Leanna Louie, center, is flanked her attorneys Stanley Shen and Christine Linnenbach, who on Aug. 30 filed suit demanding the city reinstate her to the November ballot for District 4 supervisor. Photo by Annika Hom

Attorneys representing ousted District 4 supervisor hopeful Leanna Louie took legal action on Tuesday, asking the San Francisco Superior Court to reinstate her candidacy for the November ballot. 

Louie filed a petition asking the court to intervene in the Department of Elections’ decision last week to strike Louie from the ballot, which followed a City Attorney investigation that found Louie did not sufficiently prove she lived in District 4. Louie’s attorneys also called on the City Attorney’s office to reverse its decision, claiming it is the “right thing to do.”

“Ms. Louie should be immediately returned to the ballot,” Louie’s attorney Christine Linnenbach said. “The City Attorney’s Office has an ethical and legal and moral obligation to rescind an unlawful determination that holds no merit.”

Linnenbach also referred to the City Attorney and Department of Elections as engaging in “a political assassination attempt.” 

Louie’s petition is available here. Her suit against the city is available here

Louie and Linnenbach denied the City Attorney’s findings that Louie did not adequately prove her residency, and said that the City Attorney investigator committed an error. 

The City Attorney’s findings are laid out in this 13-page memo. Additional materials, including the full transcript of Louie’s Aug. 22 interview with the City Attorney, are available here

“While it is Ms. Louie’s right to take this matter to court, we stand by our facts and conclusions,” said City Attorney spokeswoman Jen Kwart. “She did not meet her burden to prove that she established legal domicile in the Sunset 30 days prior to declaring her candidacy.” 

“We will respond to the lawsuit in court, and look forward to seeing this matter resolved by the September 7 deadline to finalize the November ballot.”

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday when, presumably, a schedule will be set to hear the case. While Louie’s suit repeatedly listed the drop-dead date for setting the ballot as Sept. 9 it is, in fact, Sept. 7.

Mission Local published the initial stories that questioned Louie’s residency, as well as her decision to vote in District 10 while registered in District 4. These stories prompted the Department of Elections to refer Louie to both the City Attorney and District Attorney.

Roughly a dozen of Louie’s supporters today joined Louie and her attorneys at City Hall today to condemn Louie’s removal from the ballot. Most of the attendees were of Chinese descent, and held signs reading, “Run Leanna Run.” 

The November ballot that will be sent to voters gets printed officially Sept. 12, meaning Louie has to rapidly convince a judge to officially reinstate her to the ballot. Stanley Shen, another Louie attorney, said at the rally that he hopes the court responds to their request by next week. 

“We want the city to take this matter seriously,” Shen said, who repeated the message in Chinese. “It not only involves Louie’s right to run for public office, but thousands of voters who want to vote for Louie.”

Throughout the rally, Shen and Linnenbach questioned why the Department of Elections did not “inform” Louie about possible issues with her candidacy filing sooner. The official deadline to do so was June 27, Linnenbach said. The attorneys further argued the Department of Elections should have flagged issues with Louie’s filings on June 3, and denied the $500 filing deposit when the department certified her candidacy. 

Demonstrators appeared on Louie’s behalf at an Aug. 30 rally. Photo by Annika Hom.

“So one has to ask the question, ‘Why would this occur?’ It’s on the eve of the election,” Linnenbach said.

Jim Sutton, the dean of San Francisco elections attorneys, said that, separate and apart from the City Attorney’s findings on Louie’s residency, her attorneys made “interesting arguments” on whether the city can unilaterally remove her from the ballot. 

“The way it works is, candidates have all these papers to fill out. The Department of Elections goes through all of them, and makes sure you do it properly, and accepts your paperwork, and ‘certifies’ your candidacy by accepting your papers. I don’t know that they can reverse that certification,” he said. 

“I think there is an argument that the city did not have a right to just pull her off the ballot. That is an extraordinary step. It will be up to a judge to decide if the city followed all proper procedures before taking her off the ballot.” 

The City Attorney’s office did not see things that way, in light of new information being unearthed: “The Director of Elections had the authority to remove Ms. Louie from the ballot because she did not meet the minimum residency qualification to run for District 4 Supervisor,” stated Kwart.

