Although Gov. Jerry Brown say that California is projected to face a $1. 6 billion shortfall next summer, Democrats, who control the state legislature, have decided to hire former Attorney General Eric Holder on a $25,000 per month, three-month contract.
Holder was the first African-American attorney general. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and served from 2009 to 2015.
Democratic legislators said they hired Eric Holder in preparation for policies that they expect President-elect Donald Trump to enact. Trump made deporting all undocumented immigrants a central part of his platform, although he later backed off some areas of this. Some California cities have said they will not follow any deportation orders by becoming sanctuary cities. According to a statement released by the Trump campaign, he promised to “cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities.”
“With the upcoming change in administrations, we expect that there will be extraordinary challenges for California in the uncertain times ahead,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) in a joint statement. “This is a critical moment in the history of our nation. We have an obligation to defend the people who elected us and the policies and diversity that make California an example of what truly makes our nation great.”
De Leon and Rendon also said they hired Holder’s Covington & Burling law firm to “resist any attempts to roll back the progress California has made.”
However, some Republicans feel this is a waste of both resources and manpower. They argued that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who was confirmed on Friday, should handle the state’s legal issues. The state Attorney General’s office has 4,500 lawyers on staff.
State Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado,) said it was part of Becerra’s job duties to handle legal issues that concern the state.
“My real issue is we have a state attorney general,” said Gaines. “It is his job to protect the interests of California. That is his function.”
Gaines added that it wasn’t clear where the funds for Holder are going to come from. Gaines said that he has also heard from constituents who were upset at what they see as wasteful spending.
“They’re very frustrated,” Gaines said. “They thought it (hiring Holder) was not necessary.”
Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) called the decision to hire Holder a “waste of money.”
“How can the state afford to pay for an out-of-state overpriced lawyer when we could be using those funds to help the poor and those in need?” said Nielsen in a press release. "This unnecessary action is provocative and premature given that this administration has not yet taken office nor its agenda been established.”
However, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles,) said California could be facing unique legal challenges that require the skills of Holder’s law firm.
“I have no doubt that the congressman (Becerra) understands the extraordinary gravity and importance of this position of attorney general, particularly in light of the times and given circumstances in Washington. That said, we are where we are. Donald Trump is president and he has threatened to eviscerate much of what we cherish in California,” said Jones-Sawyer.