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 Special Districts 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:

  • Open Meeting Laws/Brown Act
  • Records Request/Public Records Act
  • Conflicts of Interest and Ethics
  • Fees, Taxes & Assessments
  • Claims Against Public Agencies
  • Employment/Personnel and Collective Bargaining for Public Agencies
  • Land Use
  • Water Rights & Regulation
  • CEQA
  • Construction Advice and Litigation
  • Public Safety
  • Police
  • Fire
  • Code Enforcement
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Intergovernmental Relations
  • Elections, Redistricting and Voting Rights Act
  • Public Agency Formation, Organization and Reorganization
  • Public Financing/Tax Exempt Bonds
  • Economic development
In addition, Lozano Smith assists clients with:
  • Land use and planning law
  • Real Estate law
  • FPPC regulations
  • Environmental Law (i.e., water, hazardous waste and municipal waste)
  • The Subdivision Map Act
  • Elections law
  • Contract law
  • Municipal tort law
  • Public contracts and franchises
  • Parliamentary procedure
  • Litigation experience
  • Process misdemeanor violations
  • PUC Proceedings
  • Eminent Domain
  • Joint Powers Shared Services Agreements

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 Chowchilla, Clovis, Firebaugh, Fowler, Greenfield, Lemoore, Mission Viejo, and Reedley, as County Counsel for Madera County, and as general counsel for many kinds of special districts.

Client Focused

Lozano Smith’s longstanding experience and dedication to public agency law provides special districts with unique, multi-faceted areas of expertise. Our Local Government, Labor & Employment and Litigation Practice Groups, among others, regularly collaborate to serve clients on the most pressing issues, with a focus on cost-preventive measures. With eight offices spread across California, Lozano Smith’s Local Government Practice Group provides advice in all areas of law affecting special districts, and provides specialized services in the following areas:

  • Annexation/detachment and modification of service boundaries
  • Approval and review of loan documents and lease agreements
  • Bargaining and Labor Negotiations
  • Brown Act/Public Records Act issues
  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), DTSC compliance
  • Code enforcement and business/building inspections
  • Development of policies, procedures and protocols
  • Facilities issues
  • Litigation in all areas of representation
  • Pension Issues
  • Real Estate negotiations and building contracts
  • Representation as general counsel
  • Review of contracts and agreements with other agencies (automatic aid agreements, dispatch services agreements, equipment purchases)
  • Review of public records requests

Labor & Employment

We have devised and implemented a process to assist staff in reviewing requests for accommodation from employees and returning injured employees to work. We are familiar with the workers’ compensation law process and have specific expertise in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Other areas in which we have expertise and training include:

  • Drafting of Disciplinary Charges
  • Due Process Hearings
  • Employee Discipline and Termination
  • Employee Evaluation
  • Family and Medical Leave Laws (FMLA/CFRA)
  • Grievances
  • Harassment and Discrimination Investigations
  • Labor Negotiations
  • Management and Employee Contracts
  • Military Leave
  • Personnel Policies
  • Pre Employment Screening
  • Recruitment and Hiring
  • Sexual Harassment/Retaliation
  • Whistle Blower Statutes

Development, Public Contracting and Public Works

Lozano Smith attorneys have drafted numerous Development Agreements, Real Estate transactions without regulatory elements, Owner Participation Agreements, Disposition and Development Agreements, Affordable Housing Agreements, and special district/civic center transactions. In addition, our attorneys are experienced with matters involving urban renewal, economic development, and Community Development Block Grant Programs.

Lozano Smith has extensive experience in all aspects of property acquisition, including reviewing, drafting and negotiating sophisticated real property transactions. These transactions have included negotiated purchases, real property exchanges with both private and public entities, acquisition through developer agreements, and eminent domain. We also have represented numerous public agencies in public property sale and leases, as well as joint use agreements. Our attorneys are very familiar with issues concerning entitlements, easements, dedications, title and survey matters and real property due diligence.

