Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP is often asked to represent clients in cases involving novel or difficult constitutional issues. At both the trial court and appellate levels, we bring clarity to complex legal issues, relying on both precedent and policy to frame the question while establishing a strong factual basis on which to found our clients’ claims or defenses.
For more detail on our First Amendment practice, please see our First Amendment/Anti-SLAPP practice area page.
MHC Financing Limited Partnership v. City of San Rafael
The firm represents the City of San Rafael in an ongoing challenge to the City’s Mobile Home Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which limits the amount of paid rent landowners at the city’s two mobile home parks can charge to owners. MHC, a Chicago-based REIT, claims that mobile home rent and vacancy control regulations are unconstitutional. After a tentative settlement agreement fell through, Kerr & Wagstaffe successfully obtained a jury verdict in favor of the City of San Rafael on MHC’s $40 million breach of contract claim. The constitutional claims were tried before the bench in November 2002 and again in May 2007, and the district court determined that the law is unconstitutional. The firm successfully appealed that decision, and on April 17, 2013 the Ninth Circuit confirmed the constitutionality of the Ordinance, reversed all claims that were decided against the City, and affirmed all claims decided for the City, resulting in a complete victory for the firm’s client. The Ninth Circuit denied MHC’s petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc.
Malicious Prosecution by Chevron Corporation Against Plaintiffs’ Attorney
Kerr & Wagstaffe successfully litigated a motion to strike a malicious prosecution action filed by Chevron against human rights lawyer Cristobal Bonifaz, arguing that the lawsuit is a quintessential Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (‘SLAPP’): a multi-national corporation sued a 75-year old semi-retired attorney, who operates his solo practice from a barn in rural Massachusetts, simply because the attorney—who is a native of Ecuador—had the audacity to dedicate the last 15 years of his legal career to legally assisting the poor, indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon. After allowing limited discovery, the Court concluded that Chevron’s claims were without merit and dismissed the entire lawsuit with prejudice, entitling Kerr & Wagstaffe’s client to recovery of his attorney’s fees.
Television Station Defamation Lawsuit
Bay Area television station KTSF- Channel 26 reported on a press conference held by police in China announcing that a prominent Bay Area businessman was suspected of Internet bomb threats to destroy a Taipei railway station. The businessman sued the television station for defamation claiming that the report was false and misconstrued the police statement. Utilizing California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Kerr & Wagstaffe obtained an order in the trial court striking the entire lawsuit on the grounds that the report was a matter of high public interest and was privileged as a fair and true summary of the police charges. The firm successfully defended the dispositive ruling on appeal and helped establish the important precedent that the “fair and true report” privilege applies to coverage of official proceedings in foreign countries. The firm also obtained a ruling requiring the businessman to pay KTSF – Channel 26?s attorneys’ fees expended in defending the action.
Sander v. State Bar of California
Kerr & Wagstaffe represents the State Bar of California and its Board of Governors in defending the State Bar’s decision not to release records concerning the ethnicity, academic record, and bar exam scores of all applicants as requested by several researchers. The researchers sued, claiming that the State Bar’s admissions database is a public record subject to access under the common law and Proposition 59. Kerr & Wagstaffe defeated those claims at a writ of mandate trial and continues its representation of the State Bar in the California Supreme Court.