News & Information

 

Recent Accomplishments

  • Decisive Win in Moreno Valley: The firm challenged the adoption of a developer-sponsored initiative intended to skirt environmental review requirements for the massive World Logistics Center project in Moreno Valley. The California Court of Appeal recently held in a unanimous opinion that development agreements cannot be adopted by initiative.  
  • Ballot Measure Protected: The firm successfully defended a citizen initiative to encourage use of the historic Capitola Trestle as a bicycle and pedestrian trail. The Santa Cruz Superior Court rejected a pre-election challenge by the City of Capitola, ensuring that Capitola voters can weigh in on this important policy choice.   
  • SCOTUS Brief: In Knick v. Township of Scott, SMW filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of eight local government groups, including the National Governors Association and the National League of Cities. The brief makes the case for preserving state courts’ jurisdiction over regulatory takings claims.   
  • Energy Hero: The Interstate Renewable Energy Council honored SMW’s Sky Stanfield as one of its 2018 Energy Heroes. IREC recognized Sky for her pioneering leadership on renewable energy. Sky’s expertise has been instrumental to IREC's work to increase consumer access to clean energy and expedite the transition to a low-carbon energy system.  
  • Victory for Arizona Voting Rights: SMW and Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center negotiated a pathbreaking Consent Decree that requires the State of Arizona to remove unnecessary barriers to voter registration by modifying the State’s onerous “proof of citizenship” requirements. The agreement will enfranchise tens of thousands of Arizona voters. Read more here.  
  • Historic Berkeley Post Office Protected: SMW successfully defended Berkeley’s historic preservation ordinance against a constitutional challenge by the US Postal Service. The federal District Court upheld the City’s requirement that all properties in its Civic Center Historic District, including the Post Office, remain dedicated to civic uses. Read the decision here.  
  • Another Victory in the Ninth Circuit: The Court reversed a more than $7 million regulatory takings judgment against SMW client City of Carson in Colony Cove Properties, LLC v. City of Carson. The court held that the City’s rent control decisions were not the functional equivalent of eminent domain.   
  • Victory in the Ninth Circuit: The Ninth Circuit affirmed a judgment for SMW client Stanislaus County in Honchariw v. County of Stanislaus. The court held that the plaintiff’s regulatory takings claim was barred by his failure to file a timely just compensation claim in state court.  
  • Victory at CPUC: The California Public Utilities Commission ruled that investor-owned utility SDG&E’s shareholders, and not its ratepayers, must bear the costs of devastating fires resulting from poor management practices. Unrelenting advocacy by intervenors, including Protect Our Communities Foundation, represented by SMW, pushed the Commission to reach this fair result.  
  • SMW Honored as Top Women-Owned Business: SMW has again been named by the San Francisco Business Times to its “Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses” for 2017, one of only 5 law firms to make the rankings. The firm’s eleven woman owners – Fran Layton, Rachel Hooper, Ellen Garber, Tamara Galanter, Ellison Folk, Osa Wolff, Catherine Engberg, Deborah Miller, Winter King, Amy Bricker, and Heather Minner – comprise a majority of SMW’s partners and, collectively, hold a majority ownership stake in the firm.   
More SMW accomplishments  

Recent Presentations & Publications

  • Supreme Court preview webinar: SMW attorney Matt Zinn gave a presentation on three upcoming cases in the US Supreme Court at a webinar hosted by the State and Local Legal Center and the National Association of Counties. A recording of the webinar is available here.   
  • Public Agency Update (Spring 2018): In the last edition of In the Public Interest, we provided a summary of the legislation enacted by the State in 2017 to address California’s growing housing crisis. Since then, another highly controversial housing bill—SB 827—died in the Legislature.   -Read more-
  • Public Agency Update (Spring 2018): On April 23, in Colony Cove Properties, LLC v. City of Carson, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that local governments have broad leeway to regulate the use of property without causing a “taking” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.   -Read more-
  • Public Agency Update (Spring 2018): The year 2017 was marked by legal conflict between the State of California and the federal government. Hidden amidst higher-profile state enactments was SB 50, a statute that on the surface looks like a procedural conservation measure but will have substantial practical effects for many local agencies.   -Read more-
  • Indian Law Articles: SMW attorneys published two articles in the April 2018 California Indian Law Association Newsletter. Sara Clark’s article discusses new mechanisms to ensure adequate consultation between tribes and federal, state, and local governments. Stephanie Safdi’s article considers the gap in federally recognized water quality standards for tribal lands.  
  • Public Agency Update (Winter 2018): The State is taking numerous steps to encourage energy storage in California. Cities and counties will have important roles to play as well. Assembly Bill (AB) 546, passed last year, includes specific local permitting obligations. SMW attorney Erica McConnell provides an overview of the new law.   -Read more-
  • Public Agency Update (Winter 2018): It is no secret that California is in the grips of a housing crisis. In 2017, the Legislature passed more than two dozen bills to address the state’s lack of housing supply. SMW attorney Winter King summarizes the most significant new measures and explains how they affect cities and counties.    -Read more-
  • New Renewable Energy Paper: Moving to a renewable based energy system requires new tools to help smooth the integration of these resources. A new paper for the Interstate Renewable Energy Council by SMW attorneys Sky Stanfield and Stephanie Safdi helps energy regulators understand an important new tool known as a hosting capacity analyses.  
  • Presentation on Commercial Cannabis: SMW attorney Heather Minner presented “Commercial Cannabis Activities: Regulating a ‘New’ Land Use at the State and Local Level” at Sonoma State University’s Planning Commissioners Conference on December 2, 2017. Her presentation covered a front-page issue that cities and counties across the state are struggling to address.   
  • Public Agency Update (Fall 2017): Every day it seems that more of our lives are migrating to “the cloud.” Now, even formal legal documents are making the move. Many contracts in the private sector are entirely paperless. SMW Attorney Richard Taylor provides recommendations to public agencies as they weigh whether and in what circumstances the move makes sense for them.   -Read more-
More SMW presentations and publications