Back to News list

Ethics Chair Hur Recalls Mirkarimi Case

San Francisco Chronicle

Plenty of little-known San Franciscans suddenly gained fame this year due to some major stories at City Hall.

This time last year, did you know the names Eliana Lopez, Ivory Madison or Christina Olague? Probably not.

You probably did know the name Ben Hur, but likely because of the Charlton Heston movie - and not because of the lawyer who presided over the Ethics Commission during the Ross Mirkarimi affair. (Now there's a name we knew and, some would say sadly, will never forget.)

A couple of months after the dust settled and emotions had quieted down, we sat down with Hur to chat about what it was like to go from living mostly under the radar as a partner at the downtown law firm Keker & Van Nest to seeing his name appear in the paper regularly alongside a suspended sheriff and his soap-opera-star wife, Lopez.

For starters, he learned that his friends were nerds. (Not surprising given the Stanford connection.) He was always taken aback by how many people would call him whenever his name was mentioned in a news story on the radio. "I realized how many of my friends listen to NPR in the morning," he said with a laugh.

Hur, a 36-year-old father of two young boys, lives in the Richmond District with his wife, a Kaiser doctor. He knew former Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting through Asian American political circles and was appointed by him to the Ethics Commission in 2010.

The group gained a modicum of attention when it took up the "Run, Ed, Run" issue (whether a group trying to convince somebody, i.e. Ed Lee, to run for office has to follow the same rules as a traditional political campaign. In a word, no).

But nothing prepared Hur for the all-consuming media frenzy that would surround the commission's months-long process over the summer to decide whether to uphold Mayor Ed Lee's suspension of Mirkarimi for bruising his wife's arm.

"I certainly could not have anticipated the hoopla it would create," he said. "I was surprised."

There were the overflow crowds, a bomb threat during the mayor's testimony and tongue-wagging-provoking appearances by Lopez, in town from Venezuela, to plead her husband's case.

Hur thought Lee's much-criticized performance was "fine" and found Lopez "polished" but a bit inconsistent between what she said at City Hall versus what she said in a video recorded by her neighbor, Madison.

But really, no testimony mattered to the commission's decision, since it threw out all of the mayor's charges except what everybody on both sides agreed on: Mirkarimi grabbed his wife's arm and bruised it during a heated New Year's Eve fight and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor because of it.

"At the end of the day, for me it turned on a legal issue about the undisputed facts," Hur said.

To read the complete story, please click here.

Mr. Hur litigates intellectual property and commercial disputes for companies ranging from start-ups to established corporations. He has tried over half a dozen cases as first chair, and handled numerous criminal and civil cases in state courts, federal courts, and before the International Trade Commission.