Locally elected governing bodies and their appointed officials and employees need a partner that understands and can effectively navigate the complex and frequently changing laws. We remain abreast of the laws affecting municipalities and special districts, and support the education community on governance issues so that our clients can ultimately stay focused on what they do best - enhancing the communities they serve.
Areas of Practice
To best meet the needs and ensure the ongoing success of its clients, Lozano Smith's Local Government and Municipal Law Practice Group provides advice in all areas of law affecting cities, counties and special districts, and provides specialized services to all of the firm's public agency clients in the following areas:
|Americans with Disabilities Act|
|Open Meeting Laws/Brown Act|
|Records Request/Public Records Act|
|Conflicts of Interest and Ethics|
|Elections, Redistricting and Voting Rights Act|
|Public Agency Formation, Organization and Reorganization|
|Public Financing/Tax Exempt Bonds|
|Fees, Taxes & Assessments|
|Construction Advice and Litigation|
|Police and Fire|
Real World Applications
As a law firm dedicated to the practice of public agency law, we have developed expertise representing various cities, counties and special districts in California. The firm's Local Government Practice Group is comprised of attorneys who have served in county counsel, city attorney and general counsel capacities for many years, gathering a wealth of knowledge and understanding of client needs. Our attorneys currently serve as City Attorneys for the Cities of Lemoore, Reedley, Sanger, Mission Viejo, Firebaugh, Parlier, Coalinga, Fowler and Clovis, and as general counsel for many kinds of special districts.
June 2017 Number 29 A federal appeals court recently upheld a Texas school district's practice of permitting students to deliver a religious invocation at the beginning of governing board meetings. ( American Humanist Association et al v. Birdville Independent School District et al (5th Cir. 2017, Nos. 15-11067, 16-11220) ___ F.3d ___ (Birdville). While noteworthy, the opinion is not binding on public agencies in California, where a separate ruling on religious invocations at governing bo...
March 2017 Number 11 Emails, text messages and other written communications sent to or from a public official's private account may be subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a highly anticipated decision published on March 2, 2017. (City of San Jose et al. v. Superior Court (March 2, 2017, No. S218066) ___ Cal.5th ___ < http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S218066.PDF>.) The court held that t...
October 2016 Number 74 On September 30, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill (AB) 709, which would have expressly required California charter schools to comply with the same transparency and conflict of interest requirements as traditional public school districts. With recent reports of mismanagement by charter school governing boards across the state, there is constant discussion as to which conflict of interest and transparency laws apply to charter schools. AB 709 specifically...
July 2016 Number 46 The Supreme Court of California in People v. Hubbard (2016) 63 Cal. 4th 378 recently upheld the criminal conviction of the former superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District for improperly paying a district employee without board approval. Jeffrey Hubbard served as superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District from 2003 to 2006. During his tenure, he directed the district's payroll department to increase the compensation of Karen Christ...
California United States District Court finds that Prayers, Bible Readings, and Proselytizing at School Board Meetings Violated the U.S. Constitution
April 2016 Number 20 A United States District Court in California recently concluded that a school board unconstitutionally endorsed religion by reciting prayers, conducting Bible readings, proselytizing at board meetings and adopting a resolution allowing religious prayer at board meetings. (Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Chino Valley Unified School Dist. Bd. of Ed. (C.D. Cal. Feb. 18, 2016) Case No. 5:14-cv-02336-JGB-DTB, 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis 19995.) The Establishment Clause of ...
Two Cases Demonstrate the Reach of Government Code Section 1090: Criminal and Civil Penalties Await the Unwary Government Official
March 2016 Number 15 Two recent cases involving high profile public officials highlight the reach of Government Code section 1090. Government Code section 1090 prohibits conflicts of interest, self-dealing and corruption among public entity officials. Sweetwater Union School District v. Gilbane Building Company (February 24, 2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 19, sprang from one of the largest political corruption scandals in San Diego County history, in which construction vendors provided gifts to...
