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Brenda Aguilar-Guerrero Named in Daily Journal’s “Top Verdicts of 2015”

Meyers Nave proudly announces that the Daily Journal selected the victory in Gonzalez v. Johnson as a “Top Defense Result” in its special report of the Top Verdicts for 2015. In this front-page news trial, Principal Brenda Aguilar-Guerrero successfully represented the City of Sacramento in defeating the last legal challenge to the new $477 million entertainment and sports arena in downtown Sacramento that will serve as the home for the Sacramento Kings NBA team. The Daily Journal’s annual Top Verdicts report “honors excellence in litigation” by selecting “the largest and most significant … cases that had a major impact on individuals, industries and society.” As noted in the Daily Journal article, the arena is recognized as “the most transformational economic development underway in the greater Sacramento region.”

After an 11-day trial with 18 witnesses, more than 150 exhibits and the presentation of an administrative record, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Tim Frawley issued a proposed Statement of Decision in Gonzalez finding that “plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of proof on any of their causes of action” and awarded the recovery of defense costs. Opponents settled their case for dismissal of all claims with prejudice in exchange for a waiver of costs. In an attempt to overturn the City’s approval of the arena, opponents had alleged that the public-private partnership supporting the arena engaged in a “secret subsidy,” collusion, fraud, concealment, waste and illegal expenditure of public funds, along with alleged illegalities in the City’s $325 million in bond financing. The case also addressed unadjudicated law as plaintiffs’ reverse validation claim challenged the City’s finding that there were “significant public benefits” from issuing bonds under the Marks-Roos Local Bond Pooling Act of 1985. Prior to Gonzalez v. Johnson, there was little judicial guidance for cities in their issuance of bonds under the Act.

The Gonzalez win capped Meyers Nave’s unbeaten record of helping the City overcome numerous legal challenges against the arena, including two published appellate decisions (denying environmental and constitutional challenges) and a crucial eminent domain victory. Both appellate cases dealt with S.B. 743, the special statute passed by the State Legislature that was specifically designed to facilitate the approval and construction of the arena. S.B. 743 established an abbreviated schedule for hearing CEQA challenges to the arena and provided a heightened burden for granting an injunction to halt construction. One appellate decision upheld both the City’s approval of the project under CEQA and the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Review. The other case was the first appellate decision to evaluate the constitutionality of a project-specific CEQA streamlining statute. The eminent domain case, which gave the City permission to take over the final piece of downtown property required for the arena, also addressed a novel situation created by S.B. 743 which allowed property to be acquired by eminent domain prior to completing the environmental review process under CEQA.

Please click here to read the Gonzalez v. Johnson Top Defense Result article. As the Daily Journal noted, “With similar potential pro sports franchise churning ongoing in Oakland, San Diego and Los Angeles, the case could help clarify legal rules for future deals.” Meyers Nave greatly appreciates our long-term relationship with the City of Sacramento and the opportunities it has presented to help advance major economic development projects that secure the future of Sacramento.


About Meyers Nave: Founded in 1986, Meyers Nave continues to expand throughout California with attorneys providing a comprehensive range of legal and regulatory services to public entities and private businesses across the state. Law360 has named Meyers Nave a “California Powerhouse” – “one of the leading firms for local governments and public agencies throughout the state as well as private clients focused on complex, public-facing transportation and development projects.” www.meyersnave.com