Former Mayor Tony Santos has filed a complaint with the State Bar of California accusing San Leandro resident Margarita Lacabe of misrepresenting herself as a human rights "lawyer" on a campaign flyer.
Lacabe, a blogger and frequent commenter on Patch, was the second-highest vote-getter in the June 5th Primary that selected 10 members to the Democratic Central Committee for the 18th Assembly District.
Central Committees make endorsements and perform party housekeeping chores.
Lacabe's transgression, Santos said, occurred in a campaign flyer urging Democrats to elect a slate of Central Committee members of which she was a part.
On that flyer, a copy of which is attached, Lacabe is described as a "Human Rights Lawyer."
Well, that depends on the definition of lawyer.
Lacabe said she thinks a lawyer is someone who had a degree in law -- which she does -- although has never taken the bar exam nor practiced as an attorney.
Lacabe said she never took the bar exam or practiced because international human rights law does not involve litigation. Instead it has involved activism to persuade courts in various jurisdictions to enforce international human rights laws.
Lacabe said when she first ran for Democratic Central Committee in 2010, she had wanted to represent herself on the ballot as a "human rights activist." But she said county voting officials did not accept activist as a professional description, and so she appeared on the 2010 ballot as a "human rights lawyer."
On Tuesday's ballot she is described as a "human rights researcher." Lacabe said that term better described the work she now does and was acceptable to voting officials as a profession.
Then why is she called a human rights lawyer on the campaign flyer?
Lacabe said she didn't put the flyer together and thinks the attorney language may have been copied from the way she was described on the 2010 ballot.
In retrospect, she said it would been better to have described herself as a human rights activist for campaign purposes.
But she doesn't think the use of lawyer is a big deal given her understanding that a lawyer is someone with a law degree, while an attorney is someone who practices law, which she has never done.
Santos thinks otherwise.
"In this state it's against the law to represent yourself as a lawyer," he said. "You're not supposed to use the title "lawyer" or "attorney" unless you are practicing."
His complaint has just been sent to the Bar Association and what they will or won't do remains to be seen.
A Bar Association spokesperson confirmed that Lacabe is not a practicing attorney and said the Bar's chief interest would be if she were alleged to have tried to practice law here.
The California Business and Professions Code makes it a misdemeanor "for (a) person (to) advertise or hold himself or herself out as practicing or entitled to practice law."
But that does not appear to be what Santos is alledging. His beef with Lacabe is more along the lines of resume-padding.
"People have been fibbing about their backgrounds to get elected," he told Patch, adding that, in his view, "she would not have finished second (in the vote for central committee) if she had not used that (lawyer) designation."
(Editor's disclosure: Margarita Lacabe routinely babysits my daughter and, after posting this story, I proceeded to her house for the evening pickup.)