No Joke: Jane Brunner Says She’s Going to Sue Because She Was Attacked



File this one under “You Can’t Make This Shit Up.” Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who, along with Ignacio De La Fuente, is running one of the most negative political campaigns in Oakland history, held a press conference yesterday to announce that she plans to file a lawsuit against City Attorney Barbara Parker because — get this — Parker had the temerity to finally respond to Brunner’s relentless attacks with an attack of her own. When we first heard about this, our response was: WTF?

  • Brunner
Brunner is angry because Parker’s mailer noted last week that the California State Bar had previously “suspended” Brunner’s law license. Brunner claims she was never technically “suspended,” and that she instead had allowed her law license to become inactive voluntarily. "There was a short period when I was running for city council in 1995 when I was not practicing law and I was not active, but I was not suspended," Brunner told reporters.

Brunner apparently failed to note, however, that the state bar had, in fact, revoked her license. The bar, which oversees law licenses, automatically places them in the “inactive” category, thus prohibiting lawyers from practicing law, when those lawyers fail to live up the bar’s requirements for continuing education. And according to the bar’s website, that appears to be precisely what happened to Brunner. Although Brunner might have “voluntarily” decided not to live up to the requirements of her law license, after lawyers make such decisions, the bar “involuntarily” places their law licenses on the inactive list, thereby “suspending” them.

Here is Rule 2.32 of the state bar regulations that Brunner appears to have violated: “Inactive enrollment for failure to comply with Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements:

(A) A member who fails to meet requirements for Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) will be involuntarily enrolled as inactive.

(B) To terminate inactive enrollment for MCLE noncompliance, a member must comply with the MCLE rules governing reinstatement.”

According to state bar records, Brunner was placed on “Admin inactive/MCLE noncompliance” on July 31, 1995 and her law license remained inactive until January 23, 1997 — a total of about eighteen months.

Brunner’s decision to call a press conference and say she that was going to sue also smacked of desperation, plus it was incredibly hypocritical. As we’ve reported, Brunner has done nothing but attack Parker during the entire campaign, producing highly misleading hit-pieces that grossly distorted Parker’s record in office. We have yet to see a single ad from Brunner that solely promotes her; instead, all of them have attacked Parker.

Then there’s this: If Brunner files a libel suit against Parker, it will go nowhere. Why? Because Parker’s mailer was essentially true, and because the courts traditionally give wide latitude to political speech during campaigns. Moreover, former Oakland City Attorney John Russo noted today that if Brunner does sue, Parker would be able to immediately file a countersuit under a California law that broadly protects political speech. And if Parker were to win, as she almost assuredly would, then Brunner would have to pay all of Parker’s court costs.

There’s also this: What was Brunner thinking? A press conference that brings attention to the fact that you had no law license for eighteen months when you’re running for city attorney?

And finally, there’s this: Brunner appears to have lied at the press conference. Russo noted that the bar’s requirements for continuing education typically run over a three-year period. That means that lawyers have three years to complete their requirements before they have their licenses revoked. As since Brunner lost her law license in 1995, that likely meant that she had from 1992 to 1995 to complete her requirements. As such, her claim yesterday that she allowed her license to lapse because she was running for city council appears to be bogus: She had from 1992 to early 1995 to complete her requirements, but she didn’t start running for city council until 1995 — after her requirements were likely due.