By Jim Sanders
The Sacramento Bee
Published: Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Attorney General Kamala Harris’ first year in office saw her dive into a massive financial crisis by ordering an investigation into mortgage meltdowns, attracting a national spotlight for California’s top cop.

After talking tough in her inauguration speech in January, Harris created task forces to tackle not only home loan practices but cybercrime and drug cartels as well.

The first woman and the first non-Caucasian to serve as California’s attorney general now gets the chance to show if she can make a difference in such complex problems.

“She’s confident, forceful and she has a dynamic mind, so it doesn’t surprise me that she was willing to take on some big problems,” said Vikram Amar, a UC Davis law professor. “Now we’ll have to see whether she can actually make a dent in them.

“Harris bowed out of multistate talks with lenders aimed at extracting a settlement of perhaps $25 billion for wrongful home foreclosures or other mortgage-related misbehavior by lenders.

The Democrat opted instead to form a 40-member California task force to investigate the approval, servicing and handling of mortgages – and to prosecute lenders, if necessary.

“She walks in the door and has the kind of mega-case that everyone wishes they had a couple years to prepare for,” said state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat and former California attorney general who applauds Harris but calls the mortgage mess “as hard a legal situation as any AG would ever have to deal with.

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