Since the firm’s inception, our attorneys have advised public agencies on the myriad of legal issues presented by the procurement of services, equipment and materials. Our attorneys are experienced in prevailing wage and public bidding requirements as they relate to municipalities and special districts. The firm’s statewide presence and internal sharing of information serves our clients and results in cost savings to them.

More than half of the attorneys on our staff manage business transactions each day, giving us the depth of experience to successfully review and advise our clients on these types of transactions. Specific areas in which we regularly provide advice and counsel include:

  • Legislative and judicial actions/decisions
  • Contracts (general)
  • Capital Improvement Projects (construction contracts, including bidding, award and defense)
  • Bid challenges
  • Easements
  • Deeds of trust and Leases
  • Ordinances and Resolutions
  • Notices and Dispositions
  • Property acquisitions

Client Focused

Lozano Smith’s longstanding experience and dedication to public agency law provides police departments with unique, multi-faceted areas of expertise. Our Local Government, Labor & Employment and Litigation Practice Groups, among others, regularly collaborate to serve clients on the most pressing issues, with a focus on cost-preventive measures.

Internal Department Advice and Counsel

Serving as City Attorney for several cities throughout the State, Lozano Smith attorneys counsel and interact with police departments on an everyday basis. This includes issues such as police officer personnel files, Pitchess requests and policy updates. We provide advice and training on the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights (POBOR) and are familiar with individual departments’ operations manuals. Our attorneys are also familiar with law enforcement technological resources, including, for example, mobile digital terminal and dispatch, and L-tac communications.

Police Employment

Our attorneys have vast experience assisting clients with POBOR, and a significant portion of our firm’s resources is dedicated to employment counseling, employment litigation, and administrative proceedings. We have broad experience assisting clients in preventing, investigating and litigating claims of sexual harassment and all forms of employment discrimination, and our advocacy has been sought in a number of sensitive, high profile cases.

Other areas in which we have expertise and training include:

  • Drafting of Disciplinary Charges
  • Due Process Hearings
  • Employee Discipline and Termination
  • Employee Evaluation
  • Family and Medical Leave Laws (FMLA/CFRA)
  • Grievances
  • Harassment and Discrimination Investigations
  • Labor Negotiations
  • Management and Employee Contracts
  • Military Leave
  • Personnel Policies
  • Pre Employment Screening
  • Recruitment and Hiring
  • Sexual Harassment/Retaliation
  • Whistle Blower Statutes

Police Civil Rights

Our attorneys frequently handle claims alleging violation of civil rights arising under both state and federal law, including lawsuits alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and California’s equivalent, the Bane Act. Lozano Smith’s police civil rights attorneys vigorously defend peace officers in federal and state court against a wide variety of claims, including excessive force, unlawful arrest, civil rights, wrongful death, assault and battery, negligence and seizure actions.

We have handled numerous cases and represented clients against claims seeking punitive damages. Our focus on clients is regularly demonstrated with our understanding of the underlying training, policies and practices related to law enforcement officers. Not only do our attorneys provide law enforcement training, our deep bench of litigators and Local Government Practice Group work in conjunction with numerous departments to update and implement appropriate policies.

Code Enforcement

Our attorneys are well-versed in code enforcement, ultimately assisting in regulating matters related to public safety. Knowledge and expertise in this area includes:

  • Administrative fines and penalties
  • Civil compromise agreements
  • Cost recovery
  • Criminal prosecution of municipal code violations
  • Graffiti abatement
  • Injunctions
  • Inspection and abatement warrants
  • Neighborhood preservation
  • Nuisance abatement

Litigation

The Litigation Practice Group ensures the success and protection of its clients by specializing in:

  • Excessive Force
  • Personnel Disputes
  • Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation
  • ADA and State Disability Laws
  • Section 1983 and Civil Rights
  • Personal Injury and Tort Defense
  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Administrative hearings involving grievances, unfair practice charges, layoffs and dismissals, and arbitrations
  • Traditional and Administrative Writ of Mandate

Client Focused

With eight offices spread across California, Lozano Smith’s Local Government and Special Districts Practice Group provides advice in all areas of law affecting special districts, and provides specialized services in the following areas:

