Ellison Folk

Ms. Folk joined Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger in 1990 and is a partner with the firm. Ms. Folk represents community groups, public agencies, and environmental organizations on a wide range of environmental and land use issues, including CEQA, the California Coastal Act, Proposition 65, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and general plan and zoning law. Ms. Folk also advises and defends public agencies in litigation raising takings and related constitutional challenges to land use and environmental regulations.

photo by Liza Heider

Ms. Folk has considerable litigation experience in state and federal courts on behalf of environmental organizations and public entities. Ms. Folk was lead attorney representing petitioners in Communities for a Better Environment v. California Resources Agency, 103 Cal.App.4th 98 (2002), which struck down several amendments to the CEQA Guidelines that would have significantly undermined the protections provided by the statute and the case law (case featured in The Plaintiffs’ Hot List; Twenty-Five Go-To Teams for When the Going Gets Tough, July 21, 2003 National Law Journal).

Ms. Folk has also represented numerous environmental and community groups in successful challenges to major development projects under the California Environmental Quality Act, including: Greenbelt Alliance v. City of Oakley, Contra Costa County Superior Court No. N-06-0582 (successful challenge to and settlement of City of Oakley’s approval of a 3,200 unit specific plan project); Forestville Citizens for Sensible Growth v. Sonoma County, First Appellate District No. A119543 (successful challenge to and settlement of Sonoma County’s approval a mining project); Deltakeeper, et al. v. Oakdale Irrigation District, et al., Third Appellate District Case No. C049798 (resulting in requirement that four irrigation districts in the Central Valley prepare environmental impact reports for aquatic pesticide programs); Rescue Our Canyon v. Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, et al., U.S. District Court, Central District Case No. 96-2078 JGD (RMCx) (challenge to extension of Red Line Subway through Runyon Canyon resulting in a settlement to ensure protection of natural resources in the Canyon).

Ms. Folk’s representation of public entities includes, most recently, the successful defense of the City of Morgan Hill in Arcadia v. City of Morgan Hill, 197 Cal. App. 4th 1526 (2011) – an action brought by a developer claiming that the City’s land use restrictions violated its right to equal protection.

Ms. Folk also successfully defended the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District in Citizens for Responsible Open Space v. San Mateo Local Agency Formation Commission, 159 Cal. App. 4th 717 (2008).

Ms. Folk currently represents the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in litigation brought by the California Building Industry Association challenging thresholds of significance adopted by the District to implement the California Environmental Quality Act.

Ms. Folk also served as co-counsel representing the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) in defeating a challenge to the agency’s comprehensive plan for protection of Lake Tahoe. Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council v. TRPA, 122 S.Ct. 1465 (2002). The case resulted in a precedent-setting ruling from the United States Supreme Court that reasonable delays in land use planning do not result in a taking of property.

Ms. Folk was named as a Northern California Super Lawyer for 2012 and 2013, and is the lead author for several publications regarding takings law, including Chapter 65: Takings and Other Constitutional Controls in California Environmental Law and Land Use Practice (Matthew Bender), and articles for the California Environmental Law Reporter. She regularly speaks at conferences regarding land use and environmental issues.

Ms. Folk served on the Board of Directors of Creative Arts Charter School from 2009 to 2013 and was president on the Board from 2011 to 2013. Ms. Folk also served on the Board of Directors for Save San Francisco Bay Association from 1998 through 2003. She received her law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law, and she also holds a Masters in City and Regional Planning from the University of California Berkeley. Ms. Folk graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University in 1984.

Ms. Folk is a member of the Bars of the State of California, the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Eastern and Central Districts of California.