News & Information


Recent Accomplishments

  • 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.   
  • SMW Ranked Nationally Among "Best Law Firms": U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have released their 2017 “Best Law Firms” rankings, and again Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP has earned a “Tier 1” ranking among law firms in the San Francisco metropolitan area in four categories, and three national awards, including a prestigious “Tier 1” ranking among all firms nationally in Land Use & Zoning Law. View all of the rankings here.  
  • SMW Honored as Women-Owned Business: SMW has again been named by the San Francisco Business Times to its “Bay Area’s Largest 100 Women-Owned Businesses” for 2016, one of only 5 law firms to make the rankings. The firm’s ten woman owners – Fran Layton, Rachel Hooper, Ellen Garber, Tamara Galanter, Ellison Folk, Osa Wolff, Catherine Engberg, Deborah Miller, Winter King, and Amy Bricker – comprise a majority of SMW’s partners and, collectively, hold a majority ownership stake in the firm.  
  • California Adopts Rules to Ease Solar Grid Access: The California Public Utilities Commission recently adopted significant new updates to the rules that govern how renewable energy generators connect to the distribution grid in the state. SMW led the charge for many of the innovations on behalf of its client the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC). For more information on these new innovations see here and here.   
  • Historic Diablo Canyon Agreement : Friends of the Earth, represented by SMW, announced an historic settlement agreement with PG&E, NRDC, and other labor and environmental organizations to close the last nuclear power plant in California by 2025 and replace it with zero-carbon energy. Read more here and here.  
  • Polluting New Railyard Halted : The City of Long Beach, represented by SMW, joined forces with the California Attorney General and six other plaintiffs to stop a major new railyard proposed immediately adjacent to the schools and residences of the west Long Beach neighborhood. The court’s 200-page opinion found the analysis of project’s air quality, climate, noise, traffic and cumulative impacts was inadequate.  
  • Land Trust Appointments: Tamara Galanter was recently selected to chair the Conservation Law Forum for the California Council of Land Trusts. Tamara also will be serving a four year term on the Land Trust Alliance Conservation Defense Advisory Council.  
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