Calif. AG candidate decries Brown's 'activist' record

Chris Rizo Aug. 14, 2009, 4:25am

Tom Harman (R)

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California will no longer be home to a "liberal, activist" attorney general if voters choose state Sen. Tom Harman as the state's next chief legal officer, the Republican told Legal Newsline.

Harman is the only Republican vying to replace Attorney General Jerry Brown, the state's high-profile politician, in 2010. A crowded field of Democrats is in the running, but Harman said they are largely in the mold of Brown, who is widely expected to run for governor rather than seek reelection as attorney general.

"I am not a big fan," Harman said of Brown, noting that the attorney general has "misused" his office to promote his own personal agenda and advance his political ambitions.

Harman pointed to Brown's refusal to defend the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which passed in November, limiting marriage to opposite sex couples. Rather than defending the law as the state's top lawyer, Brown has urged the courts to overturn it.

Moreover, Brown sued the county of San Bernardino in 2007, saying the high desert community failed to address greenhouse gas emissions in its general plan, said Harman, R-Huntington Beach.

"He is a real activist attorney general," Harman said in a lengthy interview with Legal Newsline. "Everywhere you turn he is sticking his toe in the water here and there, and often times in places where he doesn't have good solid jurisdiction, just trying to grab headlines to ingratiate himself to the public in preparation for his run for governor."

Harman, 68, vowed to serve as a different type of legal officer if elected next year.

"When I am attorney general I am going to follow the law to the letter of the law," he said. "That is what an AG should be doing. You shouldn't be inserting your own personal beliefs, your own political beliefs, your own philosophical beliefs. Just follow the law."

On consumer protection, Harman vowed to go after the bad actors and to leave alone law-abiding businesses in the Golden State, which he said already have ample incentive not to set up shop in California.

He warned that another activist attorney general in Sacramento could "drive" more businesses and jobs from the state and make other businesses "afraid" of coming to California.

Harman has been a member of the Democrat-led California Legislature for the past nine years - six years as a member of the state Assembly and three years as a state senator. He is currently the only lawyer in the Senate Republican Caucus. For most of his nine years in the Legislature, Harman has been a member of the Judiciary Committee in the house where he served.

It is in those committees that Harman said he realized just how ineffective the state's judicial system is - for civil litigants and criminal defendants alike.

"We see some of the good but a lot of the bad of what comes across the legislative transom," he said of his committee work. "I have been disturbed with the way California is going when it relates to the administration of justice and frivolous lawsuits."

He said lawsuit abuse has had a "depressing effect" on businesses in the state. He said that Proposition 64, which voters handily passed in 2004, is under fire. The law limits members of a class action to those who actually were allegedly harmed by an unfair business practice.

"We have a problem attracting and keeping businesses in California," he said. "I have no trouble going after a bad apple or someone who is defrauding consumers or taking advantage of them, but some of these (class action) cases are so outlandish."

So far, Harman is the only Republican to throw his hat into the state's AG race, while at least six Democrats have done so. Harman said he expects to be the only Republican in the statewide race, and for Democrats to have a political bloodbath as they vie for their party's nomination.

"There is going to be a huge battle on the Democrat side," he said. "They are going to have to spend enormous amounts of money fighting each other. Currently, I am in the very enviable position of being the only Republican attorney general candidate."

Other candidates have until March of next year to enter the race.

Democrats running for state attorney general include state Assemblymen Ted Lieu of Torrance and Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico of Newark, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer for the Web site Facebook.

Harman said in the first six months of 2009 he raised $400,000, and at the end of the June 30 reporting period he had about $318,000 cash on hand.

"We're pleased with that; we're right on schedule," he said of his fundraising apparatus, conceding that some other AG candidates have raised more money than him.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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