T. Steven Burke, Jr.
Steven Burke is a member of the Trial and Litigation Practice Group and Municipal and Special District Law Practice Group. Steve provides advisory, regulatory, transactional and litigation services to individuals, public entities, private businesses, and non-profit mutual benefit corporations.
He handles all stages of litigation and administrative proceedings, from pre-claim through resolution, on a wide scope of disputes, including public entity defense, liability defense, real estate transactions, business matters, real property, and land use. Steve drafts pleadings, discovery, motions and accordant opposition or reply briefs; takes and defends depositions of witnesses, parties, and experts; appears for and argues motions, writ petitions, and appeals; and prepares for and appears at arbitration and trial.
Steve has more than ten years of litigation in state and federal courts. He has litigated cases throughout California from case initiation through judgment. Steve’s litigation training includes attending the National Institute of Trial Advocacy’s “Building Trial Skills” program. He also participated in the San Diego Inn of Court College of Trial Advocacy and Evidence Workshop.
In the non-litigation arena, Steve represents clients on matters including but not limited to negotiating and drafting contracts, evaluating statutory compliance, and attending Board meetings. Specifically for public entity clients, he provides general advisory assistance relating to Public Records Act compliance, Brown Act compliance, drafting of ordinances, and attending commission and council meetings. Steve’s service to public entities leverages his in-house experience as a Deputy City Attorney II for the City of Oceanside.
Public Entity Experience
- Currently representing 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.
- Representing a county Board of Supervisors in defense of an alleged Brown Act violation in relation to an appointment made to a vacant public office and related questions of remedies, prejudice, and quo warranto.
- Worked as part of a litigation team on behalf of a county to complete discovery regarding unfair business practices under Business & Professions Code § 17200 and to obtain a resulting judgment including significant civil penalties for multiple code violations relating to an illegal waste disposal operation.
- Defended a city in a reverse validation proceeding and related claims arising from a dispute over the implementation of a community facilities district under the Mello-Roos Act.
- Defended a city in a federal court First Amendment challenge to municipal zoning ordinances governing tattoo establishments. Leveraged a pending summary judgment motion to achieve a favorable settlement.
- Prevailed in arbitration on behalf of a city in a peace officer union grievance alleging MOU violations, implied contract terms, and vested rights.
- Obtained dismissal of a California Department of Health Care Services audit of a city’s Ground Emergency Medical Transportation cost reports.
- Successful anti-SLAPP motion upheld on appeal in a matter alleging constitutional and tort violations arising from an investigation conducted by the police department.
- Nuisance value settlement of significant personal injury claim involving an eight foot fall from an unprotected roadway.
- Writ petition denied where petitioner alleged wrongful termination of vested public housing benefits.
- Successful trial de novo overturning award of damages against a city arising from the application of pesticides.
- Obtained insurance coverage for a disputed claim with resulting settlement of significant personal injury claim for no out-of-pocket payment by a city.
- Obtained insurance coverage for an inverse condemnation claim alleging flooding and soil subsidence in a landscape maintenance assessment district managed by a city.
- Assisted in handling physical takings claims for sewer back-ups, flooding, and damages caused by the police department during law enforcement activities. This includes the tender of defense and the drafting and filing of the initial demurrer in a soil subsidence inverse case arising from an alleged failure of irrigation lines and related soils movement in a landscape maintenance assessment district.
- Advised a City Planning Department, which included working with staff and stakeholders to address limitations on development impact fees and conditions of approval on various projects.
Private Entity Experience
- Demurrer granted without leave to amend on behalf of a real estate broker in a case alleging more than $1,000,000 in damages for fraud and financial elder abuse.
- Direct negotiation of settlement of fraud and financial elder abuse claims against an individual defendant with no out-of-pocket payment by client to the claimant.
- Successful anti-SLAPP motion arising from alleged fraud in the inducement of a settlement agreement resulting in dismissal of the entire claim.
- Direct negotiation of the settlement of a sub-contractor claim against the prime contractor related to unapproved cost overruns in a NASA fixed-cost contract.
- Jury verdict in a motor vehicle personal injury case with disputed allegations of brain injury where the jury did not award plaintiff any damages for brain injury.
- Summary judgment in favor of a landowner in a premises liability case involving allegations of permanent brain damage.
- Leveraged a dispute over the cause and origin of fire damage to a commercial structure to successfully resolve a multi-party subrogation action alleging significant economic loss to neighboring businesses.
- Obtained substantial insurance coverage protections related to claims arising from both a fire and an unrelated wrongful death allegation at a residential care facility for the elderly that only carried homeowner and auto liability policies.
- Settlement of a premises liability case at mediation where plaintiff suffered partial foot amputation for 25% of plaintiff’s pre-mediation policy limits demand.
- Settlement of a strict products liability case at mediation on behalf of an importer/distributor of a foreign product for less than special damages where plaintiff suffered permanent scarring and disfigurement.
- Direct negotiation of the settlement of a landlord/tenant dispute for nuisance value where plaintiff claimed uninhabitable conditions caused a lifelong medical disorder.
- In a major securities class action case, assessed the evidentiary value of voluminous internal e-mails and memoranda of a multinational corporation.
Honors and Awards
- Wiley W. Manuel Award (2005)
Presentations and Publications
- Presenter, “Preparing for Fires, Floods, Landslides and Debris Flows,” County Counsels’ Association Spring Land Use Conference, 2020 (cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic)
- Presenter, “Public Works Liabilities for Catastrophic Disasters,” County Counsels’ Association Spring Public Works & Contracts Conference, 2020 (cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic)
- Presenter, “Public Contracting Requirements: Emergency Preparedness and Federal and State Reimbursement,” League of California Cities Public Works Officers Institute, 2020
- Author, “The Global Race to 5G Wireless: How It Is Already Changing Local Regulatory Environments,” North County Lawyer, June 2019
- Presenter, “New Safe Sidewalk Vending Act: What Does It Mean for Cities and Counties?”, City/County Managers Association and City Attorneys Association Annual Meeting, 2019
- Presenter, “Housing – California’s New Affordable Housing Laws: What are the Legal and Practical Implications?”, City Attorneys Association of San Diego Spring Retreat, 2019
- Presenter, “The Continued Evolution of Howell: Medical Liens and Pebley v. Santa Clara Organics,” Government Defense Attorney Working Group, 2019
- Author, “Coming Soon to a Sidewalk Near You – The Safe Sidewalk Vending Act,” North County Lawyer, February 2019
- Author, “What Local Governments Can Do to Avoid a Vending Free-for-All In the Wake of the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act,” The Recorder, October 17, 2018
- Author, “New Definitions, Old Rules,” North County Lawyer Magazine, April 2010
- Member, State Bar of California
- President (2021), North County Bar Association/Bar Association of Northern San Diego County (Vice President 2020, Director 2017-2019, Co-Chair Civil Litigation Section 2014-2018)
- Member, San Diego County Bar Association (2007-current); At Large Member Government Law Committee (2020-current)
- Chair, Government Defense Attorney Working Group, San Diego (Sept. 2017-current)
- Volunteer, Youth in Court Program, North County San Diego Bar Association (2010-current)
- Thomas Jefferson School of LawJD, magna cum laude, 2006
- University of WashingtonBA, Political Science, 2002