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San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin Appoints Michael Romano to Ethics Commission

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Robyn Burke, (415) 603-9696 / Robyn.Burke@sfgov.org, Public Information Officer   

San Francisco—Today, San Francisco District Attorney Boudin swore in Stanford Law School Lecturer Michael Romano, to the District Attorney’s seat on the San Francisco Ethics Commission. Mr. Romano is replacing James Bell, who stepped down this month after serving on the commission since last January, when he was appointed by District Attorney Boudin.

“James Bell has dedicated his life to public service and racial justice, and I am grateful for his service as a member of the Ethics Commission for the past year,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin, “I am honored to fill Mr. Bell’s seat with the appointment of Michael Romano. Mike has spent his career pursuing equity and fairness in the Criminal Justice System, and I am positive he will bring that same tenacity to upholding ethics in the City and County of San Francisco.”

Mr. Romano is the founder of the Three Strikes and Justice Advocacy Projects at Stanford Law School and the previous director of the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic. Mr. Romano is an expert in criminal law, sentencing policy, prisoner reentry and recidivism, and mental illness in the justice system. He has been instrumental in revising sentencing law in California, helping to secure reduced sentences for over 15,000 people convicted of nonviolent crimes, including over 2,000 people sentenced to life for minor offenses under the state’s “Three Strikes” law.

Mr. Romano is recognized nationally as a leader in criminal justice reform. In 2019 he was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom as chairperson of California’s Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code as well as representing, along with his students, incarcerated individuals in state and federal courts, winning the reversal of over 150 life sentences and has served as counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 


“I look forward to the important work of San Francisco’s Ethics Commission and to collaborating with other members of the Commission and staff to help to advance fairness, equity, and transparency in the city,” said Mr. Romano, “I am honored to serve and grateful to D.A. Boudin for the opportunity.”


James Bell has worked for decades to confront racial justice in the legal system and beyond. He is the founder and most recent President of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, until his recent retirement and planned move out of San Francisco. The Burns Institute works throughout hundreds of jurisdictions across the nation to engage justice stakeholders and communities to build equity. The Burns Institute’s innovative methodology has evolved to move beyond traditional justice reform, by addressing structural inequities as well and working to eliminate racial disparities on a systemic level.  The Burns Institute has worked in over 200 counties in 23 states.


“I am proud of my work on the San Francisco Ethics Commission, promoting equity and fairness in the City and County of San Francisco” said James Bell, “I am grateful to District Attorney Boudin for allowing me to serve on the commission, and applaud his appointment of Michael Romano to fill my vacancy. Mr. Romano’s work to reform the criminal legal system and advance accountability and justice is commendable and will be greatly compliment his work as a member of the Ethics Commission.”


The San Francisco Ethics Commission was created in 1993 after Proposition K was passed by voters.  It aims to promote transparency and accountability in city government by enforcing San Francisco’s ethics laws.  The Commission is tasked with providing independent enforcement and administration of campaign finance laws, public finance laws, conflict of interest laws, general ethical issues that emerge in government, as well as regulation and reporting of developers, consultants and lobbyists. 


The Commission also explores new developments in campaign finance, lobbying and conflict of interest laws to refine the City’s established practices and policies.  The Commission conducts research, makes legislative recommendations, and approves ordinances and regulations to bolster the transparency of San Francisco’s government.  The Commission is also able to submit ballot initiatives directly to voters in San Francisco.  Each of the five seats on the Commission is appointed by a different arm of city government: the District Attorney; the Mayor; the City Attorney; the Board of Supervisors; and the Assessor-Recorder.