cases that informs me on data and on the trends. In providing direct services daily and on a large scale, I see there are needs that are not being met.


What experience or qualifications do you have that make you well suited for this role?
Answer from Maria Evangelista:

I am a San Francisco native whose parents immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico in search of a better life.  They began their American journey as migrant farmworkers in Southern California. To avoid deportation, my parents moved to San Francisco and my dad joined Labor Union 261 as a construction worker.  My mother supplemented the family income by recycling cans and cardboard. My parents never went to school and did not speak English. However, with the help of my community in the SOMA, I attended and excelled at Bessie Carmichael and St. Joseph’s elementary schools.   I emulated the example of hard work of my parents and role models in my community and was awarded financial assistance to attend St. Paul’s High School for girls in Noe Valley, where I graduated as Valedictorian and Student Body President. I went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from San Francisco State University in Political Science and Criminal Justice.   With the help of my community I became one of the first Mexican-American women to receive a law degree from Vanderbilt Law School.

I spent over 2 years as an intern at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office researching recidivism, domestic violence, and elder abuse. For the last 14 years, I have been an attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender Office, dedicating my life to ending the cycle of recidivism. I have worked with San Francisco’s Collaborative Courts including Behavioral Health Court, Veterans Court, Drug Court, and Criminal Justice Court, where we provide “wrap around services” which bring more stakeholders to the table.  In those courts, we attempt to address the root causes of crime. I see, however, that we are not doing nearly enough. We must work in collaboration with other agencies to conduct studies on recidivism rates in San Francisco to determine what the empirical data show. We must endeavor to figure out what is working and what is not because, clearly, there is a remarkable rise in crime, such as auto burglaries, here in San Francisco. These crimes have tripled in less than a decade. (  My experience directly servicing clients informs me of how we can do better.  


Because I have worked in both the District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office, the former on behalf of the people of San Francisco, the later on behalf of individuals, many of whom are struggling, I have the breadth of experience to address these issues in a fair and unbiased way.   It takes a lot of patience to be public defender. Our practice prepares us well to be judges: to listen, understand, be compassionate and to act accordingly. In my 14 years of practice, I have honed my skills to develop what I believe is good judicial temperament. I treat everyone with respect and I will do the same as a judge, treating those who come before me with fairness, regardless of race or background.  


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