Government Law

Kerr & Wagstaffe has a well-established practice, representing the State Bar of California, the County of San Mateo, the City of San Rafael, and other local governments and agencies in cases involving constitutional law, governmental immunities, complex inter-agency disputes, and land use/CEQA litigation.  Recognizing the substantial financial strain on California governmental entities, we commonly agree to reduced or blended fee structures when we represent governmental entities.


Notable Cases

    MHC Financing Limited Partnership v. City of San Rafael

     

    The firm successfully defended the City of San Rafael in a 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 United States Supreme Court denied MHC’s petition for a writ of certiorari in January 2014.

    Franklin v. Fox

     

    Kerr & Wagstaffe successfully defended the County of San Mateo and its prosecutors who obtained a widely-publicized conviction in a 1973 abduction and murder. Upon his release, the defendant in the criminal case sued the county and the individual prosecutors for the alleged violation of his civil rights. The firm secured summary judgment in favor of its clients. The favorable result was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. Franklin v. Fox, 312 F.3d 423 (9th Cir. 2002).

    City of San Rafael v. Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District

     

    The firm represented the City of San Rafael in its dispute with the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District over which entity had the right to control solid waste collection in north San Rafael. The area in question had been controlled by the sanitary district, but was annexed over time by the city. The sanitary district refused to relinquish control over solid waste collection, so the firm brought a writ of mandate action that sought to require the sanitary district to do so. The Marin County Superior Court found that San Rafael was the entity with the legal right to control waste collection in the disputed area, allowing the city to manage the existing contract with Marin Sanitary and receive appropriate municipal revenue from those collection services.

    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.

    City of San Rafael v. Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District

     

    The firm represented the City of San Rafael in its dispute with the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District over which entity had the right to control solid waste collection in north San Rafael. The area in question had been controlled by the sanitary district, but was annexed over time by the city. The sanitary district refused to relinquish control over solid waste collection, so the firm brought a writ of mandate action that sought to require the sanitary district to do so. The Marin County Superior Court found that San Rafael was the entity with the legal right to control waste collection in the disputed area, allowing the city to manage the existing contract with Marin Sanitary and receive appropriate municipal revenue from those collection services.

    Zack v. Marin Emergency Radio Authority

     

    Kerr and Wagstaffe represented Marin Emergency Radio Authority (“MERA”), a joint powers authority formed by the County of Marin and numerous cities and local public safety agencies for the purpose of replacing the County’s outdated emergency radio system. Homeowners and citizens’ groups filed suit under CEQA to block installation of a key transmitter tower in Tiburon. The trial court found for the homeowners and blocked the construction of the tower.  In a published decision, the Court of Appeal reversed in favor of MERA. Zack v. Marin Emergency Radio Authority, 118 Cal.App.4th 617, 633 (2004). The First District held that MERA was exempt from Tiburon’s zoning ordinances and that there was no violation of CEQA.