Thursday, September 2, 2010
High Court Declines to Intervene in San Francisco Term-Limits Dispute
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a First District Court of Appeal ruling barring a San Francisco supervisor from running for re-election due to term limits.
By a vote of 6-0, with Justice Ming Chin recused, the high court—at its weekly conference in San Francisco—left standing a ruling last week by the First District’s Div. Two in Arntz v. Superior Court (Alioto-Pier), 10 S.O.S. 5033. The decision upheld the city’s interpretation of its charter and its decision not to accept Michaela Alioto-Pier’s nomination papers.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch had ruled that Alioto-Pier—who was appointed to fill a vacancy, then elected to complete her predecessor’s term, then elected to a full term—could run for one more term. But the Court of Appeal ruled Aug. 24 that Busch misinterpreted Sec. 2.101 of the city’s 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 attorney Thomas Pier, and her aunt, Angela Alioto, was also a supervisor and now heads her own law firm in the city.
Alioto-Pier, who was an aide to then-Vice President Al Gore and a candidate for California secretary of state, 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.
She won a November 2005 election for the last year of Newsom’s term, representing a district that includes Pacific Heights and the city’s Marina neighborhood., and then won elected to a four-year term in 2006.
After dropping her candidacy for state insurance commissioner earlier this year, she attempted to file papers to run for another term on the November ballot. City Attorney Dennis Herrera advised election officials to reject the filing, reasoning 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 was attempting to do, the justice said.
In other conference action, the court agreed to review the Fourth District, Div. Three’s ruling in Parks v. MBNA America Bank, N.A., 184 Cal.App.4th 652, filed May 12,that Civil Code Sec. 1748.9—which requires credit card issuers who extend credit in the form of convenience checks to disclose certain information on the front of such checks—is not preempted by federal banking law.
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