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November 5, 2008 11:20 AM

ELECTION 2008: The San Diego City Attorney Race

Posted by Ross Todd

While most news organizations are running banner headlines this morning about Barack Obama's presidential victory, the Voice of San Diego has declared, "Voters Oust City Attorney, Choose Judge By Large Margin." In a closely watched local race, San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre lost to state court judge Jan Goldsmith.

It's no surprise that Aguirre faced a tough reelection this year. In his four years as city attorney--the former plaintiffs class action attorney was elected in 2004 by less than a one percent margin--he's called the mayor corrupt. He's challenged some city retirement benefits in court. He's even questioned the legality of the city's method of controlling the squirrel population in Balboa Park.

As returns poured in last night Aguirre's chief consultant on the campaign told a reporter from the Union-Tribune, "Quite frankly, I think that given the political environment, I'm not sure there was anything we could do...[Aguirre] pissed off everybody."

That includes the three Am Law 100 law firms that Aguirre spurred lawsuits against, actions stemming from San Diego's pension crisis.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Vinson & Elkins, and Willkie Farr & Gallagher have been sued by the city over work on and investigations stemming from San Diego's bond offerings and the city's financial disclosure practices, according to a feature in the current issue of The American Lawyer. Orrick and Vinson & Elkins have entered multi-million dollar settlements with San Diego. The suit against Willkie Farr & Gallagher is pending.

What does yesterday's election outcome mean for that suit?

In August, Judge Goldsmith told The American Lawyer that he had not inquired about specific cases but that he'd evaluate the Willkie case after the election. "If there's a claim and a legitimate case, I'll pursue it vigorously," he said.

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