Not long ago, Judge Quentin Kopp told SF Weekly he felt Sheriff-in-Limbo Ross Mirkarimi would prevail in court based on legal precedent.
Like father, like son -- it turns out Mirkarimi today added Shepard "Shep" Kopp alongside David Waggoner to his legal team. Kopp the younger -- who has successfully represented Russell Brand, Puff Daddy, and Winona Ryder, among others -- declined to discuss whether he's been talking about this case with his father. "We're both lawyers and you know how lawyers are," he said. He also declined to elaborate how he was introduced to Mirkarimi, whom he does not know personally.
But he was certainly happy to talk about Mayor Ed Lee's "tremendous abuse of power" in suspending Mirkarimi without pay and moving to remove him from office for "official misconduct."
Quentin Kopp cited as Mirkarimi's Get out of Jail Free Card the 1980 Mazzola v. City Court of Appeal ruling, which, among other points, states that "official misconduct" must "have direct relation to and be connected with the performance of official duties, and amount either to maladministration or to willful and intentional neglect and failure to discharge the duties of the office." This, the argument goes, would not apply to Mirkarimi, who had not yet been sworn into office when he allegedly bruised his wife's arm during a domestic dispute for which he eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanor false imprisonment.
Yes, voters subsequently expanded the city's definition of "official misconduct" -- but Kopp the younger agrees with his father that the Court of Appeal decision still overrules the city charter. What's more, he argues the current language -- "conduct that falls below the standard of decency, good faith and right action impliedly required of all public officers and including any violation of a specific conflict of interest or governmental ethics law" -- is, as Waggoner put it, "unconstitutionally vague."
Under this standard, Shepard Kopp states, former District Attorney (and knockout artist) Terence Hallinan "could have been removed for whatever issues he had in his past before he was elected. The language that was added to the charter subsequent to the Mazzola decision doesn't change the fact that misconduct has to occur while you're in the office the mayor is seeking to remove you from."
City Attorney Dennis Herrera will likely see things differently -- and his response to Waggoner's March 12 writ of mandate is pending. The two sides are scheduled to meet in front of a judge on April 20, before the Ethics Commission on April 23 -- and, perhaps in the near future, before the Board of Supervisors.
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