Meyers Nave Successfully Represents the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in Appeal Against the County of Mono in Water Allocation Dispute

Meyers Nave successfully represented the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) in an appeal against the County of Mono and the Sierra Club, overturning a trial court’s decision that LADWP’s annual water allocations to ranchers leasing land from LADWP in Mono County were subject to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which would have required LADWP to conduct an environmental review before making annual decisions about deliveries of water on pastureland it owns southeast of Yosemite.

The plaintiffs argued that LADWP’s 2018 water allocation was a change to LADWP’s historic water allocation practices requiring new CEQA review. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that the annual allocations were actions in furtherance of the 2010 approvals of the leases with the ranchers and did not require any further CEQA review.

Of the appellate court’s reversal, Anselmo Collins, the LADWP’s senior assistant general manager of water systems said it ensures that the agency, “will continue to have the flexibility required to balance the state’s strained water resources with the needs of people and the environment.”

Amrit Kulkarni who led the Meyers Nave team on the matter said, “The court’s decision will allow LADWP to continue to manage its water resources to meet the many competing customer, environmental, and regulatory demands on LADWP’s water free from annual litigation on these decisions.”

The matter was highlighted in the Los Angeles Times article, “L.A. wins water battle with Mono County amid worsening drought.”

The Meyers Nave team included Amrit Kulkarni, Julia Bond and Ed Grutzmacher.

Get to Know Labor and Employment Attorney Corrin Johnson

Corrin Johnson recently joined Meyers Nave’s Labor and Employment Group as a senior associate in our San Diego office. Corrin provides advice and counsel to public and private entities on a broad range of matters involving discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, harassment and wage and hour disputes.

We asked her about her career path, why she decided to become a Labor and Employment attorney and why she chose Meyers Nave.

Why did you become a lawyer?

I love problem solving and helping people. Being an attorney gives me the opportunity to do both.

Why did you choose your practice area?

The labor and employment field touches all of us on a daily basis, whether it’s as employees ourselves or as patrons of a business. So many employers want to do right by their employees, but California’s laws are not always intuitive and are ever-changing. I enjoy figuring out the best approach to a client’s issue, while taking the stress away from them. Advising clients on how to avoid problems in the future is my favorite part.

Why did you join Meyers Nave?

The people. I feel extremely lucky to be working with such smart and accomplished yet down to earth people. There’s no better way to say it than as Janice Brown says, “It’s a vibe.” I am so happy to be here!

What is your proudest accomplishment?

During my time representing students with disabilities, I had a case where I was able to secure a much-needed change of placement for a child who had attempted suicide at school. After the case was resolved, the father of the student said to me, “You saved my child’s life.” I will never forget how incredible those words made me feel. That student went on to become an activist and was recently selected to participate in the first-ever Mental Health Youth Action Forum at the White House.

Where did you grow up?

A small suburb of Pittsburgh, PA.

Tell us about your interests and hobbies.

I enjoy yoga and gardening.

Q&A With Janice Brown and Arlene Yang on Their Victory in Employment Termination Defense Verdict

We asked Janice Brown and Arlene Yang to tell us about their experience working on the Meyers Nave legal team with Nicole Ries Fox that recently won a defense verdict on all accounts in an employment law case after seven years of litigation and a 10-day bench trial in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego.

The case, Horner v. Leone, concerned a former executive of Mr. Copy, Inc., dba MRC Smart Technology Solutions, Inc., who alleged that his former employer, and its founder and former president, Robert Leone, constructively terminated his employment, discriminated against him based on his age, retaliated against him, and promised to employ him for his working life, and failed to pay him wages, sales commissions and reimbursements.

What was the most challenging aspect of the case?

Janice: The other side was quite relentless in pursuing a multi-million dollar win and our client was equally relentless in agreeing not to pay.

Arlene: When representing employers, it’s often frustrating because the cost and risks to bring a case to trial are so high. It was satisfying to get a decision vindicating our clients’ actions.

What did you enjoy most about working on this matter?

Janice: Working with the team, Arlene and Nicole. I also want to give a shout-out to paralegals Tony Kay and Amy Mudd.

Arlene: Your team matters. Our team is hardworking and smart, but we also care about each other and know how to have a good time. Our clients and many third-party witnesses were excellent partners.

Learn more about the case: https://bit.ly/3yZ9cwu.

Learn more about our Labor and Employment Group.

