The Honorable Cynthia Ming-mei Lee

San Francisco Superior Court, Department 503


The Hon. Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee is a judge for the Superior Court of San Francisco County in California. She was appointed to the Municipal Court of San Francisco County by former Governor Pete Wilson in 1998. She was quickly elevated to the Superior Court after the unification of superior and municipal courts later that year.

Lee earned a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College. She then received a J.D. from Golden Gate University Law School.

As a law student, Lee volunteered at Community Legal Services in San Jose, California, where she helped represent tenants under the supervision of an attorney. After graduating from law school, she joined the Queen’s Bench Foundation as a staff attorney.

Then, in 1977, she joined the Office of the District Attorney of San Francisco County. During her tenure as an assistant district attorney, she served on the General Litigation, Career Criminal, and Sexual Assault trial teams. She was also selected to direct the Preliminary Hearing Division, the Misdemeanor Trial Division, the Charging Unit, the Juvenile Division, and the Narcotics Trial Unit.

Lee was awarded Trial Judge of the Year (2014) by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association.

She has been a member of the Asian-American Bar Association and the California Judges Association. She has also been a participant of the San Francisco Bar Association Legal Referral Panel.

Lee founded the San Francisco Veterans Justice Court, a court designed to provide customized treatment plans to help incarcerated veterans reintegrate into society. She also co-founded the Truancy Action Partnership. The Truancy Action Partnership brings together parents, school staff, and child welfare agencies in order to collaboratively address the obstacles affecting school attendance.

Lee was the first Asian-American woman to serve as a Presiding Judge in San Francisco.

Lee, a second-generation Chinese-American, was raised in New York City’s Chinatown. Her father worked in a hardware store. Her mother worked as a clerk.

Lee likes to run and practice yoga.

She is registered as a Democrat.

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