Steve  Ngo

Partner | Walnut Creek
Tel: 925.953.1620
Fax: 925.953.1625
Vcard Bio


Steve Ngo is a litigator in Lozano Smith's Walnut Creek office. He has extensive experience representing local governments across the state, covering an array of complex legal disputes. He advises cities, school districts, and community colleges, while active in several of the firm's practice groups, including Litigation, Technology & Innovation, Public Finance, Municipal, and Labor & Employment.

Mr. Ngo is an adept advocate with a record of successfully navigating public agencies and organizations through novel and formidable litigation from inception through appeal. This record has included advice on significant financial disputes; prosecution of disciplinary charges against employees for sexual offenses and sexual harassment; litigation of claims for writ of mandate, administrative mandamus, or injunctive relief; and defense of claims for money damages against local governments. He is also one of the firm's experts in Public Records Act litigation.

Presenter Experience

Mr. Ngo has presented on the Brown Act, effective business practices, open government policies, and labor and employment issues before the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA), California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO), the Association of California Community College Administrators (ACCCA), the Alameda County Office of Education, and Santa Clara County Office of Education.


Mr. Ngo earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he was elected president of the Associated Students. In law school he clerked for the California Attorney General's Energy Task Force, which investigated conduct by power generators and traders. He earned a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of California, Los Angeles. After college, he received the Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship, serving as staff to the State Assembly Budget Committee. Mr. Ngo has received certification through ATIXA as a participant in Level 1 and Level 3 ATIXA Civil Rights Investigator Trainings.

Community Service

In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Mr. Ngo to the California Student Aid Commission, the nation's largest administrator of state financial aid. Mr. Ngo also serves on the Board of Governors for the University of California, Hastings College of the Law Alumni Association. He is a member of the Asian American Bar Association of the Bay Area and an active supporter of the Asian Women's Shelter.

Mr. Ngo received the Next Generation Champion Award from Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth and the Policy Innovation Award from the San Francisco Family Support Network for his leadership on the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Community College District.

Student Newspaper Sues University After All Print Media Is Defunded Following The Publication Of A Satirical Article

By: Steve NgoStephanie White-

January 2020Number 4A University of California San Diego (UCSD) student newspaper, The Koala, brought suit against UCSD officials alleging that they defunded all print media in violation of the First Amendment. In The Koala v. Khosla (9th Cir. 2019) 931 F.3d 887, the Ninth Circuit sided with the student newspaper, reversing in part and vacating in part a district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the Eleventh Amendment did not bar The Koala's claims, and allowing the case to pr...

Lawmakers Approve Overhaul of Community College District Funding System

By: Darren KameyaSteve Ngo-

August 2018Number 42State lawmakers have approved an overhaul of the funding system for California's community colleges. The new Student-Focused Funding Formula for general purpose apportionments will be phased in over three school years, starting in 2018-19. The formula aims to equalize access and improve outcomes for community college students by tying a portion of annual funding to student equity and success.The formula was included in a budget trailer bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 1809, which ...

Discovery of Public Records after Requester Filed Lawsuit Leads to Attorney Fee Award for Plaintiff

By: Manuel MartinezSteve Ngo-

September 2017 Number 51 A California appeals court has found a city liable for attorney's fees after determining that a related lawsuit prompted the city to produce records during the litigation that the plaintiff had first sought through a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request. In Sukumar v. City of San Diego, the Court of Appeal held that the City of San Diego, although acting in good faith and having ultimately disclosed all records responsive to a CPRA request, had to pay a...

Court Reaffirms Undocumented Students' Eligibility for Higher Education Aid Programs

By: Michelle CannonSteve Ngo-

February 2017 Number 6 The Second District Court of Appeal has rejected arguments that sought to bar the University of California (UC) from making certain financial aid programs available to undocumented students. In decidingDe Vries v. Regents of University of California (2016) 6 Cal.App.5th 574, the appellate court has reaffirmed undocumented students' eligibility for such programs. As some colleges express concern about the potential for federal policies that could impact their undocumen...

Federal Appeals Court Affirms Constitutionality of Student Conduct Code, but Allows Free Speech Retaliation Claim against University to Proceed

By: Trevin SimsSteve Ngo-

October 2016 Number 81 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a university's request to dismiss a student's lawsuit alleging retaliation for protected speech under the First Amendment. In O'Brien v. Welty (9th Cir. 2016) 818 F.3d 920, a student intruded into the university offices of two faculty members, questioned the faculty members about a poem published in the student newspaper and proceeded to video record the interactions. The university disciplined the student under its stude...

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

By: Sloan SimmonsSteve Ngo-

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...

