The Oakland city attorney's race took a surprise turn Sunday when council member Jane Brunner, who has long been on the offensive against her opponent, Barbara Parker, announced that she will sue Parker for libel over a last-minute mailer.

Parker's campaign piece, which arrived in mailboxes Friday, stated that Brunner "has been suspended from practicing law by California State Bar."

Brunner, who joined the bar in 1988, lost her eligibility to practice law in July, 1995, for not taking required continuing education classes. She regained it in January 1997.

Brunner said she had taken a break from legal work during that period to mount her first council campaign in 1996, and thus hadn't taken the required coursework.

"Being inactive in the bar is very different from being suspended," she said. "This is as dirty politics as you can get. It ruins my reputation as an attorney to imply that I have been suspended."

Representatives for Parker pointed to a California Bar Journal article that referred to attorneys who lost their eligibility because they failed to take the required classes as being "suspended." They also said Brunner's time away from law practice rendered incorrect her official campaign statement that she has practiced law for 25 years.

"This is a desperate political stunt by Jane Brunner at the last minute before Election Day," Parker's campaign consultant Doug Linney said in a prepared statement.


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Brunner, a four-term council member, is challenging Parker, who the council appointed City Attorney last year to fill out the term of John Russo.

Brunner and her allies in the police union had previously sent out mailers with accusations against Parker that opponents said were untrue.