Supervisor’s term-limit fate may be decided today 

The legal battle that will settle whether Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier can seek re-election heads to San Francisco Superior Court today.

More than two years ago, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued an opinion that the District 2 supervisor is termed out of office under a provision in the City Charter. But she has refuted that opinion, and on June 17 she filed a lawsuit to overturn it.

The outcome of the case will come as campaigns for the race in District 2 — which covers the Marina district, the northern waterfront and the Presidio, among other areas — are in full swing for the November election. Contenders like Janet Reilly, who has picked up key endorsements, and Mark Farrell have each received more than $140,000 in campaign contributions as of June 29, according to filings with The City.

The legal arguments about the dispute are scheduled to go before Superior Court Judge Peter Busch this morning, and he could make a decision as early as today. Busch issued a tentative ruling Wednesday that did not indicate which way he was leaning, but he requested the parties come prepared to discuss a term-limit scenario not covered in either party’s legal filing.

Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Alioto-Pier in January 2004 to fill the District 2 seat he vacated when he won the mayoral election. Alioto-Pier was required to run for election in November 2004 and served the remainder of what would have been Newsom’s complete four-year term, ending in January 2007. She was re-elected to what Alioto-Pier is calling her first four-year term, but what Herrera said is her second four-year term.

Herrera issued his opinion in a 2008 memo that said someone who’s appointed and serves more than two years of a four-year term will be considered to have served a four-year term “whether they stand for election during that period.”

In a legal filing, Alioto-Pier argued that she was appointed to serve “less than one year and then elected to serve two years, which is not “the same as being ‘appointed ... to complete in excess of two years.’ The City Attorney is wrong on the math and the language.”

Alioto-Pier “cannot gain another term in office by sweeping away the voters’ words or ignoring their intent,” Herrera said in his argument.

History of dispute

How events surrounding Michela Alioto-Pier’s tenure as District 2 supervisor unfolded:

January 2004: Appointed to District 2 seat by Mayor Gavin Newsom on Jan. 26

November 2004: Wins election for January 2005 to January 2007 term after being required by law to run

November 2006: Elected to current term, which runs from January 2007 to January 2011

November 2010: District 2 seat up for election

January 2011: Current term ends

Source: Board of Supervisors

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