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The litigators of Dannis Woliver Kelley focus on finding solutions first. If litigation becomes necessary, we go into court fighting—we go in to win. Litigation is never anyone's first choice, but when that time comes, you need a law firm on your side that you feel confident has the experience, resources, and expertise to solve your problems, not perpetuate them. The breadth and depth of Dannis Woliver Kelley's litigation practice sets us apart from other firms. Not only are we adept at all aspects of general civil litigation, but we also possess a  unique expertise in education law, as well as in the special claims and defenses afforded public entities and the special procedures that govern them.  This concentration enables us to devise sound strategies for resolving disputes expediently and cost-effectively.

Our 35 years of experience helping clients successfully navigate the maze that is California education law gives us the historical perspective needed for handling the wide range of issues facing educational agencies today.

Our litigation attorneys advise and represent clients in many areas of law, including:

  • School finance
  • Constitutional law
  • Eminent domain
  • Construction
  • Public contracting
  • Breach of contract
  • CEQA
  • Personal injury
  • Special education and disability law
  • Student issues
  • Civil rights
  • Charter schools
  • Teacher Dismissal and Discipline
  • Labor and Employment law
  • Wage and hour law
  • Public Records Act
  • Brown Act
  • Conflicts of interest

At Dannis Woliver Kelley, our litigation attorneys have handled hundreds of lawsuits in state and federal court. Our collective experience includes numerous trials, and countless arbitrations and administrative hearings.

Representative Labor, Employment and Personnel Cases

Cases Under the Education Code

  • Sullivan v. Centinela Valley Union High School District, 194 Cal.App.4th 69 (2011): The court of appeal upheld the non-reelection of Michael Sullivan, a second year probationary teacher who had actual notice of his non-reelection decision by March 15, but who did not actually receive his non-reelection letter until March 16.  The court found that Sullivan had actual notice of the decision because on March 10, the human resources director had told him that he would be non-reelected and offered him the option to resign, and because his mother signed for a certified letter from the District regarding his non-reelection on March 15.  The court also noted that actual notice could be inferred by the Board’s announcement of the non-reelection decision at its March 13 meeting, which Sullivan’s attorney attended.
  • Hildebrandt v. St. Helena Unified School District, 172 Cal.App.4th 334 (2009):  The court of appeal resolved a longstanding question in determining that school districts have the authority to lay off more senior, part-time certificated employees in order to retain junior full-time employees, when they have a need to staff a position with a full-time employee rather than split the position.  The court held that two part-time psychologists were not entitled to bump one full-time junior psychologist. 
  • Sunnyvale School District v. Jacobs, 171 Cal.App.4th 168 (2009):  A probationary teacher grieved his non-reelection claiming that it was in retaliation for his union-related activities and sought arbitration.  The arbitrator found in the employee’s favor and ordered reinstatement.  The District petitioned to vacate the award and the union and employee petitioned to confirm the award.  The court of appeal ruled in the district’s favor and held that any alleged Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) violations stemming from a district's decision not to reelect a probationary teacher are not subject to collective bargaining and therefore, could not be challenged via an arbitration provision in a collective bargaining agreement.  Instead, the proper recourse in such a situation is an unfair practices charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
  • Veguez v. Governing Board of the Long Beach Unified School District, 125 Cal.App.4th 406 (2005): A certificated employee sought differential-pay sick leave for an industrial injury under Education Code section 44977 for a five-month period after she had previously used such leave for the same injury.  The court ruled that a teacher injured as a result of a series of work-related accidents who receives differential-pay while on medical leave, then returns to work and later takes another medical leave for injuries related to the original accident, is not entitled to a second differential-pay benefit as the statute provides for one leave per illness or accident.
  • West Valley-Mission Community College District v. Conception, 16 Cal.App.4th 1766 (1993): The community college district pursued a dismissal of a teacher who had participated in the sale of cocaine to a student.  After both sides appealed the arbitrator’s ruling, the court ordered that the teacher be dismissed.  The court of appeal held that: (1) the evidence supported the finding that the teacher was unfit to teacher, (2) discharge, and not a year's suspension, was the appropriate sanction for teacher's misconduct, (3) the disciplinary proceedings were filed soon enough after the teacher's conduct, even though the district waited until the conclusion of the criminal case against the teacher before proceeding with disciplinary action.
  • San Jose Teachers Association v. Barozzi, 230 Cal.App.3d 1376 (1991): The teachers union sued to compel a school district to conduct a search among its certificated employees for a replacement for a non-certificated athletic coach, and if none was found, to continue conducting the search annually. The court of appeal held that that the regulation upon which the union relied was invalid since it:  (1) was not authorized by the statute giving the California  Department of Education general supervisory power over physical education courses, (2) was not authorized by the statute giving the State Board of Education authority to establish minimum qualifications for temporary employees serving in limited assignments supervising athletics, and (3) contravened the statute giving school districts control over interscholastic athletics.
  • San Jose Teachers Association v. Allen, 144 Cal.App.3d 627 (1983):  In this landmark case regarding certificated reductions-in-force, the Court of Appeal made several rulings regarding the service and contents of preliminary layoff notices, the impact of attrition between the preliminary notice and the layoff hearing in “particular kinds of service” (PKS) layoffs, the types of services that can be reduced by a district, including classroom teaching, and the proper grounds for initiating a PKS layoff.  It also discussed how administrators and categorical employees may be terminated, and clarified that former children's center employees who transfer into the regular school program are entitled to have their seniority calculated based on when they first began their probationary service with the District.
  • Moreland Teachers Association v. Kurze, 109 Cal.App.3d 648 (1980): In another important decision affecting certificated layoffs, the court held that calculations to determine the number of employees to be reduced due to a decline in average daily attendance must include all positively assured attrition known at the time of the final layoff notice.  The court went on to uphold the District’s decision to skip more junior employees who possess special skills not held by more senior employees and its method of tie-breaking between employees with the same first date of paid probationary service. 

