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, here.
Monday, April 14, 2008 | Of the five candidates to become San Diego’s next city attorney, Brian Maienschein has spent the least time as a working lawyer.
Maienschein, who was elected to the City Council eight years ago, passed the bar in 1994 after graduating from California Western School of Law. He spent a year as a clerk to a judge, then five years in private practice in San Diego, before entering public service at the age of 30 and changing his status at the bar to inactive.
Thus, Maienschein has largely staked his claim to the City Attorney’s Office on his years on the City Council, a tenure that has had its extremely visible successes and failures. While he has garnered strong support within his district for his reaction to the 2003 and 2007 wildfires, Maienschein has also struggled to escape the cloud of the city’s pension crisis, a problem which his votes as a councilman helped amplify. He has also come under fire for missing too many City Council meetings in the wake of the city’s meltdown.
Those eight years have not dampened the support of some of Maienschein’s former legal colleagues, however, who praised his abilities as a lawyer and said he had all the qualities needed of a successful city attorney. In the absence of a long and celebrated legal career, Maienschein’s time on the City Council represents the bulk of his professional experience, and it is those eight years that will likely ultimately make or break his bond with the city’s voters.
Experts in municipal law said sitting on a city council is a valuable proxy for years spent litigating or engaged in private or public practice as a lawyer. Familiarity with the workings of a local government and a database of knowledge about the city’s residents, interests and concerns helps a city attorney immensely, said Richard Briffault, a professor of law at Columbia Law School in New York.