Earlier this month, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier sat down for a cup of coffee with City Attorney Dennis Herrera. She was hoping to get him to reconsider a ruling from his office stating Alioto-Pier will be termed out of office next year – and, if he declines to do so, their next meeting may not be over hot coffee but hot lawsuits. “I am not ruling out a lawsuit – absolutely not,” she said.
To put the City Attorney's February 2008 ruling in an extreme nutshell, it found Alioto-Pier was already serving in her second “full term,” quoting a line from the city charter stating that any supervisors “appointed … to complete in excess of two years of a four-year term” will be deemed to have served a full term.
Lawyers are involved here, so you know it's going to get a little tricky. Alioto-Pier's contention is that this scenario doesn't match her situation. After being appointed by Gavin Newsom to fill his vacant supes' seat in 2004, Alioto-Pier won a special election 10 months later for a two-year term prior to winning re-election to a four-year term in 2006. Therefore, she never served two years in an appointed position – and for term limitation purposes, two-year terms and four-year terms aren't the same. You can read the Alioto-Pier ruling here:AliotoPier Opinion.pdf
Alioto-Pier contrasts her ruling with Herrera's generous finding in 2004 that former Supervisor Tom Ammiano — a progressive who's ideologically simpatico with Herrera — was eligible to run for a fourth term. The two-year term he served between 1998 and 2000 meant he did not serve “two successive four-year terms.” Ammiano ended up serving 14 years in office. “I asked [Herrera] 'Is this political?'” recalls Alioto-Pier, one of the board's moderate members. “He said 'Of course not.'”
You can read the Ammiano ruling here: Ammiano Opinion.pdf