News & Information


Recent Accomplishments

  • 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.   
  • 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.  
More SMW accomplishments  

Recent Presentations & Publications

  • 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.  
  • 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.  
More SMW presentations and publications