Fit to Defend: A Primer on the Physical Education Instructional Minutes Litigation

By: Sloan SimmonsSteve NgoAnne Collins-

A series of lawsuits against school districts throughout California caught the attention of the State Legislature in 2015, prompting changes in the law designed to keep administrators and teachers out of the courthouse regarding physical education ("P.E.") instructional minutes ("P.E. minutes"). The law, AB 1391, was an urgency measure that took effect as soon as Governor Brown signed the legislation in October 2015. Despite AB 1391, it appears that there are still attorneys and members of th...

California Court of Appeal Holds Attorney-Client Privilege Not Waived by Public Agency's Accidental Disclosure of Privileged Communications in Response to a Public Records Act Request

By: Sloan SimmonsSteve Ngo-

August 2015 Number 42 In a decision impacting public agencies across the state, the California Court of Appeal held that a school district did not waive its attorney-client privilege when it accidentally revealed attorney-client communications in response to a request under the Public Records Act. In Newark Unified School District v. Superior Court (July 31, 2015) 2015 Cal.App.Lexis 671 (Newark), the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, which previously ruled that the school district...

Court Ruling Requires Greater Scrutiny of Language Census Reporting by Districts

By: Thomas MannielloSteve Ngo-

October 2014 Number 73 A court recently held that a school district's report of its Language Census data is subject to greater scrutiny if the report shows that English Learners have not received appropriate instructional services. In D.J. et al. v. State of California, et al. (Super. Ct. L.A. County, September 16, 2014, No. BS142775), the plaintiffs alleged that the State violated the California Constitution's Equal Protection clause and the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act...

New Law Clarifies the Process for Filling Student Trustee Vacancies on Community College Governing Boards

By: Steve Ngo-

October 2013 Number 72 Community college district governing boards are required to be composed of one or more non-voting students who are chosen by the student body pursuant to governing board policy. Assembly Bill (AB) 1030 provides that if a student board member's seat becomes vacant during his or her term, the governing board may authorize the officers of the student body associations at each college in the district to appoint a student to serve the remainder of the term in accordance...

Violence Against Women Act Calls for New Policies on Campus

By: Trevin SimsSteve Ngo-

March 2013 Number 12 On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which provides sweeping changes to key aspects of college and university disclosure and reporting mandates. Section 304 of the law, titled "Campus Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Education and Prevention," made significant revisions to the Clery Act provisions of the Higher Education Act of 1965, requiring, among other things: ...

Without Evidence Of Discriminatory Bias, Employer's Business Reason For Termination Upheld

By: Mark KitabayashiSteve Ngo-

December 2012 Number 77 In Batarse v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 820, the court addressed whether an employee's offered evidence of retaliatory conduct was sufficient to overcome the employer's business reasons for termination in a suit alleging racial discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The court of appeal ruled in favor of the employer and held that without evidence of discriminatory motive, the case d...

New Bill Expands Paid Leave for Represented Classified Employees

By: Darren KameyaSteve Ngo-

October 2012 Number 51 More classified employees at school and community college districts may take paid time off to carry out union activities under Assembly Bill 1203, recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown. Taking effect on January 1, 2013, AB 1203 amends Education Code section 45210 (for school districts) and section 88210 (for community college districts) by allowing a classified union to request paid leave time for a reasonable number of unelected classified employees to attend ...

  • In M.N. v. Morgan Hill Unified School District (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 607, Mr. Ngo successfully defeated a petition for writ of administrative mandate, which sought to reverse an expulsion of a student who repeatedly sexually assaulted a classmate, and later prevailed on appeal, obtaining the first published appellate opinion to clarify the evidentiary rules and standard of review for expulsion proceedings. The M.N. opinion specifically rejected the notion that sexual battery must be proven by direct evidence of the state of mind of the accused.
  • In Newark Unified School District v. Superior Court (2015) 245 Cal.App.4th 887, Mr. Ngo successfully obtained appellate writ relief in an opinion where the Court of Appeal held that a public entity may seek the return of and “claw back” documents protected by the attorney-client privilege that are inadvertently disclosed in a response to a Public Records Act request, establishing new precedent on this issue of first impression. After the appellate court proceedings, Mr. Ngo prevailed at trial, obtaining a permanent injunction on behalf of the client district.
  • In Foster v. City of Berkeley, et al. (N.D. Cal. Nov. 22, 2011) Case No. C 10-3703 SI, 2011 WL 5861266, Mr. Ngo successfully defended a non-profit media organization against unconventional tort and civil rights theories, winning summary judgment and costs against the plaintiff.
  • Successfully resolved litigation for school district, which alleged that a county failed to properly collect and disburse developer fees to fund construction of public school facilities.
  • Successfully resolved audit finding before Education Audit Appeals Panel, saving school district client nearly one million in general fund exposure.