David Mehretu is an experienced trial attorney who represents private and public entities in high impact litigation in federal and state court, administrative proceedings, and appeals with an emphasis on complex, high-profile, and politically significant matters often covered by the media. David is a member of the Trial & Litigation, and Labor & Employment Law Practice Groups. He also serves as Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee.
For private entities, David has broad experience in employment litigation and investigations, complex commercial litigation, class actions, intellectual property, unfair competition, real estate, environmental litigation and regulatory challenges. David has worked with private entities in major sectors of the economy, including technology companies, financial institutions, media and telecommunications enterprises, global consumer goods companies, food and beverage companies, real estate developers, and non-profit organizations. Recent examples include representing a Fortune 500 technology company in an employment litigation matter involving senior executives, a national sports association in investigations of association infractions by member teams, a national title insurance company in multi-party environmental litigation, and a large mental health services agency in a complex real estate dispute.
For public entities, David handles complex contractual disputes, defense of government officials, as well as employment, land use and environmental, First Amendment, and real estate litigation. Recent examples include representing a San Francisco Bay Area city in complex litigation related to a natural gas pipeline, a large water authority in CEQA-related litigation concerning a high-stakes detachment, the City of San Francisco in a high-stakes sexual harassment and race discrimination case involving matters of unsettled procedural law, the City of Los Altos in federal litigation brought by major telecommunication companies challenging a city ordinance governing the siting of cellular facilities, and the City of Modesto in a dispute concerning a lease and purchase agreement with a commercial developer based on complex bond financing transactions, and representing five public entities against two large municipalities in a multi-phased administrative proceeding over a contractual dispute concerning a contested $2 billion public works capital improvement program.
Recognized by judges, clients, and colleagues for excellent brief writing and oral advocacy, David has established a strong track record serving as lead attorney on numerous significant motions and briefs — including summary judgment, motions to dismiss, appeals, demurrers, opposition to class certification, and writs — with particular expertise in civil rights and constitutional matters and complex federal litigation. David has handled numerous significant oral arguments including dispositive motions, trial, and appeals.
David’s broad federal court experience includes litigation in United States District Courts in California, Colorado, Indiana, Texas, New York and New Jersey, as well as appeals in the Second, Seventh, and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He recently assisted in preparing for a two-week federal jury trial in the Eastern District of California on behalf of government officials in an excessive force and false arrest lawsuit. In the Central District of California, he recently prevailed on a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment for which he was the lead on the brief and at oral argument on behalf of the County of Los Angeles concerning several constitutional claims related to permitting and entitlements. In the Southern District of New York, David served as second chair in a two-week trial in a multi-million dollar false advertising case for an international corporate joint venture, and in the District of New Jersey he prepared for trial in a major federal false advertising case, which settled on the eve of trial.
David has also represented pro bono clients in immigration proceedings, unlawful detainer actions, prosecuting restraining orders, and a murder trial, for which he has received awards for outstanding service.
Prior to joining Meyers Nave, David was an attorney at Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass in San Francisco and Cooley LLP in New York, clerked for the Honorable Saundra B. Armstrong, United States District Judge, in the Northern District of California, and served as a post-doctoral legal fellow at the Institute for Policy Integrity, a regulatory law and policy think tank based at New York University School of Law.
David is admitted to practice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Second Circuit, and the following U.S. District Courts: the Northern District of California, Eastern District of California, Central District of California, Southern District of California, Southern District of New York, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas, District of Colorado, and Southern District of Indiana.
David is a member of the Ethiopian American Foundation, which supports higher education and related development activities in Ethiopia, Asante Africa Foundation, a global team committed to providing programs that support education, gender equality, and entrepreneurship in East Africa, and the Charles Houston Bar Association, an affiliate of the National Bar Association representing the interests of African American lawyers, judges and law students throughout Northern California.
David received his J.D. from New York University School of Law (2006) where he served as an editor for the Review of Law and Social Change. He earned his B.A. in philosophy and politics from New York University (1997).
Employment Litigation and Investigations
- Currently represents a Fortune 500 technology company in a federal race and sex discrimination case involving senior executives.
- Currently represents a national sports association in investigation of association infractions related to athlete recruiting and coaching.
- Currently represents the City of San Diego in a hotly contested race discrimination case involving senior officials.
- Defended the City of San Francisco in a sexual harassment and race discrimination case involving matters of unsettled law.
- Advised the City of Modesto in a race discrimination case brought by a police officer.
- Advised a city regarding potential liability for the death of a city public works employee.
- Currently represents the City of Antioch in a complex multi-party dispute concerning a local land use related voter initiative.
- Currently represents the City of Modesto in a dispute concerning a lease and purchase agreement with a commercial developer based on complex bond financing transactions.