California Supreme Court Holds Attorney-Client Privilege Not Waived by Public Agency's Accidental Disclosure of Privileged Communications in Response to a Public Records Act Request
March 2016 Number 14 If a public agency accidentally discloses privileged attorney-client information when it responds to a Public Records Act request, does the agency waive the attorney-client privilege? The answer is no, according to a California Supreme Court ruling issued today, March 17, 2016. The decision significantly impacts how public agencies throughout the state handle Public Records Act requests. In Ardon v. City of Los Angeles, the California Supreme Court resolved conflic...
- Labor & Employment
- Chisom et al. v. Bd. of Retirement et al. Court of Appeal, Fifth District. Case No. F064259 A recent published decision upholding a decade-old settlement agreement and rejecting a group of retired Fresno County employees' attempt to use parole evidence to advance an interpretation of the settlement agreement that would have allowed the former employees to pursue their claims for an "enhanced" non-service-connected disability retirement benefit.
- Shiell, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, et al., Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC208582, Equal protection action claiming staff members of a non-profit, public benefit corporation were entitled to the same rights, salaries and benefits of County employees because they performed the same work. A dispositive motion was decided in the County's favor.
- Hall, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC208583, Approximately 200 female attorneys of a non-profit, public benefit corporation brought a sex discrimination suit claiming they were not receiving the same salaries and benefits as male employees of the County, despite doing the same work. The County's dispositive motion was ultimately granted on the grounds that plaintiffs were using improper male comparators and had not shown any indicia of discrimination.
- Law Enforcement
- In Barnes v. City of Pasadena, the plaintiffs sued the City and two of its officers claiming improper use of deadly force and alleged that the involved officers had planted a gun on the decedent in order to cover-up their alleged wrongful actions. A subsequent investigation noted that the alleged assailant's fingerprints and DNA could not be found anywhere on the weapon. Despite the plaintiffs' allegations, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The plaintiffs filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously affirmed the dismissal in favor of the City and its officers.
- A Lozano Smith litigator was a key member of the team retained by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to conduct a confidential internal affairs investigation of the officer-involved shooting death of Oscar Grant. This New Year's Day incident gained public attention throughout the Bay Area and the nation, sparking protests that extended for a number of weeks following the shooting. The investigation reviewed the actions of the police officers who were involved in the incident to determine any potential misconduct.
- In Liddy, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, three former officers filed a series of federal civil rights actions against the City, as well as related employment and workers compensation claims. The officers were suspected in the Rampart investigation that arose upon the discovery of widespread corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (C.R.A.S.H.) anti-gang unit of the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division in the late 1990s. Two of the three officers had received a $15-million dollar jury verdict in a companion case with the same judge, but different attorneys. A global settlement of 28 pending actions was reached at slightly more than the present value of the judgment.
- Secured a complete defense verdict in a million-dollar claim against the City of Modesto and its police officers for excessive force in a barroom brawl arrest, Shepherd v. City of Modesto. The plaintiff alleged that she was physically assaulted by the officers while being arrested at the Copper Rhino Saloon. The court cleared Modesto of all charges of Fourth Amendment violations, assault and battery and use of excessive force.
- In Govan v. City of Clovis, Lozano Smith successfully obtained dismissal of several constitutional and other statutory claims asserted by a Plaintiff business operator against the City of Clovis and individual City police officers, where the Plaintiff challenged the City of Clovis' sign ordinance and its enforcement. The District Court, entered judgment in the City's favor following dismissal of all of the Plaintiff's claims, which included several theories on the alleged violation of his First Amendment free speech rights, violation of his constitutional due process rights violation of his equal protection rights, and other state law claims.
- Leonard Avila v. City of Los Angeles, et al. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, Case No. 12-55931 where Lozano Smith successfully defended the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Police Department in an employment case. Following testimony, Lozano Smith asked the judge to dismiss certain claims because the officer had not introduced sufficient evidence. The judge agreed in part, and the jury was only asked to consider the officer's claims concerning retaliation under the FLSA and due process violations. The jury's verdict was a good one for the City and the LAPD, because they prevailed on the due process claim.