San Francisco landlord Anne Kihagi experienced a major victory when the 2nd District Appellate Court declared a lower court’s illegal order invalid and voided it. Rather than reporting the win, some negative media continue to publish old news like the original contempt order, which the higher court voided because it was based on an invalid injunction order. Even with the legal reversal, headlines have yet to be changed.
The issue arose when the lower court granted an order denying Ms. Kihagi’s ability to rent a unit, despite the law allowing her to do so. It was clear that the prosecutor was aware of the law but pressed forward nonetheless, knowing that most judges tend to rely on public prosecutors. This is very common that prosecutors, despite actual knowledge of laws, will misrepresent them to the courts – as well as innocent defendants and their attorneys – hoping that no one appeals these erroneous rulings. This is a clear ethical breach but is rarely reported, thus perpetuating the misconduct.
The prosecutor even presented a false document that she claimed had been signed by Ms. Kihagi. She had hoped Ms. Kihagi’s new lawyers would not catch this malfeasance, but, luckily, the judge had maintained records and noticed. The prosecutor was reprimanded by the judge, but her misconduct was again not reported to the Bar Association. Why? Most of the time, no one polices the prosecutors, which means that they can get away with just about anything.
Occasionally, however, the victims of a legal transgression will appeal, just as Ms. Kihagi did with this illegal blocking of her rental ability. The matter was taken on appeal to the 2nd District Appellate Court, which voided the entire injunction order and instructed the lower court to immediately cancel any contempt order.
In an unprecedented twist, the lower court judge disagreed with the higher court and asked for a second reconsideration. This is virtually unheard of, as indicated by Ms. Kihagi’s attorney who said that he had never seen anything like it in over 20 years of practice. The law in question was not complex, and, in fact, the court’s prior rulings indicated that a previously assigned lower court judge understood the situation and questioned the legality of the original order. Despite all this, the new lower court judge still questioned the higher court’s instructions to reverse the invalid order, exposing the underlying bias and political forces at work. This case crosses the line between cunning legal practices and blatant misconduct and bias. Here, the judge and the prosecutor both demonstrated impartiality that unnecessarily endangered and punished Ms. Kihagi.
After more than a year since the judge’s bizarre request for reconsideration, the 2nd District just came back with a much shorter ruling, again determining that the injunction was void and invalid.
With this now double-confirmation of the illegality, Ms. Kihagi has reached out to news sources requesting that they remove the articles that are now entirely false and misleading. However, the posts remain untouched, leaving this false image of Ms. Kihagi to color the perceptions of tenants, lenders, friends, and fellow San Franciscans. Perhaps most concerning is that this false information can set a lasting precedent for any future hearings or interactions, in court or beyond.