City Attorney Dennis Herrera was given the green light Thursday by the state attorney general to file a lawsuit against suspended Supervisor Ed Jew to permanently oust him from office.
Herrera said he will decide in “short order” if he would move ahead with a civil lawsuit against Jew for allegedly lying about where he lived in order to run for office. The lawsuit would become Jew’s third court battle; he is also facing a misconduct hearing before the Ethics Commission. Jew continues to maintain his innocence on all charges.
Herrera requested in June that California Attorney General Jerry Brown grant him permission to sue Jew in order to oust him from office, pointing to evidence of utility bills, neighbors’ testimony and bank statements. All three factors, Herrera said, prove Jew did not live in the Sunset district as he claimed when running for the District 4 seat on the Board of Supervisors.
Brown’s ruling is not a judgment of Jew’s guilt or innocence, but finds Herrera “has presented enough facts that there is a question” of whether Jew violated the City Charter by not living in the district he represents. Herrera can now file a civil lawsuit to permanently remove Ed Jew from office if it is found successful.
Brown said in a news conference Thursday that it is “in the public interest to have a superior court judge hold a hearing and resolve these residency questions.”
In making his decision, Brown said he also considered the number of legal wrangles Jew was already caught up in, the legal bills he faces and questions about whether he could also receive a fair trial in the criminal case.
“The judge can veryquickly decide [whether Jew] is … a resident or not,” Brown said. “I don’t think that should jeopardize his criminal defense.”
Jew’s attorney Steven Gruel however, said that given the criminal case, Herrera’s civil case would force Jew to defend himself with “his hands tied behind his back.” Gruel also added that Jew will “either have to give up his right to self-incrimination or his right to due process.”
“It seems to be the pile on continues until they run out of courtrooms to try and pressure Supervisor Jew to give up his position,” Gruel said.
Herrera said he was “extremely gratified” by Brown’s decision. “As far I am concerned, [Jew] was illegitimately holding his seat on the Board of Supervisors,” he said.
Jew also faces nine felony counts related on residency allegations. Additionally, he faces a federal charge related to an allged extortion scheme.
Suspended supe due in courtroom
Suspended Supervisor Ed Jew is expected to show up in San Francisco Superior Court this morning with new legal counsel, while the Ethics Commission meets at City Hall later in the day to decide the parameters of its hearing on official misconduct charges filed against him.
San Francisco criminal defense attorney Stuart Hanlon will now be defending Jew in the criminal case in which the district attorney has charged Jew with nine felony counts for allegedly lying about where he lived to run for office, said Jew’s attorney, Steven Gruel, who is representing Jew in other legal battles. Earlier this month, a judge accepted Jew’s former attorney Bill Fazio’s request to quit after he said Jew stopped communicating with him.
At today’s Ethics Commission meeting, the city attorney and Gruel will recommend parameters of the misconduct hearing.
The hearing and court appearance come a day after the state attorney general granted the city attorney permission to file a civil lawsuit against Jew to permanently oust him from office.
It’s unclear if the attorney general’s green light will affect the commission’s proceedings.
“If it will impact it, my commissioners will be making that decision,” said John St. Croix, executive director of the Ethics Commission.
In September, Mayor Gavin Newsom suspended Jew from his seat and filed the official misconduct charges against him. The commission is to make a recommendation to the full Board of Supervisors on whether Jew should be removed from office.
Reacting to the attorney general’s decision, Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Ballard said, “[Ed Jew] really should do the right thing and resign before he puts his family through any more hardship.”
But Jew will continue to fight on all fronts, according to Gruel. “Ed’s sprits are good. It’s a task, but he’s up to the task,” Gruel said.