James C. Harrison is a founding partner of Olson Remcho. He practiced government, election, and political law at Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, LLP, for 23 years before the firm merged with Olson, Hagel, & Fishburn in January 2020 to form Olson Remcho. Mr. Harrison is widely recognized as one of the state’s leading experts on the drafting and defense of complex ballot measures at both the state and local level. He also has expertise in complex conflict of interest matters, election law, and campaign finance issues, and the laws governing public agencies and non-profits. Mr. Harrison’s litigation experience includes representing clients in state and federal trials and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the California Supreme Court, and various California courts of appeal.
Mr. Harrison’s ballot measure practice has included numerous pre- and post-election challenges, including the successful defense of Governor Brown’s criminal justice reform measure, Proposition 57 (Brown v. Superior Court, 63 Cal.4th 335 (2016), in the first-ever challenge to newly enacted legislation allowing amendments of qualified ballot measures prior to their submission to the voters. He was involved in drafting and then successfully defending through trial and appeals Proposition 71, which established the first-ever state stem cell agency (California Family Bioethics Council v. California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, 147 Cal.App.4th 1319 (2007)) and Proposition 10, the tobacco tax that funds a state and regional system of early childhood education (California Assoc. of Retail Tobacconists v. State, 109 Cal.App.4th 792 (2003)). He was trial and appellate counsel in the successful federal court challenge to Proposition 208, a statewide campaign finance measure (California Prolife Council Political Action Committee v. Scully, 164 F.3d 1189 (9th Cir. 1999)) and successfully challenged Proposition 213 regarding auto insurance (Horwich v. Superior Court, 21 Cal.4th 272 (1999)). He was instrumental in the drafting the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, California’s landmark privacy law.
At the local level, Mr. Harrison has provided drafting and litigation assistance on ballot measures in the cities of Sacramento, Malibu, Apple Valley, Alameda, Pleasanton, and Mountain View, among others. He was involved in drafting the Berkeley soda tax and represented the Oakland and San Francisco soda tax committees.
Mr. Harrison’s litigation practice includes representing governmental bodies and officials in a wide variety of cases. For example, he represented the California Legislature in litigation involving the census, redistricting, and the scope of the Governor’s line-item veto authority; the State Controller in actions relating to the authority of retirement boards and the Unclaimed Property Law; and Governor Gray Davis in litigation challenging the statewide recall process.
On election matters, Mr. Harrison has been involved in litigation at every stage of the process. He successfully sought judicial relief to compel the counting of late-delivered ballots in Riverside County and represented Alameda County in litigation challenging its ballot counting methods. He has represented candidates in election contests and ballot designation challenges, and succeeded in a federal court challenge to an FPPC enforcement action that threatened to bankrupt a candidate in the middle of her re-election campaign. Mr. Harrison has litigated all aspects of ballot pamphlet challenges at the local and state level.
Mr. Harrison is a trusted advisor to government agencies, candidates, committees, and non-profit organizations. He served as interim General Counsel for the California First 5 Commission (1999), and as Board Counsel (2004-2014) and General Counsel (2014-2017) for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Mr. Harrison currently serves as outside counsel to the Consumer Attorneys of California, the American Civil Liberties Union, Alameda County First 5, and the California First 5 Association, and numerous ballot measure committees, among others.
Mr. Harrison is well known for his expertise in complex conflict of interest questions, and has advised many government officials and agencies, and their outside consultants, on their obligations under the Political Reform Act and Government Code 1090. He also represents individuals and entities in enforcement matters before the Fair Political Practices Commission and local ethics agencies.
Mr. Harrison was admitted to the California Bar in 1992. He is a graduate of Duke University (B.A., cum laude, 1988) and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law (J.D., 1992). Prior to joining Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, Mr. Harrison was a litigation associate at Morrison & Foerster for four years.