Rod McLeod–an accomplished trial lawyer and partner at one of the world’s biggest firms–is running this June for a Superior Court judgeship in the City and County of San Francisco.
But he doesn’t want to be bought and sold like a common politician.
To McLeod, that would be unseemly.
He’s decided to take zero campaign contributions in order to run as a truly objective and impartial individual, beholden to no one, especially those who might expect that donations come with strings attached.
“I don’t want to be the best judge money can buy,” said McLeod, a native San Franciscan and American Filipino, who went to Saint Ignatius High School, and earned his law degree at UC Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law.
Personally, I’ve been good friends with McLeod for nearly 30 years, and I can say he never takes the easy way out. I’ve known him as a man of uncompromised principle who stands up for what he believes in—even if it could hurt him.
And it has.
At one time, McLeod was considered a rising star in local San Francisco politics after his appointment to a vacant spot on the city’s Board of Education in the ‘80s. Winning the seat outright in an open election should have been a cinch, except for his unwavering decision to keep his children in Catholic schools.
That glitch was enough to send McLeod back into the private sector to focus on his stellar legal career (he’s currently a partner at Jones and Day). Not exactly a hard fall. But definitely, it was the public’s loss. McLeod, who was in the Army for over a dozen years as a paratrooper, has always been ready to serve. But when I last saw him, the plan was for an early retirement with his wife Naomi in her homeland, Israel.
So in a way, McLeod’s last minute decision to run for the position of retired Judge Wallace Douglas was a real surprise. It’s also a pay cut.
What wasn’t a surprise was McLeod’s campaign approach.
“Judges shouldn’t be for sale,” McLeod said.
San Francisco is different from other counties where races for judge can cost just a few thousand dollars.
McLeod says two of his opponents have already raised more than $100,000 each. What’s that money buy? A bit more than cardboard signs.
When politicians like Barack Obama fly in to raise cash, donors give mightily because they believe money buys access and influence. Want to get your pet issues on the radar? Write a check, get an advocate.
What’s a donor’s expectation in a judges’ race? When you go before him, will the new judge quickly bang the gavel and say, “Not guilty”?( It may save in court time, but let’s hope the judge recuses himself before that happens).
Normally in hotly contested judge races, the victor need only promise to be tough on crime.
But Superior Court judges do civil as well as criminal cases. McLeod’s two main opponents (an assistant public defender, and an assistant D.A.), may not be as broadly experienced as McLeod, an accomplished civil litigator.
When you think of it, voting for judges is just a strange way for the public to pick a competent, fair and impartial judge. Campaign money is really a waste.
That McLeod can’t be bought and paid for makes him an appealing and refreshing choice as the best person for San Francisco’s Superior Court—period.