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Petition challenging bar board elections denied

A lawsuit challenging the inability of a California attorney who practices out of state to run for the State Bar Board of Governors was rejected last month.

The suit, Hoffman v. State Bar, was originally filed in federal court, but after a federal judge denied a motion for preliminary injunction, Arizona attorney Louis Hoffman moved the case to state court.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge A. James Robertson II denied Hoffman's petition for writ of mandate, saying there is a rational basis for the current election rules.

Hoffman, who was represented by Boalt Hall law professor Stephen Barnett, had challenged the election rules as unconstitutional. He argued that the right to vote and to run for the board is a fundamental right under the equal protection and privileges and immunities clauses of the state constitution.

Barnett last month was defeated handily for a District 3 board seat (see page 1).

Hoffman wanted to run for a board seat in the last election, but was barred from doing so.

The State Bar argued that the right to run for and vote in the board of governors race is not a fundamental constitutional right.

The issue is not a constitutional one but a political matter that is best addressed by the Califoria legislature, bar lawyers said. Under a rational basis test, the court must defer to the policy decisions of the legislature.

State statute limits the right to run and vote to bar members who maintain their principal office for the practice of law in California.

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