The political pressure in the contentious case that the City of San Francisco brought against migrant landlord Anne Kihagi has resulted in the media not reporting the on the part of the City or the bias displayed by Judge Angela Bradstreet. Many of her rulings have suggested not-so-subtle favoritism and partiality, despite fairness being the bedrock of the American justice system. It goes without saying, but a biased judge should absolutely not be permitted to preside over trials. Beyond the reputational damage, Judge Bradstreet’s rulings have resulted in hefty fines against Ms. Kihagi, and not because of any cold, hard facts.
Error versus bias:
It is true that an error in a judge’s ruling does not translate to bias. Judges are, of course, human, so a misunderstanding of the facts or a blip of human nature is understandable. This kind of innocent and unintentional error is not necessarily a concern but might still warrant an appeal, particularly if the judgment resulted in an intensely different outcome. Judicial ethics are compromised when, for example, a judge intentionally ignores the facts of a case to ensure personal or political gain. This is when error becomes bias.
What does bias look like?
Many of the rulings by Judge Angela Bradstreet’s against minority landlord Anne Kihagi are clear examples of bias. The overtness of the prejudice behind these rulings shows the power of a judge, whose methods and decisions can go largely unchecked. Below is a mere sampling of the rulings that clearly favor the prosecution and expose a strong bias towards Ms. Kihagi:
- On a quiet Sunday afternoon, two large male tenants with a combined weight of 500 pounds met their landlord Ms. Kihagi for the first time, so she introduced herself. The tenants testified that they were afraid to the point of screaming and ran inside their unit and locked the doors. Judge Bradstreet fined Ms. Kihagi $5,000 despite the fact that she had a right to be in the common areas of her building just like any other property owner.
- Ringleader tenant Allison Leshefsky called the building department (not Ms. Kihagi, though the proper procedure is to contact the landlord first) to complain of construction debris pile-up in a common pathway. When inspectors arrived a few days later, they assessed that “no egress [was] blocked and no construction debris.” Despite this professional inspection and testimony, Judge Bradstreet penalized Ms. Kihagi $12,500 disregarding the inspector’s findings and that violations could only be determined by a building inspector and none had been found.
- This same tenant filed another complaint, saying that there was “no hot water,” again neglecting – likely, intentionally neglecting – to inform Ms. Kihagi. Upon follow-up from an inspector, Ms. Leshefsky confirmed that hot water had been restored shortly after. Nevertheless, Judge Bradstreet fined Ms. Kihagi $2,000. These incidents were emblematic of a larger theme in Judge Bradstreet’s rulings, in which she chose to rule based on the initial claims – no matter how false – instead of the professional and legal assessments of neutral inspectors.
- In a dispute about whether or not a unit was occupied by a member of Ms. Kihagi’s family (the unit was specifically for this purpose and ), Ms. Leshefsky actually testified to seeing Ms. Kihagi’s sister, as did a fellow witness, a respected neighbor who had been heavily questioned by the judge herself. In this instance, when the testimony would have helped Ms. Kihagi, the previously lauded Ms. Leshefsky and the morally compelled neighbor were conveniently no longer found to be credible, allowing Judge Bradstreet to penalize Ms. Kihagi a whopping $48,000. The Judge even personally took it upon herself to question the neighbor in search of any motive for her testimony in favor of Ms. Kihagi’s sister as though any such testimony could only be financial induced.
- During an open house, Ms. Kihagi asked a tenant not to sit on the stairs for safety reasons as she expected many visitors. The tenant willingly and politely complied and even informed the judge that he had no issue with the request made by the landlord. Judge Bradstreet fined Ms. Kihagi $1,000 for this non-issue.
- This same tenant had a peaceful exit from Ms. Kihagi’s property, explaining that he and his wife were expecting and had outgrown their small unit, so they decided to move. Judge Bradstreet asserted that Ms. Kihagi had interfered with their quiet enjoyment, despite the couple’s actual reasons, and fined Ms. Kihagi $36,000.
As is clearly illustrated above, Judge Bradstreet penalized Ms. Kihagi relentlessly, often for issues that were never even brought to the landlord’s attention or that were completely untrue to begin with. In situations like the final example listed above, it is also acutely apparent that Judge Bradstreet was imposing her own conclusions that defied any factual evidence.
The cavalier disregard for rulings by Judge Bradstreet’s was personal and often unsupported by facts. This is clearly not what the American people expect or deserve and sadly many people never learn why the biased judge ruled in favor of the connected party and with limited recourses for such outcomes, the loser goes off without realizing that their case was doomed from the beginning.
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