News & Information


Recent Accomplishments

  • 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.   
  • Victory in Lynch v. California Coastal Commission: The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that homeowners forfeited their challenge to a coastal development permit’s conditions when they accepted the permit’s benefits and built a seawall on their properties. SMW filed an amicus brief supporting the Commission on behalf of the American Planning Association. Read the opinion here.   
  • Cap-and-Trade Auction Upheld: The California Supreme Court has denied petitions for review in California Chamber of Commerce v. State Air Resources Board, in which the court of appeal upheld the auction of greenhouse gas emission allowances. SMW represented EDF and NRDC in support of the state. Read the decision here.  
  • Ninth Circuit Affirms Important Tribal Jurisdiction Case: SMW and its client, the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), secured a major victory for tribal sovereignty when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that CRIT’s tribal court had jurisdiction over an action to evict a non-Indian holdover tenant from tribal lands.  
  • Water to Tribal Lands: Client the Elk Valley Rancheria, California, a federally-recognized Indian tribe, secured a victory when the trial court upheld Del Norte County LAFCO’s decision to allow Crescent City to provide water to neighboring tribal lands. A competing water provider had challenged the decision, seeking exclusive control over water supply and pricing.  
  • SMW Supreme Court Victory: Just before Christmas, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Orange Citizens for Parks and Recreation v. Superior Court, a case the firm has been litigating since 2011. The unanimous decision protects the integrity of General Plans in California and upholds the rights of voters to use the referendum power to challenge local land use decisions. Read the decision here.  
  • San Onofre State Beach Saved: Following an unbroken string of court and administrative victories, a coalition of 12 major environmental groups represented by SMW reached an historic settlement agreement to end the decade-long battle to save SOSB, Trestles beach, and other protected open space from a six-lane toll road. Read more here.   
More SMW accomplishments  

Recent Presentations & Publications

  • 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.  
  • Recorder Article: In Defending Local Control of Land Use (May 15, 2017) SMW attorney Andrew Schwartz argues that as local governments fill the void in environmental protections created by the Trump Administration, they should seek to have regulatory takings challenges to such efforts heard in state rather than federal courts.  
  • Public Agency Update (Spring 2017): California has recently updated its green building standards to include a new statewide requirement that at least 65 percent of waste from new construction and demolition projects be recycled and/or salvaged for reuse. SMW attorney Catherine Malina outlines the new requirements and steps local jurisdictions should take now.   -Read more-
  • Daily Journal: The April 24, 2017 issue of the Daily Journal featured an article by SMW attorneys Catherine Malina and Sky Stanfield entitled Dismantling Climate Regulations Will Not Be As Easy As Trump Administration Thinks. The article highlights recent lawsuits filed by states and advocates challenging the administration’s efforts to undo federal energy efficiency standards.  
  • New Guide on Advancing Energy Storage Policies: On behalf of our client the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), SMW attorneys Sky Stanfield and Seph Petta authored Charging Ahead: An Energy Storage Guide for State Policymakers, a new IREC report providing electric utility regulators with recommended "foundational policies" to advance integration of energy storage technologies on the electric system. The report is available for download on IREC's website.  
  • Presentation on New Advanced Energy Storage Policy Report: On behalf of client the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, on April 26, 2017 SMW attorneys Sky Stanfield and Seph Petta will host a webinar to introduce a new IREC report they authored. Charging Ahead: An Energy Storage Guide for State Policymakers provides electric utility regulators with recommended "foundational policies" to advance integration of energy storage technologies on the electric system. The report is available for download on IREC's website.  
  • Forward-Thinking Series on Interconnection: In January, SMW attorneys Cathy Malina and Erica McConnell authored the fourth in a series of blogs on renewable energy interconnection on behalf of our client, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, published in Greentech Media. In the blog, Malina and McConnell look at why interconnection information sharing is so crucial for making sensible investments in distributed resources.   
  • Forward-Thinking Series on Interconnection: Over the past few months, SMW attorneys have authored blogs on renewable energy interconnection on behalf of our client, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. In the third blog published in Greentech Media, Laura Beaton and Erica McConnell discuss how enforcement mechanisms can make interconnection deadlines matter for utilities and applicants.  
  • Public Agency Update (Winter 2016): Agencies frequently require developers to mitigate for the loss of farmland and open space through conservation easement purchases. But conservation easements can easily be ignored if agencies do not require adequate protections up front. SMW attorney Tamara Galanter offers tips to ensure conservation easements will effectively compensate for land lost.    -Read more-
  • Public Agency Update (Winter 2016): As part of an effort to bolster California’s housing stock, new state law imposes severe limits on local agency regulation of accessory dwelling units. SMW attorney Sara Clark reviews the new legislation to see where local jurisdictions may retain some control.    -Read more-
More SMW presentations and publications