John Locke Update / Research Brief

Flashback: Kamala Harris’ record as a state attorney general

posted on in Law & Regulation, Legal Update, Property Rights
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Wondering what kind of vice president Kamala Harris would be? You can get a pretty clear idea from reading what I wrote about her when she was attorney general of California :

On September 8, 2015, I wrote:

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has attracted a lot of media attention, and not just because, as [President Obama] says, “She…happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general in the country.” When she was still District Attorney in San Francisco, Harris made headlines by threatening to imprison the parents of chronically truant school kids, and since becoming California’s Attorney General she’s been in the news for, among other things: challenging the right of law-abiding citizens to obtain right-to-carry permitsdefending prosecutors who committed perjury, falsified evidence, and engaged in other “egregious, outrageous” conduct; and employing an aide who, along with other members of the “Masonic Fraternal Police Department,” was charged with impersonating a police officer.

Now Attorney General Harris is in the news again, this time for forcing an educational foundation and public interest law firm to reveal its list of donors. In a recent Cato.org article entitled “The Right to Anonymous Speech and Association,” Ilya Shapiro and Randall John Meyer explain what’s at stake in the case:

Since the Enlightenment, anonymous speech has been an integral component of social change, exemplified by Cato’s Letters, the Federalist Papers, and indeed the Anti-Federalist Papers. Accordingly, [as the Supreme Court observed in NAACP v. Button (1963)] the Constitution provides a wide berth for the proper “breathing space” that “First Amendment freedoms need to survive.”…

California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, has broken with this tradition in demanding that the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), an educational foundation and public-interest law firm specializing in the First Amendment and political law, disclose its principal donors to the state…. This rule applies to all nonprofit organizations soliciting donations or otherwise operating in California, so the associational chill reaches into the ability of every nonprofit to exist in California while preserving privacy through anonymity….

I ran out of space before I could list all of Harris’s transgressions, so on September 23, 2015, I listed some more:

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association … concerns a group of California teachers who are challenging a state law that requires them to pay fees to the CTA even though they are not members and even though they disapprove of its policies. The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, and the John Locke Foundation has joined other state policy organizations in an amicus brief supporting the petitioning teachers. Ms. Harris, on the other hand, has chosen to oppose the teachers and has filed a brief supporting the union.

Ms. Harris has also chosen to intervene in another high-profile matter. City Journal reports that:

The recent undercover videos of top Planned Parenthood executives discussing how to position and kill unborn babies in order to preserve the marketability of their body parts offer the sort of shocking revelations that typically spur California government officials to action. One might have expected state authorities to examine the substance of the issues raised by the Center for Medical Progress, the group of citizen-journalists who made the videos. Instead … Democratic legislators blocked a Republican proposal to audit Planned Parenthood’s California operations, which receive more than $200 million a year in reimbursements from Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program. … Far more troubling [however] has been the response of Attorney General Kamala Harris…. She… agreed to investigate the investigators, and brushed aside a letter from Republican state legislators asking her to look at whether Planned Parenthood violated any laws. …

A third action by the California attorney general that was omitted from my previous list pertains to civil asset forfeiture. I have written previously about this particularly odious form of predatory law enforcement and about the various efforts that have been made to reform or eliminate it at both the federal and state levels.

Far from favoring elimination or even reform, however, Ms. Harris has repeatedly attempted to expand the use of civil asset forfeiture in California by sponsoring bills that would make it even easier for law enforcement agencies to seize property without bothering with criminal charges. She must be pleased, therefore, that, despite overwhelming popular support, a recent attempt to reform California’s asset forfeiture laws failed to pass.

That’s quite a record! When she was attorney general of California, Harris:

  • attacked the right to bear arms,
  • colluded in police and prosecutorial misconduct,
  • violated charities’ right to free speech and privacy,
  • supported union abuse of public sector employees,
  • helped Planned Parenthood cover up its unethical conduct, and
  • attempted to expand the use of civil forfeiture to take private property without due process of law.

I wonder whether Joe Biden knew about all that when he chose her to be his running mate?

Jon Guze is Senior Fellow in Legal Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, Jon practiced law in Durham, North Carolina for over 20 years. He received a J.D., with honors, from Duke Law School… ...

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