Alice Spearman, who has served on the Oakland school board since 2005, lost re-election last month to her challenger, James Harris. She soon filed a motion to declare Harris ineligible for her seat, saying the Oakland resident lived in the San Leandro school district and, thus, couldn't represent OUSD on the school board.
This week, Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo made a tentative ruling, denying Spearman's motion. Here is the text of the ruling, made Tuesday:
"This Tentative Ruling is issued by Judge Evelio Grillo Petitioner's motion for an order declaring Real Party in Interest James Harris ineligible for, and enjoining him from assuming, the office of School District Director is DENIED. The Oakland City Charter expressly defines the boundaries of the School District's seven "School Directors' Districts": "The elected School Directors' Districts shall have the same boundaries as the seven [City] Council Districts." It also specifies that "District School Directors ... shall be required to have the same qualifications [as members of the Council]." Real Party in Interest Harris undisputedly lives within Council District Seven. He is therefore qualified to be elected to the corresponding School Director's District. The statutes Petitioner cites-Elections Code § 201 and Education Code § 35107 (as construed in Request of Tijerina & Revira (2000) 83 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 181)-only dictate that, if Oakland's charter did not specifically define School Directors' Districts for purposes of election qualifications, Harris would have to prove that he lived in the School Director District in which he had been elected. But Oakland has exercised its power under the State Constitution "to provide [in its Charter] ... for the manner in which ... the members of boards of education shall be elected ... [and] for their qualifications, [etc.]" (Cal. Const., art. IX, § 16.) The Charter language by which it exercised that power is unambiguous. Although the application of that plain language produces oddities-i.e., Mr. Harris evidently could not vote for himself, and he might as a Director support the issuance of bonds that will lead to taxes he himself will not have to pay-those oddities do not rise to the level of an absurd result requiring this court to not apply the Charter's plain language."