Bryan Pease, an animal-rights activist and attorney best known for his defense of La Jolla seals, is fighting to be included on the list of potential appointees to fill newly elected mayor Kevin Faulconer's council seat.
Getting his name cleared for appointment has not been simple. In a March 18 press release, he says the city attorney's office is blocking him from filing the necessary paperwork for political and personal reasons.
In response, Pease has filed a federal complaint against the city and city clerk Elizabeth Maland; Pease is seeking a restraining order against the city attorney's alleged directive.
The complaint states that city staff denied Pease's application for not meeting the residency requirements established in San Diego's Municipal Code. Pease claims that he has lived within the district for over a year but only recently got around to changing his address on his voter-registration card.
"The Republican-controlled city attorney's office here instructed city staff on March 17 not to process the application of registered Democrat and attorney Bryan Pease to seek appointment to the interim city council seat currently vacant due to the recent mayoral election," reads a statement from Pease.
Pease and city attorney Jan Goldsmith's office have entered into numerous legal disputes over the years, including the well-publicized fight over a rope barrier at La Jolla’s Children's Pool and the case of Ray Lutz, who was arrested for registering voters in the Civic Center Plaza during the San Diego Occupy movement.
"The City Attorney's office has in the past subjected my clients and me personally to criminal prosecution for protected expressive activity, and now they are seeking to prevent me from being a voice for the citizens of San Diego on the City Council," stated Pease.
A deputy city attorney calls the complaint "absurd."
“The lawsuit is an absurd interpretation of the voter registration requirements in the San Diego Municipal Code. The application was rejected because Mr. Pease did not meet legal requirements about voter registration and residency in the Council district. Mr. Pease contends that he lived in the appropriate district from 2004 to 2007 and that dates between those years should count toward the requirement that he be registered to vote there 'for at least 30 calendar days prior to' filing his papers.
"The Registrar of Voters confirmed that Mr. Pease had not been registered in the District for 30 days prior to attempting to file his papers. Under the interpretation in Mr. Pease’s lawsuit, anyone could seek office if they simply lived in a District at any time in their life.
"Mr. Pease’s decisions about where to live and register to vote are his own. The City Clerk had a ministerial duty to accept only those applications that met legal requirements. This is not a partisan issue, but a straightforward application of the law as it has been historically and consistently applied. While the City Attorney’s Office routinely advises the City Clerk, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith was not involved in this decision."
(corrected 3/20, 11:10 a.m.)