Ann Ravel, a Berkeley law lecturer and Obama appointee to the Federal Elections Commission, added, “I don’t think it’s crazy, what they’re asking for. It’s probably a good thing for a court to review. But I think, frankly, that [the decision to strike her from the ballot] was probably motivated by the fact she so recklessly voted in one place when she was not entitled to do so.” 

City law dictates that a candidate must have lived in the district they represent for at least 30 days prior to declaring candidacy; Mission Local’s story revealed that only 27 days elapsed between Louie’s May 7 registration in District 4 and her June 3 declaration of candidacy. 

The attorneys also contested another allegation from Mission Local’s story, that Louie committed voter fraud by voting in District 10 during the April election — though it is not contested that Louie voted in District 10 while registered in District 4. 

On Tuesday, Louie’s attorneys characterized the city’s decision as impacting and disenfranchising monolingual Chinese voters most, saying they would “be deprived of an opportunity to vote for the candidate.”

The attorneys repeatedly disparaged Mission Local’s reporting at the rally, often calling the piece a news article “quote unquote.” They however did not bring up that Louie last week called the article’s author a “NAZI.” Louie apologized for that last week, but has continued to disparage the author as a racist in the comments section of her apology.

Louie also referred to Ravel and former Michigan director of elections Chris Thomas as “the Weather Underground” and “terrorists.” Ravel laughed at that. No, she is not a terrorist: “I am a believer in democracy.” 

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. She’s pretty much shown herself to be unstable. Even if she can somehow show she meets the residency requirement, I would think (hope) her candidacy is toast.

  2. Just for the amusement of your readers: The Weather Underground was a violent radical organization that faded away in the 1970s. Sometime well after that, a private weather forecasting company based in Madison, Wisconsin, took the name Weather Underground in a joking spirit. So LL is accusing people she dislikes of being meteorologists. ☀️

  3. What’s up with the ‘No Election Without Representation” sign? Is that a koan? And “Run, Leanne, Run.” Really?

    If they’re going to recycle and slightly modify campaign slogans, I’ve got some suggestions:

    -A district change we can believe in
    -Read my lips, no new addresses
    -When they go low, we go lower
    -Make election fraud great again

  4. I am in agreement with tarniv on this issue. The Department of Elections certified her application based on what she presented.
    Once faced with evidence of false information it is correct that they pulled her application. It would be the same if a person applied for a job and was hired by saying they attended Oxford or was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Once evidence comes forward that you graduated from a wig academy and was awarded a sticker for participation from pee wee soccer they can rescind your job offer. Stop lying and things will work out.

  5. I think this all started when I left a (loaded) comment on her original post that was hyper critical of your initial article questioning her D4 residency. My comment was a question – “Attacking the free press?”. She immediately unfriended me and posted articles I shared re the DAs race as “smears” and a screen capture of my Wiki page — and accused me being part of the Weather U circle, which she then used the following day to describe you and others. The screen shot was forwarded to me by an ( unnamed) city supervisor staff person. So, now this toxic political boil has been lanced. Oh, and if 1000s wanted to vote for her why didn’t Louie submit signatures in lieu of the $500 filing fee, as is customary for most candidates seeking political office?

  6. With the classic context of IANAL, I can’t imagine the city is required to keep a candidate certified on the ballot when they willfully lied on their paperwork. If you misrepresent yourself, then the person they certified isn’t really you.

    Reports even suggest she didn’t update her DMV address until after questions arose, a requirement with theoretical penalties under state law. I’m somehow going to bet her tax return, if filed after her claimed move date in March, also doesn’t have a D4 address.

  7. I personally hope that the court allows this dumpster fire to keep burning until election day. First off, Leanna Louie is free entertainment and second, Engardio would have a tough time doing an IRV 1/2 campaign aligned with a radioactive Louie which would ease Mar’s path.

  8. Oh me oh my oh. How does this misguided decision (to sue the city) serve San Francisco’s voters? How does it show that the candidate is responsible for the consequences of her actions? Rather it shows Louie is feckless, irresponsible and completely toxic. A product of these times. If she is this unhinged and unaccountable as a candidate, how could she possibly function as a public servant/supervisor? Her volatile decision making is on view for all to see. This will go very badly.