- Currently represents the City of Modesto in a contractual dispute concerning a politically-significant water distribution public works project.
- Defended a Procter & Gamble international joint venture in a multi-million dollar false advertising action, from inception of the case through a two-week trial in the Southern District of New York.
- Represented five public entities against two large municipalities in a multi-phased administrative proceeding over a complex contractual dispute concerning a contested $2 billion capital improvement program for the largest wastewater treatment facility in the western United States.
- Achieved a highly favorable settlement following mediation on behalf of an international heavy industry manufacturer in a breach of contract dispute.
- Oral argument in successful opposition to a petition for writ of mandate in California state court that attempted to cancel the award of a public school high-speed internet contract awarded to Cox Communications.
- Represented DISH Network in federal insurance coverage action through summary judgment and trial.
- Defended luxury condominium developer in copyright infringement action in the Southern District of New York concerning designs in a luxury condominium development in San Francisco.
Land Use, Real Estate, and Environmental Litigation
- Currently represents the City of Antioch in a complex multi-party dispute concerning a local land use voter initiative.
- Currently represents the City of Sacramento, its city council, the former mayor and city manager in lawsuit brought by the developer of a large-scale, smart-growth mixed-use, urban infill development asserting equal protection and due process violations and various business torts related to denial of permits and treatment during the entitlement process.
- Currently represents a large mental health services agency in a complex real estate dispute.
- Currently represents the City of Los Altos in federal litigation brought by AT&T and Verizon challenging a city ordinance governing the siting of cellular facilities.
- Successfully defended the City of Antioch concerning constitutional challenge to a COVID-19 shelter-in-place emergency ordinance restricting and regulating residential evictions and actions to recover unpaid rent.
- Successfully resolved multi-party environmental contamination litigation in California state court against a national title insurance company concerning underground storage tanks.
- Represented a developer and automobile dealership in an appeal arising from alleged breaches of development loan agreements with the City of West Covina.
- Represented an investor-owned utility in an action for specific performance of a real property purchase agreement concerning land jointly owned by multiple individuals and implicating issues of several liability in the context of the sale of real property.
- Advised Albertsons Grocery Store Company in a lease dispute.
Defense of Government Officials
- Currently represents the County of Santa Barbara in a dispute with Southern California Edison (SCE) regarding potential liability for the 2017 Thomas Fire and subsequent Montecito debris flow. In a Master Cross Complaint, SCE sued various public entities, including the County of Santa Barbara, alleging that “negligent acts and omissions of the public entities” contributed to or exacerbated the injuries, deaths and multi-million dollar losses incurred by plaintiffs that are suing SCE for causing the fire. The matter includes 200 lawsuits, 3000 plaintiffs, and 70 plaintiff law firms asserting billions of dollars of liability against the County.
- Achieved successful dismissal of all claims against the City of Modesto in a federal civil rights lawsuit concerning child removal proceedings.
- Lead attorney on oral arguments for motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment in the Central District of California in a complex federal civil rights action on behalf of the County of Los Angeles and four individual defendants including due process and equal protection claims.
- Currently represents a San Francisco Bay Area city in a claim for violations of civil rights and California’s Sanctuary State Laws (SB 54) related to a highly publicized incident involving the transfer of an individual by the city’s police department into the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- Prevailed on a dispositive pleadings motion in the Eastern District of California and on appeal in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the City of Modesto and eight police and fire department personnel in a high-stakes federal civil rights lawsuit regarding a murder conviction and subsequent 18-year incarceration of the plaintiff, a case that generated front-page news since 1997 with the involvement of the Innocence Project.
- Defended the City of Oakland, the City’s former police chief, and four individual officers in federal civil rights action brought by the survivors of a man who was fatally shot. Served as the lead for oral argument on the City’s motion for summary judgment that successfully resolved key claims and issues in the case leading to settlement on highly favorable terms.
- Defended the County of Santa Clara and 44 other county defendants including the sheriff, county counsel, and 38 sheriff’s deputies, in a federal court action concerning alleged systemic abuses of prisoners in the Santa Clara County Jail. Numerous appearances as lead counsel before the court to argue a series of discovery disputes that ultimately forced the plaintiff to voluntarily dismiss the case with prejudice.
- Successfully resolved for the County of Placer five related prisoner abuse cases filed against the County and the sheriff arising out of the treatment of jail inmates by deputies who were later convicted of criminal offenses in connection with such acts.
- Prevailed on summary judgment in the Central District of California and served as the lead appellate brief drafter and lead attorney at oral argument in achieving a favorable ruling from the Ninth Circuit on behalf of a former City of Los Angeles police officer in federal civil rights lawsuit.
- Lead drafter on a successful motion for partial summary judgment on behalf of the City of Richmond and an individual police officer in a police excessive force case in the Northern District of California.
