Fink: How Many Lawyers For a Political Stunt?

The Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to join the Trump Administration’s lawsuit against the State of California over the California Values Act, the so-called “sanctuary state” law.

But whether you like the law or not, one thing is clear: the Board of Supervisors is wasting your money for a political stunt.

First, remember, our tax dollars are already funding both sides of this lawsuit.

Federal taxes are paying for the nine different lawyers (at least) from the US Department of Justice who are working on this case—not counting Jeff Sessions himself.  Meanwhile, our state tax dollars are paying for the eight different lawyers from the state who are litigating the case.

And now the County has decided to spend our local tax dollars for the county to become involved.  Was 17 lawyers not enough?

How many lawyers, exactly, does the Board of Supervisors intend to send in to litigate this case?  And how many millions of our tax dollars will it spend?

I suppose if the Supervisors thought that the United States Department of Justice was not capable of handling the case, hiring some more lawyers might make sense.  But that is hardly the case.  Chad Readler, the Acting Assistant Attorney General who is leading the case for the feds, graduated with honors from the University of Michigan Law School, one of the best in the country.  He followed that up with a prestigious federal appellate clerkship, became a partner in one of the biggest firms in the country, and has argued before the United States Supreme Court.  The other people on the DOJ team include lawyers with degrees from Princeton, Georgetown Law School, University of Virginia Law School, and a lawyer who not only has a JD but holds a Master of Laws from Yale.  The Department of Justice hires some of the best lawyers in the country.  DOJ jobs are amongst the most competitive in the legal market.  In the private sector, these lawyers would be billing their clients $1000 per hour.

What do the Supervisors think the lawyers they hire can do that the DOJ lawyers cannot?  Make a political statement.  Shawn Nelson is running for Congress and is hoping to shore up conservative support in the primary.  Todd Spitzer is trying to unseat Tony Rackauckas as District Attorney, and with nearly every local Republican supporting the incumbent, he is trying to generate publicity for his campaign.  Michelle Steel is running for re-election by appealing to Trump voters—she was the only elected official in the state to greet Donald Trump when he visited California this month.

However you feel about the sanctuary state law, we do not need to spend even more tax dollars to hire even more lawyers for this case.  Our tax dollars are already paying for both sides of this case.  There is no doubt that it will be fully litigated without the County joining in.  It is financially irresponsible for the Board of Supervisors to spend even more money on more lawyers for a political stunt.

Lee Fink is a lawyer who lives in his native Tustin and works in Santa Ana.  He previously served as Principal Deputy General Counsel of the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington DC, and before that served in senior positions at NASA and worked in the White House.  He began his career clerking for Judge David Carter in the federal court in Santa Ana.

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