Client Alerts

The California state legislature and courts as well as local governments are continuously changing the legal landscape.  Staying abreast of new laws, regulations and other legal developments, and analyzing their impact on local governments is what makes our attorneys some of the best in the state. In addition, we write timely alerts to keep our clients informed of developing legal news and analysis.

Client e-Alerts are emailed to our clients, and they can also be viewed on our website.  If you are interested in receiving our Client Alerts via email, please complete the subscription information in the left column.
Some of our most recent alerts are presented below grouped by their practice area. Older alerts are available in the Archives, which can be accessed via the links in the left column.

California Drought – Legal Services & Resources

Drought Advisory: State Water Board Solicits Comments on "Conservation Water Pricing" (comments due July 1, 2015)

June 11, 2015, John D. Bakker, Gregory J. Newmark

Governor Brown's April 1, 2015 executive order addressing California's historic drought directed the State Water Resources Control Board to take steps to require urban water suppliers to develop pricing mechanisms to maximize water conservation.  The Water Board did not address this directive in its emergency water conservation regulations, which it adopted on May 5, 2015.  On June 10, the Water Board issued a notice of a July 8, 2015 workshop to solicit public input on the actions that the Water Board could take to implement the directive. 

Clean Water Rule Redefines “Waters of the U.S.”

May 29, 2015, Gregory J. Newmark, Sarah N. Quiter

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Agencies”) jointly released the “Clean Water Rule,” which redefines the scope of waters protected under the federal Clean Water Act (“CWA”).

California Drought Advisory – Water Conservation Regulations

May 27, 2015, Gregory J. Newmark, Lindsey F. Zwicker

After an expedited rulemaking process, the State Water Resources Control Board's ("Water Board") emergency drought regulations ("regulations") became effective when the Office of Administrative Law approved them on May 15. The regulations are designed to result in an immediate statewide 25% reduction in potable urban water usage, in compliance with the Governor's April 1, 2015 Drought Emergency Executive Order ("Order"). The regulations will remain in effect for 270 days, unless the Water Board determines that they are no longer necessary, due to changed conditions. Agencies subject to the regulations must begin implementation immediately.  To support implementation, the Governor has committed funds through legislation and state budget revisions and the Water Board has approved funding guidelines.

State Board Releases Draft Water Conservation Regulations to Achieve Statewide 25% Reduction in Urban Usage; Comments Sought by April 22

April 19, 2015, John D. Bakker, Gregory J. Newmark

Today, the State Water Resources Control Board issued draft emergency regulationsto implement the Governor’s April 1, 2015 Drought Emergency Executive Order and requested comments on them by this Wednesday, April 22. The Water Board intends to consider the adoption of final regulations on May 5 or 6, with the regulations becoming effective before June 1.

The Governor’s Order had directed the State Water Resources Control Board to issue emergency regulations to implement various water conservation strategies.  Key among these directives is the “mandatory 25% reduction in potable urban water use with recognition of past conservation achievements.”  The Water Board’s initial framework (released on April 7) would have assigned each water supplier to one of four reduction tiers (10%, 20%, 25%, and 35%), depending on the supplier's residential gallons-per-capita (R-GPCD) water usage during September 2014.  That date was chosen because it reflected a period when water usage would be at its highest due to outdoor irrigation.  The Water Board received over 250 commentson the initial framework. 

Governor’s Drought Executive Order Will Impact Local Agency Water Suppliers and Water Users (and Lawns)

April 6, 2015, John D. Bakker, Gregory J. Newmark

On April 2, Governor Brown issued the third and most significant in a series of Executive Orders addressing the ongoing drought. They followed his 2014 proclamation of a State of Emergency resulting from drought conditions. The Executive Orders direct various state agencies to implement various actions. They also suspend laws and regulations, using the Governor’s statutory authority to do so where the law or regulation will hinder the State’s ability to cope with the emergency.

Contaminated Sediment: Appellate Court Muddies the Water for TMDLs

April 3, 2015, Gregory J. Newmark, Sarah N. Quiter

On March 30, a short opinion from California's Second Appellate District raised a long list of unanswered questions in a case concerning a Regional Water Quality Control Board's authority to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load ("TMDL") for contaminated sediment.

California Public Records Act

Public Agencies Not Required to Disclose Records of Automatic License Plate Readers

May 8, 2015, Alex J. Mog, Ruthann G. Ziegler

The California Court of Appeal recently held that records generated by high speed cameras that automatically scan and compile license plate images to assist law enforcement in identifying vehicles involved with suspected crimes are not required to be disclosed under the California Public Records Act ("CPRA," Government Code §§6250 et seq.).  (American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California v. Superior Court, No. B259396 (Cal. Ct. App. May 6, 2015).)

Public Agencies Not Required to Disclose Attorney Billing Invoices Under CPRA; Attorney-Client Privilege Applies to Entire Invoice

April 16, 2015, Nicholaus W. Norvell, Ruthann G. Ziegler

The California Court of Appeal recently held that billing invoices sent by an attorney to a public agency client are protected by the attorney-client privilege and are not required to be disclosed by the  public agency, even in redacted form, under the California Public Records Act ("CPRA," Government Code §§ 6250 et seq.).  (County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court, No. B257230 (Cal. Ct. App. Apr. 13, 2015).) 

First Amendment

Supreme Court Ruling Dictates Rigid Application of Strict Scrutiny to Content-Based Distinctions in Sign Ordinances

June 22, 2015, Deborah J. Fox, Margaret Rosequist

On June 18, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued its much awaited opinion in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 2015 WL 2473374 (June 18, 2015)The Court unanimously found that the sign ordinance at issue violated the First Amendment.  The Reed Court analyzed the constitutionality of the different size and timing limitations placed on three categories of noncommercial signs: ideological signs, temporary directional signs, and political signs.  The Ninth Circuit had ruled that the distinctions were content-neutral and passed First Amendment scrutiny.  The Supreme Court reversed. The unanimous ruling was accompanied by a sharp divide among the Justices as to the appropriate analytical framework to apply.  The majority opinion (penned by Justice Thomas) applies a rigid strict-scrutiny analysis to content-based distinctions used in sign ordinances.  As content-based exemptions and distinctions are commonly found in municipal sign ordinances, cities should review and possibly reconsider the language used in their regulations in light of the majority opinion in Reed.

Land Use

Attorney's Fee Award Reduced Based on Limited CEQA Victory

April 14, 2015, Timothy D. Cremin, Edward Grutzmacher

In Save Our Uniquely Rural Community Environment v. County of San Bernardino (SOURCE), the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's award of only $19,176 in attorney's fees on petitioner's motion for an award of over $231,000.  The court ruled that a greatly reduced fee award was justified because the plaintiff prevailed on limited grounds on an uncomplicated CEQA issue. 

Municipal and Special District Law

No Peeking! Supreme Court Holds Police Cannot Demand Access to Hotel Registries Without Opportunity for Pre-Compliance Review

June 23, 2015, Lindsay P. D'Andrea, Sky Woodruff

In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in City of Los Angeles v. Patel, 576 U.S. ____(2015), that Los Angeles Municipal Code § 41.49 requiring hotel operators to turn over guest registries to police upon demand is unconstitutional. A group of hotel operators brought the facial challenge to § 41.49 claiming that it violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches. The Court ruled that there were no set of circumstances under which § 41.49 would be constitutional because in all cases it requires hotel operators to turn over guest registries upon demand and does not provide them any opportunity for pre-compliance review.

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