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Jerry Brown can keep new job, judge rules

February 10, 2007|From a Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown is free to continue working in his new job, even though he was technically an inactive member of the State Bar during the five-year period before he was elected, a judge ruled Friday.

State law requires attorneys general to be active members of the bar for the five consecutive years before an election.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian ruled in a lawsuit filed during last year's election campaign that Brown was still a bar member when elected, choosing to pay lower dues in the category of "inactive member." If the Legislature wanted to ban inactive bar members from office, it would have said so in the law, Ohanesian said.

Disregarding the votes of several million people last November to protect a minor and relatively ambiguous point of law would be unfair, Ohanesian wrote: "The right to hold public office is a fundamental right of citizenship, and the statute must be construed in a manner that favors eligibility."

The lawsuit against Brown was filed by Republican activists, including Contra Costa County GOP Chairman Thomas Del Beccaro, during the 2006 election. Brown's campaign dismissed it as a political stunt.

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