Litigation and Appeals
Since its founding in 1980,
Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger has regularly represented a diverse array of clients, including public agencies, environmental organizations, Indian tribes, and community groups in some of the most important land use and environmental cases in the U.S. and California Supreme Courts, the Ninth Circuit, the California Courts of Appeal, and state and federal trial courts. SMW also represents tribes in tribal courts.
The firm’s very first piece of litigation was its successful defense of Town of Tiburon against a regulatory takings challenge in the United States Supreme Court (Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255 (1980)). Among SMW’s most significant appellate victories in each decade since then are:
Kings County Farm Bureau v. City of Hanford, 221 Cal.App.3d 692 (1990) (landmark CEQA ruling on the need to assess projects’ cumulative air quality impacts)
DeVita v. County of Napa, 9 Cal.4th 763 (1995) (California Supreme Court decision establishing voters’ power to amend general plan by initiative)
Communities for a Better Environment v. Cal. Resources Agency, 103 Cal.App.4th 98 (2002) (overturning new CEQA guidelines adopted by the Wilson administration that would have weakened environmental review requirements throughout California)
Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. TRPA, 535 U.S. 302 (2002) (landmark U.S. Supreme Court case upholding Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’ development moratorium to protect Lake Tahoe)
San Remo Hotel, L.P. v. City and County of San Francisco, 545 U.S. 323 (2005) (U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected regulatory takings challenge to San Francisco’s hotel conversion ordinance)
Water Wheel Camp Recreation Area, Inc. v. LaRance, 642 F.3d 802 (9th Cir. 2011) (upholding tribal court jurisdiction over Colorado River Indian Tribes’ action to regain lands from non-Indian holdover tenants)
American Coatings Assn. v. SCAQMD, 54 Cal.4th 446 (2012) (California Supreme Court decision upholding the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s authority to adopt “technology-forcing” rules to protect air quality)
Orange Citizens for Parks & Recreation v. Superior Court, 2 Cal.5th 141 (2016) (unanimous California Supreme Court decision upholding the people’s right of referendum and confirming the primacy of the general plan in local land use regulation)
Friends of the Eel River v. NCRA, 3 Cal.5th 677 (2017) (In its first-ever decision to consider federal preemption of CEQA, the California Supreme Court holds that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act does not preempt application of California’s most important environmental law to state agencies)
Settlement Negotiations & Mediation
While we have a strong track record in the courtroom, we know that litigation is not the only route to success. The firm is also adept at guiding clients through settlement negotiations and mediation when doing so is likely to achieve a better outcome.