 

Meyers Nave Achieves Defense Verdict in Alleged $2.8 Million Employment Termination Case After Seven Years of Litigation

Attorneys Janice Brown, Arlene Yang, and Nicole Ries Fox of the law firm of Meyers Nave have prevailed in a recent decision by the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, in an employment litigation case in which the plaintiff sought more than $2.8 million, plus punitive damages. Following seven years of litigation and a ten-day bench trial, Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon ruled in favor of the defendants on all counts, a rare occurrence in employment law cases. The case, Horner v. Leone, concerned a former executive of Mr. Copy, Inc., dba MRC Smart Technology Solutions, Inc., who alleged that his former employer, and its founder and former President, Robert Leone, constructively terminated his employment, discriminated against him based on his age, retaliated against him, and promised to employ him for his working life, and failed to pay him wages, sales commissions, and reimbursements.

At trial, witness testimony highlighted the fact that the plaintiff had actually accepted a new job for more pay before he resigned, that he had years of poor performance, and that he sought commissions for accounts that he stopped managing months earlier. The Court concluded that the plaintiff did not prove that Mr. Copy or Mr. Leone breached any employment agreement; defrauded him; discriminated against him based on his age; retaliated against him; constructively terminated his employment; or failed to pay his wages, commissions, and reimbursements.

Janice Brown, Principal in Meyers Nave’s Labor and Employment Practice, Workplace Investigations Practice and Commercial Litigation Practice, noted, “We tried multiple times to resolve this case without trial, but could not reach agreement. In the end, the Court agreed that our clients’ position was meritorious, and we prevailed on all counts. We thank the Court and the Honorable Eddie C. Sturgeon for his diligence and patience in overseeing this seven-year case. Arlene, Nicole, and I recognize the challenge of receiving such a favorable ruling for the defendants in an employment law case. We’re particularly pleased for the founder of Mr. Copy, Inc., Robert Leone, who was the executive who hired Mr. Horner, and who felt the weight of this action. He feels vindicated and deservedly so.”

Why Meyers Nave

Since 1986, Meyers Nave helps clients resolve their most nuanced, challenging, and complex transaction, litigation, and regulatory compliance issues. We are known for our outstanding track record of successful outcomes as well as the creativity we bring to solving high-stakes precedent-setting matters. A highly regarded leader in our founding practice of municipal and special district law, we are also go-to counsel for our wide-ranging experience in land use, environmental law, construction, public contracts, eminent domain, First Amendment law, commercial litigation, labor and employment, workplace investigations, trial and litigation, crisis management, public finance, real estate, and housing, among many other key disciplines. Meyers Nave offers the statewide reach of a California firm with the client service flexibility of a medium-size team. For more information about Meyers Nave, please visit https://www.meyersnave.com/.

 

Meyers Nave Northern California Attorneys Receive 2022 “Super Lawyers” and “Rising Stars” Recognition

Meyers Nave proudly announces that nine attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2022 “Northern California Super Lawyers” list and the 2022 “Northern California Rising Stars” list. Published in Super Lawyers Magazine, only up to five percent of the lawyers in California are named to the Super Lawyers list and up to 2.5 percent are named to the Rising Stars list.

We congratulate our attorneys for this important recognition of their legal expertise and professional accomplishments in both their geographic region and their areas of specialty.

Super Lawyers

Rising Stars

About Super Lawyers®: Super Lawyers evaluates attorneys from firms of all sizes in more than 70 practice areas throughout the United States. Super Lawyers selects lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Super Lawyers Magazine, publisher of the lists, is distributed to attorneys and ABA-accredited law schools.

Trial & Litigation Attorney – 5+ Years of Experience (Los Angeles, CA)

About Meyers Nave

Meyers Nave is a dynamic 65-attorney firm with 5 offices throughout California. For over 35 years, we have built a reputation as a “go to” law firm to handle high profile and high impact matters for both public entities and private sector clients.

Our Trial and Litigation Practice Group includes a robust litigation practice focused on complex crisis litigation in the areas of constitutional law, wildfire litigation, COVID-19 litigation, civil rights claims in the land use context, First Amendment claims, takings, and class action litigation. We are actively engaged in all phases of litigation in both federal and state court from initial pleadings through discovery, dispositive motion practice, trial, and appeal.

About the Position

Meyers Nave is looking for an energetic, committed, and diligent attorney with five or more years of litigation experience to work in a collaborative team environment in our Trial & Litigation Practice Group. This position is open in our Los Angeles office.

