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Huntington Beach disqualifies candidate for city attorney

Huntington Beach disqualifies candidate for city attorney
The city told Huntington Beach resident Jerry Friedman that he cannot run for city attorney because he attended a law school that lacks American Bar Assn. accreditation. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach city clerk disqualified a candidate for city attorney this week because he didn’t graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar Assn.

Jerry Friedman, who earned his law degree at the University of West Los Angeles in 2013, said City Clerk Robin Estanislau notified him by email Monday that he failed to meet one of four requirements to run for the office.

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“While I hold no personal opinion of you or your worthiness as a candidate for the elected position of city attorney, based on the guidelines of Charter 309 … I have no choice but to disqualify you from taking further action during the candidate nomination period for the Nov. 6, 2018, general municipal election,” Estanislau wrote.

Section 309 of the city charter requires a degree from an ABA-accredited school.

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Friedman’s Inglewood-based alma mater lacks the ABA’s endorsement, though it is accredited by the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges and the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.

“Even the state of California does not require its city attorney to have graduated from an ABA-accredited school,” Friedman said, adding that he plans to pursue legal action. “In other words, I am qualified to be California’s attorney general but, according to Huntington Beach, I am not qualified to be its city attorney.”

Friedman contends the ABA accreditation is an “unconstitutional qualification” by “arbitrarily denying” those like him.

A “school doesn’t make someone a better or worse lawyer,” he said.

In Huntington Beach, candidates running for the city attorney role are required to submit paperwork stating their qualifications by Aug. 10.

In response to the question about his education, Friedman wrote, “unconstitutional, see letter attached,” and included his attorney’s rebuttal.

City Attorney Michael Gates, who is running for reelection, said Estanislau made the call without his input.

“Since the charter is pretty plain in language about its requirement, it didn’t need to come to me for interpretation,” Gates said. “This is really between him and the clerk.”

In 2010, the city reviewed possible amendments proposed by the Huntington Beach Charter Commission to “clean up” obsolete language, according to Estanislau.

Voter-approved amendments included stricter qualifications for the city attorney, city clerk and city treasurer.

This is Friedman’s second recent dispute with the city. In April, Gates took legal action intended to stop Friedman’s client, Daniel Horgan, from circulating a petition seeking a ban on semiautomatic and automatic guns in Huntington Beach. Gates argued that Horgan’s proposal was “unconstitutional, invalid and not entitled to a place on the ballot.”

Friedman hit back in May by filing a motion accusing the city of violating his client’s free-speech rights.

At the end of May, Gates asked the court to drop the city’s lawsuit after learning that Horgan wouldn’t submit signatures from his gun petition, making the case moot.

In July, Friedman filed a court motion seeking $14,385 from the city for 46 hours of work on behalf of his client.

1 p.m.: This article was updated with the background of Jerry Friedman’s dispute with the city over Daniel Horgan’s proposed gun ban.

This article was originally published at 11:55 a.m.

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