Despite setting his sights on the City Attorney’s Office, Council President Scott Peters is currently an inactive member of the State Bar of California, a status that precludes him from practicing law in the state.

Peters has been an inactive member of the State Bar since Dec. 1, 2000, when he joined the City Council. He is the only one of the six candidates for city attorney who is not currently an active member of the bar except Jan Goldsmith who, as a judge, cannot be a member. City Councilman Brian Maienschein reactivated his State Bar membership on Feb. 1.

A spokeswoman for Peters said he is currently applying to reactivate his membership. Applying to reactivate a membership is a formality, officials at the State Bar said. Peters doesn’t have to fulfill any legal or educational requirements to change his status to active.

Active members of the State Bar are required to complete Minimum Continuing Legal Education Requirements. An active member must complete 25 hours of classes or other education every three years.

I asked Peters whether he’s at a disadvantage because he hasn’t had to complete the educational requirements over the last eight years and because he hasn’t been practicing for that time. Peters said his work at the City Council and his three years on the California Coastal Commission have served him well in terms of keeping his legal knowledge sharp.

“I’ve gotten experience there that you’re just not going to find from a lawyer who’s practiced law over that time,” he said.

But isn’t not practicing law for so long and then taking on the role of city attorney a bit like trying to run a marathon when you haven’t been training for eight years? I asked.

“Not at all. You’ve got to think of what I’ve been doing as cross-training,” he said.

Diane Karpman, a legal ethicist, said Rocky Delgadillo, the current city attorney of Los Angeles, was questioned on a long period of State Bar inactivity when he was elected. I asked Karpman whether much of a fuss was made at the time.

“A lot of people raised eyebrows, but that was about it,” she said.

I called Delgadillo’s office and left a message. The State Bar website says Delgadillo was an inactive member from January 1995 until July 1999. He was elected on June 5, 2001.


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