  • Adoption of local codes and amendments to the California Fire Code
  • Adoption of standards of service and Fire Code interpretations
  • Annexation/detachment and modification of service boundaries
  • Approval and review of loan documents and lease agreements
  • Bargaining and Labor Negotiations
  • Brown Act/Public Records Act issues
  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), DTSC compliance
  • Code enforcement and business/building inspections
  • Development of policies, procedures and protocols
  • Facilities issues
  • Litigation in all areas of representation
  • Matters concerning paid and volunteer fire fighters
  • Pension Issues
  • Personnel services, including implementation of the new Fire Fighters Procedural Bill of Rights
  • Real Estate negotiations and building contracts
  • Representation as general counsel
  • Representation of the Fire Agencies Insurance Risk Authority (FAIRA)
  • Review of contracts and agreements with other agencies (automatic aid agreements, dispatch services agreements, equipment purchases)
  • Review of public records requests

Labor & Employment

We have devised and implemented a process to assist staff in reviewing requests for accommodation from employees and returning injured employees to work. We are familiar with the workers’ compensation law process and have specific expertise in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our attorneys have experience assisting clients with the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act (FOBOR).

Other areas in which we have expertise and training include:

  • Drafting of Disciplinary Charges
  • Due Process Hearings
  • Employee Discipline and Termination
  • Employee Evaluation
  • Family and Medical Leave Laws (FMLA/CFRA)
  • Grievances
  • Harassment and Discrimination Investigations
  • Labor Negotiations
  • Management and Employee Contracts
  • Military Leave
  • Personnel Policies
  • Pre Employment Screening
  • Recruitment and Hiring
  • Sexual Harassment/Retaliation
  • Whistle Blower Statutes

Development, Public Contracting and Public Works

Lozano Smith attorneys have drafted numerous Development Agreements, Real Estate transactions without regulatory elements, Owner Participation Agreements, Disposition and Development Agreements, Affordable Housing Agreements, and special district/civic center transactions. In addition, our attorneys are experienced with matters involving urban renewal, economic development, and Community Development Block Grant Programs.

Lozano Smith has extensive experience in all aspects of property acquisition, including reviewing, drafting and negotiating sophisticated real property transactions. These transactions have included negotiated purchases, real property exchanges with both private and public entities, acquisition through developer agreements, and eminent domain. We also have represented numerous public agencies in public property sale and leases, as well as joint use agreements. Our attorneys are very familiar with issues concerning entitlements, easements, dedications, title and survey matters and real property due diligence.

Since the firm’s inception, our attorneys have advised public agencies on the myriad of legal issues presented by the procurement of services, equipment and materials. Our attorneys are experienced in prevailing wage and public bidding requirements as they relate to municipalities and special districts. The firm’s statewide presence and internal sharing of information serves our clients and results in cost savings to them.

More than half of the attorneys on our staff manage business transactions each day, giving us the depth of experience to successfully review and advise our clients on these types of transactions. Specific areas in which we regularly provide advice and counsel include:

  • Legislative and judicial actions/decisions
  • Contracts (general)
  • Capital Improvement Projects (construction contracts, including bidding, award and defense)
  • Bid challenges
  • Easements
  • Deeds of trust and Leases
  • Ordinances and Resolutions
  • Notices and Dispositions
  • Property acquisitions
Fresno, Bakersfield dbacigalupi@lozanosmith.com
Sacramento, San Diego dmaruccia@lozanosmith.com
Desiree  Serrano Senior Counsel
James  Sanchez Senior Counsel
Fresno, Monterey jsanchez@lozanosmith.com
Walnut Creek, Sacramento, San Diego krezendes@lozanosmith.com
Los Angeles, San Diego tsims@lozanosmith.com
Los Angeles, Mission Viejo wcurley@lozanosmith.com

The California Court of Appeal Has Spoken, Not Just Anyone Can Be Elected County Sheriff—So Says County Clerk

By:William Curley III, Ryan Harrison, Sr. -

April 2019Number 20In 2017, basketball Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O'Neil was sworn in as a deputy sheriff of Henry County, Georgia. The momentous occasion concluded with a moment levity at the end of the swearing-in ceremony when Mr. O'Neil announced his candidacy for County Sheriff in 2020. His wit was fueled by the tacit understanding that county sheriff is a position requiring the qualification of sufficient prior law enforcement experience. World-class basketball skills, although highly impo...

