Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, August 26, 2010


Page 1


C.A. Cites Term Limits, Rules S.F. Supervisor Off Ballot




A San Francisco supervisor who was appointed to fill a vacancy, then elected to complete her predecessor’s term, then elected to a full term, cannot run again, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.

Div. Two held Tuesday that San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch misinterpreted Sec. 2.101 of the city’s charter when he ruled that Michaela Alioto-Pier could run for another term. of the charter

Sec. 2.101 reads in part:

“No person elected or appointed as a Supervisor may serve as such for more than two successive four-year terms.  Any person appointed to the office of Supervisor to complete in excess of two years of a four-year term shall be deemed, for the purpose of this section, to have served one full term.  No person having served two successive four‑year terms may serve as a Supervisor, either by election or appointment, until at least four years after the expiration of the second successive term in office”

Alioto-Pier is a member of a legal and political dynasty in the city, founded by her grandfather, Joseph Alioto, a two-term mayor and a leading antitrust attorney. She is married to Thomas Pier, who is one of her attorneys in the case.

She was appointed to the Board of Supervisors by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 to fill the seat that Newsom gave up after winning the city’s top job in November of that year, representing a district that includes Pacific Heights and the city’s Marina neighborhood. She won a November 2005 election for the last year of the term, and then won elected to a four-year term in 2006.

She attempted to file papers to run for another term this November, but city election officials, on the advice of City Attorney Dennis Herrera, would not accept the filing. Herrera reasoned that because she had served three years of Newsom’s term, the “rounding up” provision applied and she was limited to one full term.

Busch disagreed, accepting the supervisor’s reasoning that because she had served only one year by appointment—before being elected to serve the last two years of Newsom’s term—the rounding up provision did not apply and she could serve two full terms.

But Justice James Richman, writing for the Court of Appeal, said that interpretation “would eviscerate section 2.101.” The rounding up provision, read in conjunction with the term limits provision as a whole, establishes that voters did not intend to allow a supervisor to serve 11 years, as Alioto-Pier is attempting to do, the justice said. 

 “There have been four elections since 1990 where voters of San Francisco considered Charter initiatives affecting the composition and election of the Board of Supervisors, and in none of them was there any hint that term limits would be relaxed,” the justice said.

Herrera, who had defended his advice in an unusual forum—the opinion page of the San Francisco Chronicle—told the newspaper he felt vindicated.

“I am grateful to the Court of Appeal for recognizing the obvious intent of San Francisco voters, and for affirming the clear meaning of the law,” he said. “This case has always been about the principle of upholding voters’ will.”

An attorney for Alioto-Pier told The Chronicle that review will be sought promptly in the state Supreme Court.

The case is Arntz v. Superior Court (Alioto-Pier), 10 S.O.S. 5033.


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