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California judge named head of state's political ethics agency

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SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday appointed as head of California's political ethics agency a judge who has overseen the discipline of attorneys.

Jodi Remke, presiding judge of the State Bar Court of California, is Brown's choice for chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Her appointment fills a void created six months ago when Chairwoman Ann Ravel moved to the Federal Elections Commission.

Good-government activists including Robert Stern, a former general counsel for the California agency and a coauthor of the state Political Reform Act, said they knew nothing about Remke. But a former boss said she was a great choice.

"She is going to bring to the job brains, brains, brains, and she is tougher than nails," said former state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, now head of the California Democratic Party.

He headed the Senate Rules Committee when it appointed Remke as a hearing judge for the State Bar Court in 2000. Remke, 48, had worked under Burton as a staff attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"She brooks no nonsense, even from me," Burton said.

She is presiding judge of a court that hears misconduct charges against attorneys. It has the power to recommend that the California Supreme Court suspend or disbar attorneys found guilty of professional misconduct or serious crimes.

"Remke is smart, independent and judicious," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown. "She has strong legal, regulatory and legislative experience and is well-suited for the role."

Remke, a Democrat who lives in Oakland, is expected to start her new job in early June. She said she would make sure state rules are followed.

"I thank the governor for this opportunity to guide and shape discussion and actions to improve and encourage public trust in the process of government," Remke said in a statement released by the FPPC. "I look forward to serving Californians as we move forward in promoting integrity, transparency and trust."

Remke received a law degree from the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. Her new position pays $136,144 annually.

Her appointment comes as three Democratic state senators — suspended from their posts — are dealing with criminal charges. The ethics panel has not been part of those cases but has stepped up enforcement of administrative cases in recent years.

The panel is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider levying fines against state Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) for allegedly laundering $40,000 in contributions through two county political committees and into the Assembly campaign of his brother, Bill.

The commission made news last year by levying a record $16 million in penalties against nonprofit groups that provided $11 million in anonymous out-of-state donations to California campaigns in 2012.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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