By Robert Haugh
On November 17, the California Supreme Court denied Fresno County Deputy DA Brian Exline’s appeal of a frivolous lawsuit against Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
The case started in 2018. Exline was a law student at Santa Clara University. He got his law degree in 2019.
As a law school student, Exline sued 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.”
Gillmor won re-election with nearly 75 percent of the vote over Anthony Becker. Becker is now one of the 49er Five on Council. He got elected last year when 49ers CEO Jed York spent a jaw-dropping $3 million to help him.
Exline lost the decision at the Santa Clara Superior Court. He also lost his appeal at the Fourth District Appellate Court.
In 2018, Exline hired the San Jose law firm McManis Faulkner to represent him. A lot of Santa Clarans believe Exline was a frontman for the 49ers.
The McManis Faulkner law firm represented former Councilwoman Patty Mahan when she and Pat Kolstad became the first Santa Clara Councilmembers in history to be admonished by their colleagues. Mahan was the 49ers’ strongest supporter on the City Council.
Exline’s total legal bill to McManis Faulkner could be $200,000 or more, according to estimates by local attorneys. No one believes that Exline could afford that as a law student.
And no one except the 49ers would pay that bill.
After losing the appeal, Exline must also pay Gillmor’s legal fees in addition to his own. Wow.
His annual salary in Fresno County is only $77,298, according to a public records request.
But money may not be the real problem for Exline, especially if the 49ers are paying his fees. It could be considered a monetary gift to Exline.
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.”
Exline has refused numerous requests for comment via email and phone over months.
So has Fresno County DA Lisa Smittcamp. Smittcamp brags about creating a Public Integrity Unit on her official website.
To date, Exline has not not publicly commented about the case. He appears to be hiding from public scrutiny.
No reporter has quoted Exline on the record in numerous stories written about this case since 2018.