Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles examining the legal careers of the five candidates for San Diego city attorney. Read the first, about Scott Peters, analyzed each City Council member’s voting record in the 2007 session. Rhodes’ analysis found that Maienschein was absent from 11 sessions of the City Council in 2007 and was absent from at least part of 12 of the council sessions. In all, Maienschein missed at least part of 30 percent of the 2007 council season sessions, more than any other council member, Rhodes’ analysis concluded.
Despite these criticisms, Maienschein has become hugely popular in his district, largely as a result of his work after the 2003 and 2007 wildfires, when he set up one-stop shops for residents and worked to help local people rebuild their homes in the wake of the fires. And before Maienschein entered public service, he impressed a number of the people he worked with in San Diego’s legal community.
Ed Chapin, a storied San Diego lawyer who once worked with Erin Brokovich as well as Maienschein, said he remembers a great deal about the young lawyer who first entered the office of what was then Chapin, Fleming & Winet. Though he said his firm then had more than 30 attorneys, Chapin remembers Maienschein as a “fine lawyer.”
Though Maienschein came to the firm with only a year’s experience as a lawyer, Chapin said he put the young lawyer through his paces.
“I found the deepest water I could find for him and hurled him out into it and told him to swim,” Chapin said. “He did fine.”
Chapin said in the four years Maienschein spent at his firm he oversaw a small team of attorneys who worked primarily on business litigation. Maienschein was never a trial lawyer himself, Chapin said, but he was entrusted with preparing some significant cases for senior partners at the firm.
“I wouldn’t call him a legal lightweight at all,” Chapin said. “He’s a gentleman, he’s a consummate professional and he has integrity.”
Maria Roberts, who worked alongside Maienschein during his years at Chapin, Fleming & Winet, was even more effusive in her praise of her former colleague.
“He was really wonderful, honestly. One of the things about Brian is that he’s smart and efficient, but he’s got a great personality. He’s very disarming and is a consensus builder,” Roberts said.
Roberts couldn’t remember any significant cases Maienschein had worked on at the firm. She said though he was a relatively junior attorney, Maienschein was given an unusual amount of responsibility and oversaw a small group of trial attorneys.
While working in private practice in the late 1990s, Maienschein also volunteered his time in another legal capacity: He was one of the first volunteers at San Diego Teen Court in Poway and Rancho Bernardo, a program that provided alternative courtrooms for first-time teen offenders, where local teens serve as attorneys and jurors and are presided upon by an attorney who acts as a judge.
More than a decade after he first volunteered on the program, Maienschein said he’s still an active and avid supporter of the program, which has since expanded all over the city.
“I really love working with young people, it’s really fun for me and that program had an incredibly low re-offense rate, about 10 percent instead of 60 percent,” Maienschein said.
Clint Carney was a young volunteer when Maienschein first helped out at the Teen Court. Like Maienschein, Carney is still involved with the program, and he said Maienschein’s support of the court during his time on the City Council has been invaluable for the continuation and expansion of the organization.
Carney said Maienschein committed a lot of time to the Teen Court program and clearly enjoyed volunteering and helping young people. He said the city councilman is still involved and sat as the judge of a case earlier this month.
“He was a great guy to work with, he was really personable and down to earth and a lot of fun to work with,” Carney said.
For his part, Maienschein said his legal experience is just one facet of the skills he brings as a city attorney candidate. He’s done the legal work, he said, and he’s worked on the council, and he’s proved that he can build a strong team around him and can manage an office efficiently.
“I didn’t have any experience at all in responding to a fire,” he said. “But I showed what I was capable of with zero years of experience. I showed my leadership in a crisis and I got our community rebuilt.”
This article relates to: Government