Oct 01, 2018
Politician, Then Lawyer: A Profile of Dotty LeMieux, Political Activist
Oct 01, 2018
By Greg Brockbank
I have been informally polling people for decades on what percentage of members of Congress are attorneys, and most people usually guess about 80%. The truth is that it's always been closer to 20%, give or take, but people often mistakenly assume that lawyers have an advantage in running for and winning high elective office, even though they are hardly even over-represented. Nor are attorneys over-represented among political activists, although there are of course a few of us. One of those is Dotty LeMieux, who stepped down at the end of last year after three years on the MCBA board. Indeed, Dotty is one of the super-activists, involved in several major Marin political organizations, including the Marin Democratic Party.
Dotty has been an attorney with a solo practice in Marin for over 30 years, increasingly specializing in neighbor law, CEQA and tree law. She and her husband, noted forensic forester Ray Moritz, lived for nearly 30 years in Bolinas, but then moved to Fairfax nearly 15 years ago.
Unlike most lawyer-politicians, Dotty started as a politician, serving about 30 years ago on the Bolinas Community Public Utility District (BPUD), an important political force in that tiny community. She subsequently ran for the College of Marin Board of Trustees (twice) and the Marin County Board of Supervisors (also twice), the first time in the latter race coming so close to long-time incumbent Gary Giacomini that he declined to run for reelection again four years later. And in the second election for that seat, Dotty came in first in the June primary, only to lose in the November runoff to Steve Kinsey.
But Dotty didn’t let any grass grow under her feet. The end of her career as a politician did not diminish her role as a political activist. She has been intimately involved with numerous organizations in Marin, including as First Vice Chair of the Democratic Central Committee of Marin, and as a long-time board member of the Marin Women's Political Action Committee. She has been involved with too many campaigns to count. In fact, she heads up her own campaign consulting firm, Green Dog Campaigns, which has guided many local elected officials to victory at the polls.
Dotty, how did you first decide to become an attorney?
While on the BPUD, a large developer sued the board, a community planning group and the County of Marin because of a water moratorium that kept him from developing a large luxury development at the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean. He sued us in federal court for a “taking.” I was sued, along with fellow board members, as an individual. We ultimately prevailed. And the land is now the southern entrance to the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. That got me interested in environmental law.
What made you want to serve on the Bolinas Public Utilities District board of directors?
It was the de facto government of Bolinas. Anything having to do with utilities or water came before the board, including all development proposals. It was where the action was and I wanted to serve my community.
You went on to run for other public offices, and although you didn't win, you have consistently been involved in many of Marin's major political organizations, and are a campaign consultant in your own right. What makes you continue to do that kind of work, both as a volunteer, and a paid consultant?
I love helping good candidates get elected and see their agendas come to fruition. I especially love helping women candidates and those who are new to the political process. It’s Democracy 101. Being an attorney comes in handy when candidates need advice on campaign finance filings, appropriate language for ballot statements or drafting ballot measures. I recently joined the California Political Attorneys Association, and in recent years have been more active in campaign law generally.
What does the future look like for you, and do you spend much time thinking about retirement? And what would that look like?
I spend no time thinking of retirement. I love what I do, both in the legal and political arenas. This year I am on a team helping the Democratic Party make sure our elections in California are fair and free. Nothing could be more important in a democracy, which seems so fragile these days.
Greg Brockbank is a thirty-plus-year attorney and civic and political activist, having served for twenty-two years on the College of Marin Board of Trustees and then on the San Rafael City Council. He is the senior member and immediate past chair of the Marin Democratic Party governing board and has attended thirty state Democratic conventions. For over twenty years he has also appeared as a commentator and election-night co-host on public access television.
Full disclosure: I have known Dotty for decades as a legal colleague, political colleague, and friend. I worked as the field coordinator for her second campaign for county supervisor, and she was my campaign consultant when I was elected to the San Rafael City Council in 2007.