SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — State Department of Justice special agents are suing Gov. Jerry Brown in a bid to block layoffs.

Attorney General Kamala Harris said $71 million in budget cuts over two years will force her to lay off 170 agents in December. That would virtually eliminate bureaus that coordinate marijuana eradication programs and task forces that target drugs and gangs.

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The Association of Special Agents claims the cuts infringe on the attorney general’s constitutional authority. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Sacramento County Superior Court also says it is illegal to eliminate agents’ duties without passing a separate law.

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It accuses Brown of retaliating because the union endorsed his opponent, Republican Meg Whitman, last year.

Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford says the cuts reflect the state’s “harsh fiscal realities” and are not a vendetta.

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