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    Assemblywoman Richardson Sworn In, Given High Visibility Post By Dem Ass'y Speaker, Introduces First Bill, No Longer Has City Council Powers/Prerogatives, City Att'y Says

    (Dec. 12, 2006) -- On December 4, Laura Richardson took an oath of office in Sacramento to represent CA's 55th Assembly district (Carson and part of LB) [website screen shot, right]

    A few minutes later, Assembly majority Democrats reelected Assemblyman Fabian Nunez (D., Los Angeles) as their Speaker...and he named Richardson Assistant Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore...meaning she will likely wield the gavel and serve as the Assembly's presiding officer when Assistant Speaker Sally Lieber (D., Mountain View/San Jose) doesn't.

    And the Assembly Democrats' website now lists Assemblywoman Richardson among the party's top leaders [screen shot, left].

    On her first day in office, Assemblywoman Richardson introduced her first bill (AB 24), a measure regarding police pursuits. The bill would make it a felony (instead of the current wobbling misdemeanor or felony) to flee or attempt to elude a pursuing police officer by driving in a willfull and wanton disregard for the safety of a person or property...including within a school zone or where a pedestrian is present. The bill would exempt conviction of the offense from the "three strikes" sentencing requirement (meaning it will need a 2/3 vote of the Assembly and State Senate).

    When Assemblywoman Richardson took her Sacramento oath of office, her powers and prerogatives as a LB Councilmember ended, LB City Attorney Robert Shannon told, citing the legal doctrine of incompatible offices [further below].

    But doesn't Assemblywoman Richardson still have City Hall powers because the City Council hasn't formally declared the 6th district Council seat vacant? No, City Attorney Shannon told A Council declaration of a vacant office is a different but parallel path...which starts the clock running for an election to fill the vacancy.

    During the period since Assemblywoman Richardson was sworn in, the 6th district Council office's administrative duties have devolved to Mayor Bob Foster...who will continue to handle them until a special election [likely in the spring] is held and decided, City Attorney Shannon said.

    For background on the doctrine of incompatible offices, we found a publication by the State Attorney General's office (under now former AG Bill Lockyer) which says in pertinent part [bracketed material by us for clarity]:

    The doctrine of incompatible offices concerns a potential clash of two public offices held by a single official...To fall within the common law doctrine of incompatible offices, two elements must be present...First, the official in question must hold two public offices simultaneously. Second, there must be a potential conflict or overlap in the functions or responsibilities of the two offices...

    When a person holds offices with two governmental entities and there is overlapping geographical and subject matter jurisdiction the offices generally are incompatible...

    With respect to a conflict between the duties or functions of two offices, a clash between the two offices in the context of a particular decision need not be proved, in order to trigger the doctrine of incompatible offices. It is enough that there is the potential for a significant clash between the two offices at some point in the future...

    The Rapsey court [CA Supreme Court citation omitted] discussed the conflict between offices in the following passage:

    Two offices are said to be incompatible when the holder cannot in every instance discharge the duties of each. Incompatibility arises, therefore, from the nature of the duties of the offices, when there is an inconsistency in the functions of the two, where the functions of the two are inherently inconsistent or repugnant, as where antagonism would result in the attempt by one person to discharge the duties of both offices, or where the nature and duties of the two offices are such as to render it improper from considerations of public policy for one person to retain both...

    ...Where a public official is found to have accepted two public offices, the common law provides for an automatic vacating of the first office. [citations omitted] The appropriate mechanism for enforcing the vacating of the office is a suit in quo warranto ["under what authority?"] under section 803 of the Code of Civil Procedure...Disqualification or abstention from those decisions where an actual clash of the two offices is found to occur, is not an available remedy under common law. [citations omitted] However, notwithstanding the legal forfeiture, the person remains in the prior position as a de facto member until he or she actually resigns or is removed from office by a quo warranto action or other lawsuit...

    Under Section 603 of the LB City Charter, the City Attorney's powers and duties include being "the sole and exclusive legal advisor of the City, the City Council and all City commissions, committees, officers and employees with reference to all of their functions, powers and duties under this Charter, State and Federal law."

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