By Robert Haugh
Before he became a Fresno County Deputy District Attorney Brian Exline was a law student at Santa Clara University. He got his law degree in 2019.
As a law school student in 2018, Exline sued Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor. He claimed she didn’t file her financial disclosure forms correctly.
The lawsuit was filed in October 2018. That was just weeks before Election Day when Gillmor was on the ballot for re-election.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen reviewed the claim about Gillmor weeks prior to the lawsuit’s filing. Rosen’s office concluded that Gillmor filled out her forms correctly.
But Exline filed his lawsuit anyway. That’s why Santa Clarans called it an “October surprise,” a “political hit,” and a “frivolous lawsuit.”
Exline lost the decision at the Santa Clara Superior Court. He also lost his appeal at the Fourth District Appellate Court.
Gillmor won re-election with nearly 75 percent of the vote over Anthony Becker.
But the controversy isn’t over.
In 2018, Exline hired a major San Jose law firm McManis Faulkner to represent him. A lot of Santa Clarans believe Exline was a frontman for the 49ers.
Exline’s total legal bill to McManis Faulkner could be $200,000 or more, according to estimates. No one believes that Exline could afford that as a law student. No one except the 49ers would pay that bill.
Also, the McManis Faulkner law firm represented former Councilwoman Patty Mahan. That was when she and Pat Kolstad became the first persons in Santa Clara County history to be admonished by the City Council. Mahan was the 49ers’ strongest supporter on the City Council.
After losing the appeal, Exline must also pay Gillmor’s legal fees in addition to his own. Wow.
At least he’s no longer a law student. He has a job as a Fresno County deputy district attorney. So can he afford to pay a huge legal bill?
According to Fresno County, Exline began his job on August 26, 2019. His annual salary is only $77,298.
With that salary level, no one we talked to believes Exline can afford to pay his huge legal fees and Gillmor’s. So who’s paying for it? And what does Exline owe them?
Here’s how one retired law professor put it: “He’s created a potential conflict for himself and the office. An ethical cloud will hang over his decisions unless he discloses and recuses himself from cases.”
This is a developing story.