Kevin McCarthy

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Kevin McCarthy. San Francisco Superior Court Judge. Photo by Ron Schlittler.


Kevin M. McCarthy

Born December 7, 1957

Superior Court Judge

San Francisco, California

725,000 constituents

Career Overview

Elected March 1996

Re-elected 2002


Of Judge McCarthy's more novel cases was settling a dispute between two fans of Baseball player Barry Bonds. The dispute was over ownership of the ball Bonds hit to mark his 73rd home run of the 2001 season. McCarthy ordered the ball be sold and that they split the proceeds. The ball fetched $515,500.


Essay by Kevin McCarthy for Out and Elected in the USA

Officially, state judges in California are elected officials with six-year terms. Most judges who retire or are elevated leave office in the middle of their term. A seat left vacant mid term is filled by gubernatorial appointment. As a practical matter, therefore, almost all judges are selected by the governor.


From 1982 until the present, there has not been a single open gay or lesbian appointed to the bench in the entire state. At the time of my election, there were 1,555 judges statewide, five of whom were open gays and lesbians. The only route to the bench for us was by election.


I decided to challenge a sitting judge who had recently been appointed by the governor. In my campaign people often asked me why I was running for judge. Some were concerned that judicial elections threaten the independence of the judiciary, a concern that I share. Others were of the opinion that it was impossible to defeat a sitting judge. This was also a concern that I shared, only privately.


I always answered by saying that I considered the question to contain two parts. The first, and most important question, was: what qualified me to be a judge and why did I want the position? The second question was: why did I run instead of seeking appointment. I gave my answers to both questions at every political gathering in this very political city.


When I talked about why I was running, I pointed out that I had no other option. Lesbians and gay men had been unfairly excluded from the appointment process. If I didn't run, I would be acquiescing to the bigotry of the governor and his predecessor, and I could not do that in good conscience.


In the end, the response was overwhelming. I was endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle, given the highest rating by the Bar Association of San Francisco, and I received the endorsement of most major political figures and organizations including the Democratic Party. In a campaign, which was run out of my home by myself and my former partner David Weldy, I won by a margin of seventy percent to thirty percent.


The lesson, I suppose, is that we derive our power from being open about our lives and confronting bigotry directly. People respect honesty and they will reject discrimination if we give them the opportunity. The greatest weapon possessed by those who seek to oppress us is our own silence.


Return to Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004 index • Go to next article


For information on a touring exhibit version of Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, contact Ron Schlittler at rlschlittler@verizon.net.


This entry is part of the featured exhibit Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004 curated by Ron Schlittler. As it is content created by a named author, editor, or curator, it is not open to editing by the general public. But we strongly encourage you to discuss the content or propose edits on the discussion page, and the author, editor, or curator will make any changes that improve the entry or its content. Thanks.


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kimlawbol@sbcglobasl.net said ...
21:56, 21 December 2009 (EST)
I saw the news where in the start of Dec. i dont know exact day, a black man was in your courtroom for numerous bites on policemen when they arrested him & a long rap sheet so long it couldnt be faxed and you through most of it out . I am scared to go on the streets at niter and you allow these sick indiv. to stay on th the streets. Who are you protecting. not the good people but the sick.
Papa Tango said ...
14:05, 11 July 2010 (EST)
Having grown-up with Kevin and known his family, I'm sorely disappointed in his resorting to name calling and agenda driven gender politics-both things that are detrimental to the truly fair practice of his work-to arrive at this achievement-

He apparently has the merit to have achieved his position without politicizing the process, so in having done this has let down an old classmate. --Good Luck and God Bless you Kevin


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