California Recognizes “Nonbinary” Gender Category And Requires Certain State Agencies To Collect Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Data

By:Gabriela Flowers, Courtney de Groof -

April 2019Number 22The California Legislature recently passed legislation, taking effect in 2018 and 2019, making it easier for individuals to change their gender identity on official documents, adding a new gender identity option to certain forms of identification and vital records, and requiring certain state and local agencies to change data collection practices so that gender identity is more accurately accounted for in demographic data.Assembly Bill (AB) 677: Sexual Orientation and Gende...

PERB Decision Provides Guidance Addressing “Public Hearing” Requirement

By:Jenell Van Bindsbergen, Meera Bhatt -

March 2019Number 17 In a recent decision, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) addressed the public hearing requirement an agency must satisfy before implementing its last, best, and final offer (LBFO), after completing applicable impasse procedures. In City of Yuba City (2018) PERB Dec. No. 2603-M, PERB upheld an administrative law judge decision dismissing an unfair practice charge brought against the City of Yuba City (City) by Public Employees Union Local 1 (Local 1) alleging viol...

Brown Act’s “Committee Exception” Does Not Apply To Special Meetings

By:William Curley III, Matthew Lear -

March 2019Number 18A California appellate court has focused on the distinction between a regular meeting and a special meeting of the local legislative body when considering an exception to public comment under the Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act). In Preven v. City of Los Angeles (Preven), the Second District Court of Appeal found that the City of Los Angeles had improperly relied on the Brown Act's "committee exception" to stop public comment during a special meeting regarding a topic that ha...

Court Clarifies Interplay Between Education Code Discipline And The Brown Act’s 24-Hour Notice Requirement

By:Mark Waterman, Marisa Montenegro -

February 2019Number 14In Ricasa v. Office of Administrative Hearings, certified for publication on January 14, 2019, the California Court of Appeal attempted to harmonize an apparent dissonance between the Ralph M. Brown Act's personnel exception, and the disciplinary procedures of the Education Code. The opinion constitutes the first time an appellate court has ruled on the Brown Act's personnel exception in the context of community college districts, and the opinion's implications reach to ...

Records Owned And Held By A Third Party Are Not Public Records Even If A Public Agency Has A Right To Access Such Records

By:Harold Freiman, Jessica Mejorado -

March 2019Number 16A recent California appellate court ruling has clarified the reach of the California Public Records Act (CPRA). InAnderson-Barker v. City of Los Angeles, the Second District Court of Appeal held that records in the possession of a third party contractor under a contract with the City of Los Angeles were not subject to the CPRA where the city had access to but did not actually possess or control the records.BackgroundIn Anderson-Barker, the plaintiff sought to compel the cit...

Lay Opinions May Trigger The Need For An Environmental Impact Report

By:Kelly Rem -

February 2019Number 12A California appellate court has ruled that lay public opinions on nontechnical issues concerning a project's size and general appearance can provide substantial evidence of environmental impact, triggering the need to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).The California Environmental Quality ActCEQA generally requires public agencies to identify potentially significant impacts of projects they carry out or app...

Representative Cases

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.
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.
Lozano Smith represented the City of Los Angeles in one of the largest class action disability lawsuits in the country. In Willits, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, the plaintiff filed an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint to install curb cuts and sidewalk repairs throughout the City, to enforce the ADA. This case involved extensive E-Discovery of the City and its various departments’ internal data management system. The recently negotiated settlement will allow the City to completely revitalize its public right-of-ways to assure that all of the residents and visitors are able to fully participate in all of the available programs and services offered by the City.