Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
February 23, 2016 – 4:07 PM

  • Attorney wants emails touching on nuclear plant closure
  • California Public Utilities Commission resists demand for emails
  • Old friend of governor blocks court order for email release

A legal flap over Gov. Jerry Brown’s communications with the Public Utilities Commission is escalating – and now involves one of Brown’s oldest friends.

On Monday, state appellate court Justice J. Anthony Kline blocked a lower court’s order that the 65 emails should be released.

Mike Aguirre, a San Diego attorney challenging the PUC’s controversial settlement of the 2013 San Onofre nuclear power plant closure, complained that Kline acted before giving him a chance to respond and shouldn’t have taken the case, given his friendship with Brown.

The deal places 70 percent of the $4.7 billion closure cost on utility ratepayers. Aguirre seeks to overturn the decision and wants to know whether Brown, who appoints PUC members, was personally involved.

Kline was a Yale Law School classmate of Brown’s in the 1960s, and the two were roommates when both were law clerks. Kline was Brown’s legal affairs secretary in the 1970s, and Brown later named him to the appellate court.

“A close personal friend of Jerry Brown gave protection to the governor without even giving us a hearing,” Aguirre said.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith ruled this month that the emails should be released, rejecting the PUC’s argument that its decisions could be challenged only in the appellate courts.

Goldsmith declared that “withholding recordings involving allegedly secret ex parte deals between CPUC officials and utility companies in violation of the Public Records Act is not a regulatory function of the CPUC.”

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