State Attorney General Xavier Becerra is ineligible to be elected and hold the office because he fails to meet the minimum requirements set by state law, and his name should not appear on the ballot, a lawsuit filed by AG candidate Eric Early says.
Early, who didn’t advance to the November general election, claims that because Becerra’s status with the state bar was “inactive” from 1991-2007, he is in violation of Government Code Sec. 12503. It says, “No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.”
The suit was filed May 29 in Sacramento, court documents show. Early’s attorney, Steve Cooley, said a hearing is scheduled for July 17. Early seeks to have Becerra ruled ineligible and have Secretary of State Alex Padilla remove Becerra’s name from the ballot.
Becerra’s office did not return a request for comment.
“We think we’ve got a great lawsuit here,” Early said. “There are some serious issues that need to be addressed.”
Actually, Sec. 12503 has been cited before. After Jerry Brown was elected AG in 2006, Contra Costa County Republican Central Committee chairman and state GOP vice-chair candidate Tom Del Beccaro brought the exact same suit. Brown’s status was “inactive” from Jan. 1, 1997, through May 1, 2003, according to bar records.
Brown won and called the suit “a political stunt by a Republican office seeker.”
An editorial in the Los Angeles-based and conservative Metropolitan News-Enterprise took Del Beccaro and others to task for bringing the suit.
The East Bay Times reported that Del Beccaro promised to appeal, but Del Beccaro told the Gazette that the appeal never happened because, “We couldn’t afford to pursue it.” Cooley said that this makes Early’s case a test to see if the courts will uphold the state constitution.
“We believe, as a matter of principle, that constitutional standards should be upheld, and we are testing the courts and we’re testing this principle, and we’re doing this pro bono,” Cooley said Monday while on vacation in Tuscany, Italy. “We all like the lawsuit. We think we’re right. But in a suit like this, with the vagaries of politics, we know it’s a roll of the dice.”
“We” also includes Lancaster attorney Rex Parris, who first got involved after receiving an anonymous correspondence at his firm. Included was the Brown case and Becerra’s inactive status.
“I liked it,” Parris said. “I called my friend Steve Cooley, and I called some Republican friends (and asked) ‘What do you think of this?’ Next thing I know, I’m talking to Eric.”
Del Beccaro said he applauds the second attempt and believes Early will have “a decent chance” if the judge follows what he called the “plain language” of the law.
Cooley, Parris and Early admit they are no fans of Becerra. In a March interview with the Gazette, Early attacked Becerra, a former U.S. representative appointed by Brown to replace Kamala Harris after her Senate election, as “a Nancy Pelosi clone who has been gifted the Attorney General’s office, and he’s been using it for his own personal, political platform.”
But Parris said politics should not be a factor, although he acknowledges that this case might be an example of “a distinction without a difference.”
“Just enforce the law,” he said. “There’s something fundamentally wrong when and if the Attorney General is violating the law to be the Attorney General. He should be meticulous in fulfilling the law. The (Govt. Code) words couldn’t be simpler.”