A successful candidate will share in Meyers Nave’s commitment to providing its clients with high-quality services in rapidly evolving areas of the law, will relish the strategic decision-making involved in litigation, including crafting litigation strategy in complex situations, and will enjoy presenting nuanced constitutional arguments in a clear and persuasive fashion. Qualified candidates must have excellent academic credentials, outstanding analytical and creative thinking capabilities, superior research and writing skills, and a strong work ethic. In addition, a successful candidate will have a proven ability to work in a team and across offices, as well as an interest in elevating the Meyers Nave brand and reputation. It is essential that candidates possess significant experience with complex case management and electronic discovery, as well as law and motion practice in state and federal court, including dispositive motions. Candidates should also have experience in building a case for trial, including developing evidence, interviewing witnesses, and taking and defending depositions.

The health and safety of Meyers Nave employees is our most important priority. As such, we allow for a hybrid work schedule during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How to Apply

Meyers Nave is committed to the principles of equal employment opportunity. We place a high value on diversity and inclusion and encourage diverse candidates to apply. We do not discriminate on the basis of any qualified applicant’s race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, military or veteran status or any other category protected by law. Meyers Nave will consider for employment qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with the Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring (Ban the Box).

Interested candidates should CLICK HERE and follow the link to apply. Please submit a cover letter, resume, transcript, and two substantive writing samples.

CPUC Cannot Use Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies to Delay Litigation Under the CPRA

In the recent ruling of Rittiman v. Public Utilities Commission, the First District Court of Appeal held that the petitioner was not required to exhaust the administrative remedies of the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) prior to filing suit on his Public Records Act (“PRA”) request. The petitioner, Brandon Rittiman, argued that his appeal was constructively denied due to the CPUC’s lengthy delay in holding his appeals hearing.

In mid-November 2020, Brandon Rittiman submitted several PRA requests to the CPUC seeking “all documents, emails, or texts” between the CPUC president and her staff and the Governor’s staff. On November 30, 2020 the CPUC determined this communication was exempt under the Governor’s correspondence exemption and no records were produced. Rittiman appealed the decision and initiated its internal appeal process as prescribed by General Order 66-D. This multi-step administrative appeal process took over seven months. The Court found that the CPUC’s seven-month delay was “egregious by any measure.”

This case highlights that while agencies, including the CPUC, can adopt their own regulations that outline their process when responding to PRA requests, their regulations must correspond with the PRA. This includes making “records promptly available” and acting “with all due haste” in handling requests. The Court’s ruling ultimately upheld the CPUC’s denial of the petitioner’s PRA request but public agencies should take note of the fact that a prolonged administrative remedy process cannot be used to delay litigation over an agency’s decision to withhold public records.

Meyers Nave Achieves Major Appellate Court Victory for the San Diego Association of Governments Protecting Housing Allocation Process From Judicial Review

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (“RHNA”) statutory process enacted by the State Legislature is one of the critical tools needed to address the severe housing crisis facing California. Taking note of both prior precedent and the current historic pressure on housing stock, on June 20, 2022, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District issued its published decision holding that the RHNA allocation process for new housing units is immune from judicial review.

The case involves a writ action brought by four cities in the San Diego region challenging their share of new housing units allotted to them under the most recent RHNA cycle. The cities brought suit against Meyers Nave client, the San Diego Association of Governments (“SANDAG”), demanding a new hearing and a do over of the final RHNA allocation numbers for the entire region. In rejecting the cities appeal, the Court explained that the RHNA program is immune from judicial review by legislative design so as to prevent gridlock and delay in the housing allocation process. The case is City of Coronado et al. v. SANDAG, Case No. D079013, and the ruling can be found here.

The new City of Coronado decision draws heavily from a prior appellate court decision in City of Irvine v. Southern California Assn. of Governments, which rejected a challenge to the RHNA allocation process for the Southern California region based on lack of jurisdiction.

The City of Irvine opinion explains that the administrative process established under the RHNA statute to calculate a local government’s allocation of housing units is intended to be the exclusive remedy for a municipality to challenge the allocation thereby precluding judicial review of the decision.

The City of Irvine Court found that the length and intricacy of the process created to determine a municipality’s RHNA allocation reflects a clear intent on the part of the legislature to render the process immune from judicial intervention. Moreover, the City of Irvine ruling highlighted that allowing judicial review would delay the housing allocation for an entire region and essentially bottleneck the process and create gridlock while a particular city’s case winds its way through the courts.

