SAN FRANCSICO—On Monday, February 7, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin swore in Stanford Law School Lecturer Michael Romano, to the SFDA seat on the San Francisco Ethics Commission. Romano is replacing James Bell, who stepped down this month after serving on the commission since January 2021, when he was appointed by 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 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.”

According to a press release form the SFDA’s Office, Romano is the founder of the Three Strikes and Justice Advocacy Projects at Stanford Law School. He was the former director of the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic. He is an expert in criminal law, sentencing policy, prisoner reentry and recidivism, and mental illness in the justice system. He has worked in revising sentencing law in California, helping to secure decreased 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.

He is recognized nationally as a leader in criminal justice reform, where 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 Romano. “I am honored to serve and grateful to D.A. Boudin for the opportunity.”

“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 formed in 1993 after Proposition K was passed by voters.  Proposition K aims to promote transparency and accountability in city government by enforcing the city’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 explores new developments in campaign finance, lobbying and conflict of interest laws to refine San Francisco’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 able to submit ballot initiatives directly to voters in SF.  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.