News & Information

 

Recent Accomplishments

  • 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.   
  • California Supreme Court Victory: The firm won a major victory before the California Supreme Court on behalf of Friends of the Eel River. The Court ruled that federal law does not preempt the CEQA obligations of public rail agencies, reversing an appellate decision that would have exempted public rail from environmental oversight.   -Read more-
  • Access to Renewable Energy: SMW is pleased to join the Solar in Your Community Challenge, a DOE competition to expand solar access to low income households; state, local, and tribal governments; and non-profit organizations. SMW attorneys Erica McConnell and Sara Clark have been selected as consultants to serve teams across the country.  
  • Victory in Solano County: Solano County Superior Court ruled that the Solano County Board of Supervisors violated CEQA when it approved the sprawling Woodcreek 66 development, which proposed to rely on water and wastewater treatment services prohibited by state and local growth control laws. See local news coverage here and here.  
  • 2017 Super Lawyers: Super Lawyers magazine has recognized SMW attorneys Rachel Hooper, Fran Layton, Andrew Schwartz, Ellison Folk, Robert "Perl" Perlmutter and Bill White as Northern California Super Lawyers for 2017, and Sky Stanfield as a 2017 Rising Star.   
More SMW accomplishments  

Recent Presentations & Publications

  • 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-
  • Public Agency Update (Spring 2017): The politics of 2016 were unusual in many respects, and voter initiatives were no exception. SMW attorney Catherine Engberg explains there was an uptick in developer-sponsored voter initiatives following the Supreme Court’s Tuolumne Jobs decision -- but election results suggest that the “Tuolumne strategy” is largely unpopular. Read the report here.  
More SMW presentations and publications