Fran M. Layton

After beginning her legal career in Washington, D.C., Fran M. Layton returned to the Bay Area in 1982 and joined Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger the following year. Ms. Layton is a partner in the firm and her practice focuses on constitutional issues relating to regulatory action, such as takings and preemption, and on land use and planning, conservation of natural areas and farmland, the Clean Air Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, and eminent domain law.

photo by Liza Heider

Ms. Layton has extensive litigation experience at the trial court and appellate level in both federal and state courts, including authoring merits and amici briefs in both the California and United States Supreme Courts. She was a member of the firm’s successful defense teams in the U.S. Supreme Court in Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, a takings challenge to TRPA’s comprehensive land use plan for the Lake Tahoe Basin, and in the Ninth Circuit in Engine Manufacturers Assoc. v. South Coast Air Quality Management District, a preemption challenge under the Clean Air Act to the District’s innovative Fleet Rules. Most recently, Ms. Layton served as lead counsel to the County of Santa Cruz in Big Creek Lumber Company v. County of Santa Cruz, a preemption challenge to County regulations governing the location of timber harvesting, in which the County ultimately prevailed before the California Supreme Court.

Ms. Layton’s land preservation work includes serving as special counsel to the City of Sacramento in a complex, multi-party lawsuit over development in the Natomas Basin. The parties negotiated a settlement that mandates preservation of land for state and federally protected species. Ms. Layton also represented the County of Santa Cruz, together with County Counsel, in longstanding litigation over future mining at a sand quarry. The mediated settlement included acquisition of a portion of the quarry containing an association of plants found nowhere else in the world.

Ms. Layton is on the Advisory Board of the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at the University of California Berkeley School of Law and on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the California Planning and Conservation League. She has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer each year from 2007 to the present. Ms. Layton received her AB degree from UC Berkeley and her JD from UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall).

Ms. Layton is a member of the Bar of the State of California, the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the District of Columbia Circuit, and U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Central, and Eastern Districts of California, and the District of Columbia.