Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier announced today that she will file an appeal with the California Supreme Court by the end of tomorrow (August 25), following today's California Court of Appeal ruling that found she was ineligible to seek another term.
Alioto-Pier's announcement came shortly after City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a press release, announcing that today's California Court of Appeals’ decision "strongly vindicates” his office.
Herrera's office advised Alioto-Pier in a February 2008 legal opinion that she was ineligible to seek another term on the Board due to the city charter's term limits provisions.
“More than two years later, Alioto-Pier sued to force Elections Department officials to place her name on the ballot,” Herrera’s office stated, noting that a San Francisco Superior Court judge granted Alioto-Pier's petition on July 22, holding that voters had implicitly rendered the 20-year-old term limits rule "ineffective" with subsequent charter amendments.
"Today's appellate court ruling restores the legal effect of the voter-approved ‘rounding-up rule,’ which provides that if an appointed incumbent serves more than two years of a term, it counts as a full four-year term for purposes of term limits,” Herrera’s office said. “In so doing, the decision affirms Herrera's original conclusion that Alioto-Pier is ineligible to seek another term on the Board.”
Herrera included a personal statement in his office's press release, indicating that he does not want this decision to be seen as a personal attack on Alioto-Pier.
"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,” Herrera stated. “This case has always been about the principle of upholding voters' will, and I regret that some political pundits focused instead on personalities. I've consistently defended Sup. Alioto-Pier's right to pursue this dispute in the courts, and I wish her and her family every success in their future endeavors. I know I join the vast majority of San Franciscans in expressing gratitude for her record of public service to the City we share."
But Alioto-Pier isn’t about to give up on her bid just because of an appeal court ruling.
“Clearly, we disagree with that ruling,” Tom Pier, Alioto-Pier's husband, told me. “We feel that the panel failed to look at the clear language of the charter in which voters expressed their clear intent that no supervisor should serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms.”
Pier noted that the City Attorney's Office applied this same argument when it allowed now Assembly member Tom Ammiano to serve on the Board for 14 years, a decision Pier believes was rendered in 1998.
One difference between these two cases is that Ammiano was elected to serve all those years, while Alioto-Pier was initially appointed by Gavin Newsom to fill his D. 2 seat in January 2004, when he became mayor. Alioto-Pier was then elected to the Board in November 2004. As a result, Alioto-Pier will have served on the Board for seven years, when her term expires in January 2011.
Rumor has it that Elections has had to print two versions of the ballot, one with Alioto-Pier's name on it, and one without, in face of uncertainty about her appeal.
And now the question becomes if and when the California Supreme Court will agree to hear her appeal in time, given that the election is less than 10 weeks away.
“The exact date by which they need to render an opinion is yet to be determined,” Pier said.