- Lead drafter on successful pleadings motions in four federal section 1983 lawsuits brought against cities and individual police officers involving: (1) allegations of inappropriate sexual contact between seven police officers and plaintiff; case dismissed with prejudice for a waiver of costs in advance of defendants filing a motion to dismiss, (2) allegations that two officers shot and killed a man who was not a threat; plaintiffs dismissed for waiver of costs pre-discovery, (3) allegations that an officer shot and killed an unarmed man; plaintiff dismissed for waiver of costs pre-discovery, and (4) allegations of false arrest, illegal search of vehicle, and excessive force; plaintiff dismissed all claims for a waiver of costs two months before trial.
- Represented the City of Modesto in four federal civil rights lawsuits related to the criminal investigation into the murder of Cory Kaufman, which resulted in a series of highly publicized criminal trials.
- Representing the City of Modesto in a class action lawsuit alleging violations of California’s Prop 218 related to water rates.
- Successfully resolved for the County of Placer a complex class action filed against the County of Placer and the sheriff arising out of the treatment of jail inmates by deputies who were later convicted of criminal offenses in connection with such acts.
- Defended a California bank in a consumer class action and fended off two copycat class actions alleging violations of California’s unfair competition laws, which were part of a wave of overdraft fee-related litigation against banks across the country.
- Secured a voluntary dismissal of putative class action against DISH Network that was consolidated in the Pacquiao-Mayweather MDL in the Central District of California.
- Defeated class certification in a complex Telephone Consumer Protection Act class action in the District of Colorado.
- Prevailed on appeal in the Seventh Circuit to uphold dismissal of a class action asserting violations of the Social Security Act and state consumer protection laws against DISH Network.
- Prevailed on appeal brought by settlement class objectors in class action related to billing practices against One Legal.
Honors and Awards
- Northern California Super Lawyers list: State, Local & Municipal Law, Super Lawyers Magazine, 2022
- Justice & Diversity Center of The Bar Association of San Francisco, Outstanding Public Service Award, 2013, 2015
- The Legal Aid Society, Outstanding Pro Bono Legal Service Award, 2008
Presentations and Publications
- Presenter, “Employment Law and Freedom of Speech: What Can and Can’t Employers Do When Employees Express Their Political, Cultural and Social Views,” California Public Employers Labor Relations Association Annual Training Conference, November 17, 2023
- Presenter, “Change of Course: Social Media Issues: Free Speech, Public Records and Public Meetings,” California Special Districts Association, August 23, 2022
- Presenter, “Employment Law and Freedom of Speech: What Can Employers Do When Employees Express Their Political, Cultural, and Social Views?,” California Public Employers Labor Relations Association Annual Training Conference, November 17, 2021
- Presenter, “Social Media, First Amendment and Government: New Rules of Engagement,” 2021 League of California Cities Annual Conference and Expo, September 22, 2021
- Presenter, “Employment Law and Freedom of Speech: What Can and Can’t Employers Do When Employees Express Their Political, Cultural, and Social Views?,” Meyers Nave webinar, March 16, 2021
- Presenter, “SB 54: Compliance, Litigation and Community Relations,” Alameda County Bar Association Public Entity Law Section MCLE seminar, June 2020
- Presenter, “SB 54: Compliance, Litigation and Community Relations,” California Lawyers Association – Public Law Section, MCLE seminar, May 2020
- Presenter, “SB 54: Compliance, Litigation and Community Relations,” Bar Association of San Francisco Litigation Section MCLE seminar, May 2020
- Presenter, “SB 54: Compliance, Litigation and Community Relations,” Sacramento County Bar Association Public Law Section MCLE seminar, May 2020 (postponed due to coronavirus pandemic)
- Presenter, “SB 54: Compliance, Litigation and Community Relations,” San Diego County Bar Association Government Law Section MCLE webinar, April 2020 (postponed due to coronavirus pandemic)
- Presenter, “Social Media Challenges: Applying Existing Case Law to New Technology,” League of California Cities City Attorneys’ Spring Conference, 2018
- Author, “Public Records & Public Forums: How to Apply Established Case Law with Rapidly Emerging Social Media Platforms,” League of California Cities City Attorneys’ Spring Conference, 2018
- Co-Author, “Santa’s Early for the White Collar Bar,” Daily Journal, December 22, 2014
- Member, The State Bar of California
- Member, The State Bar of New York
- Member, The Bar Association of San Francisco
- Member, American Bar Association
- Member, Charles Houston Bar Association
- Member, Ethiopian American Foundation
- Member, Asante Africa Foundation
- Co-Chair, Diversity Committee, Meyers Nave, 2023-Present
- New York University, School of LawJD, 2006
- New York UniversityBA, Philosophy and Politics, 1997