In City of Coronado, the cities attempted to distinguish their case from City of Irvine based on an argument that their challenge was procedural in nature rather than a substantive challenge to the RHNA allocation and thus was not immune from judicial review. The City of Coronado Court rejected this position explaining that such a distinction only appeared in the cities’ briefing and that neither the City of Irvine opinion nor the RHNA statutory framework itself made such a distinction.

The City of Coronado opinion again reiterated that the same reasoning enumerated in City of Irvine applies with equal force here—namely allowing judicial review would create gridlock and delay the housing allocation for an entire region, bottlenecking the much needed process to increase housing stock throughout the state. The detailed nature of the recent ruling in City of Coronado, its extensive discussion and reliance on the prior City of Irvine opinion and the fact that the ruling is a published decision, all highlight that the courts are highly deferential to the RHNA legislative programs designed to help alleviate the ongoing housing crunch.

The Meyers Nave team representing SANDAG included Deborah J. Fox, Amrit S. Kulkarni and Margaret W. Rosequist.

Ninth Circuit Clarifies Mootness Exceptions for Covid-19 Litigation

The Ninth Circuit on June 15, 2022 issued its long-awaited en banc decision in Brach v. Newsom, holding that the challenge to the California’s Covid-19 restrictions on in-person schooling is now moot.  The appeal arose from a challenge by parents to the State’s orders closing schools for in-person learning at the beginning of the pandemic.  The challenge was brought by several parents, including those with kids in public and private schools.  After the District Court had granted the State’s summary judgment on the merits, schools were allowed to reopen and the original restrictions were rescinded altogether.  In the initial appeal, the Court ruled that this did not render the matter moot, affirmed summary judgment as to the public school parents’ claims, and reversed summary judgment with respect to the private school parents’ claims.  On rehearing the matter en banc, the Ninth Circuit has now ruled that the challenge is moot and the appeal was dismissed on that basis.

The panel first explained that the case was moot because none of the challenged restrictions were still in effect.  The only question was whether two exceptions to the mootness doctrine could apply: (1) the voluntary cessation doctrine or (2) the capable of repetition yet evading review exception.  The Court explained that neither exception applied for the same reason: the State adequately established the challenged restrictions were not reasonably expected to recur—the State had passed emergency legislation for online schooling that had already automatically expired; the State never closed any schools after they reopened; and the State continued to allow in-person schooling even when later Covid-19 case waves (such as Omicron) skyrocketed.

While this will prove to be a key decision in addressing the mootness of other litigation over expired Covid-19 restrictions, the Brach decision does not provide any bright line rules.  Instead, the Court was focused on a very fact-specific determination of whether the restrictions at issue were likely to recur.  Whether other plaintiffs may be able to establish one of the exceptions to mootness in their cases will therefore depend on the specific facts about whether the challenged restrictions may be re-imposed.

Employer Cruises to Victory with Supreme Court Arbitration Ruling

On June 15, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court resolved the long-awaited question whether individual claims brought under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) can be compelled to arbitration. The Court ruled in favor of employers, holding that arbitration agreements can require employees to resolve individual PAGA claims in arbitration, even if they cannot do the same with the employee’s representative PAGA claims. While the Supreme Court left intact the California Supreme Court’s holding that employers cannot compel an entire PAGA claim into arbitration, employers in California may now compel arbitration on an employee’s individual PAGA claim (assuming the parties have entered an otherwise valid arbitration agreement). Most importantly, the Supreme Court held that compelling that individual claim into arbitration removes a plaintiff’s standing to bring her representative claims in court, meaning the court must dismiss the remaining representative claims.

What does this mean for California employers?

  1. Although employers still cannot compel an entire PAGA claim into arbitration, actions can be divided into individual claims (i.e., claims based on violations the plaintiff suffered personally) and non-individual claims (i.e., representative claims on behalf of the state). An employer can compel the individual claim into arbitration, which removes those claims from the court action.
  2. Most notably, the Court held that without those individual PAGA claims, a plaintiff cannot continue in court to raise the representative claims on behalf of other workers. As the Court put it, “PAGA provides no mechanism to enable a court to adjudicate non-individual PAGA claims once an individual claim has been committed to a separate proceeding.”
  3. An employer may only take advantage of this approach if the employee has agreed to a valid arbitration clause, including severability language that preserves the employer’s ability to enforce arbitration on the individual claims even if the employer could not compel the representative claims into arbitration. Meyers Nave recommends you contact one of our labor and employment attorneys to assess your specific situation and determine if your current agreements meet these requirements.