Other Public and Private Sector Employment Cases

  • Johnson v. Board of Education of Bakersfield City School District, 2010 WL 3246112 (Cal.App. 5th Dist. 2010); 2011 WL 126533 (Cal.App.5th Dist. 2011):  After a principal was reassigned and put on an improvement plan, she sued, claiming that the District’s actions were in retaliation for her complaint about the allocation of impact aid to her school, which, she contended, violated Education Code section 54004.5.   The court dismissed the lawsuit on summary judgment, finding that she could not establish that she had “reasonable cause to believe that the information” disclosed a violation of a state or federal statute or regulation as required to state a claim for retaliation under Labor Code section 1102.5(b).  Education Code section 54004.5 did not require the use of API scores, number of free-lunch beneficiaries, or any other specific measures to allocate funding, and it allowed the use of unique factors besides low academic achievement, low income, and large concentrations of English learners. The principal’s belief to the contrary was not “reasonable” within the meaning of Labor Code section 1102.5(b), as this had been previously explained to her by the District.  In a follow up decision, the court of appeal ruled that the District was entitled to recover its attorneys fees and costs against the employee under Code of Civil Procedure section 1038 because the litigation was not brought in good faith and with reasonable cause.
  • Williams v. Vidmar, 367 F.Supp.2d 1265, 198 Ed. Law Rep. 292 (N.D. Cal. 2005): An elementary school teacher brought a civil rights action against his principal and the school district claiming violations of his constitutional rights arising from restrictions placed on his use of supplemental classroom materials having religious content. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss.  The court ruled that because the district had a reasonable concern that the teacher was promoting a faith, it did not violate his free speech rights by ordering him to stop his religious-based activities.  The teacher had no First Amendment right to express his religious beliefs in the classroom.
  • Ashurst v. Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, 57 Cal.App.4th 665 (1997): A school custodian, dismissed for having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old student, filed a petition to be reinstated to his employment.  The court of appeal held that (1) the custodian's admission to a police officer that he had sexual intercourse with the student was admissible and was sufficient to support the administrative finding of immoral conduct, a ground for termination under the district’s collective bargaining agreement, and (2) the district's delayed discovery of the sexual misconduct tolled the two year statute of limitations for initiating disciplinary action. 
  • Guerra v. Bakersfield City School District:  We represented the district and several administrators in a race discrimination action brought by a teacher. The court granted our motion for judgment on the pleadings and awarded the district $50,000 in attorney fees.
  • John R. v. Oakland Unified School District, 48 Cal.3d 438 (1989): The California Supreme Court adopted our arguments offered as amicus counsel in its decision that a school district is not vicariously liable for the sexual molestation of a student by a teacher as a matter of law. 

Representative Cases Involving Issues Affecting Public Entities

  • Committee for Green Foothills v. Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, 48 Cal.4th 32 (2010):  An environmental nonprofit petitioned for a writ of mandamus to enforce the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the county which had approved an agreement with a university regarding trail easements.  Our firm provided an amicus brief on behalf of the county, helping the California Supreme Court to rule in its favor.  The court held that the county's filing of a notice of determination without environmental review triggered the 30-day statute of limitations to challenge the action.
  • Tim Crews dba Sacramento Valley Mirror v. Willows Unified School District:  DWK represented Willows Unified School District and successfully defeated a petition for writ of mandate under the California Public Records Act brought by newspaperman Tim Crews.  Crews had issued a Public Records Act request seeking every email to and from the superintendent for an entire year, and pursued his writ action even after the District began to provide the records per the timeline it outlined and in a format to which Crews had made no objection for several months.  Ultimately, the court not only denied the petition and ruled in the District's favor, but it also granted DWK's request to deem Crews' action frivolous and ordered that the District was entitled to recover its reasonable attorneys' fees.  Crews filed a writ challenging the denial of his petition and the court of appeal summarily rejected his writ petition.
  • Kolter v. Commission on Professional Competence of the Los Angeles Unified School District, 170 Cal.App.4th 1346 (2009):  A permanent teacher petitioned for a writ of administrative mandamus challenging the decision that she should be terminated from her employment.  The court resolved a longstanding question under the personnel exception to the Brown Act regarding whether an employee facing discipline is entitled to have the decision to initiate discipline held in open session and notice that the decision is being made.  The court held that the governing board was not required to give notice to the employee that it was considering initiating dismissal charges and that the teacher did not have a due process right to notice or to address the board before it initiated dismissal proceedings. 
  • Katz v. Mountain View-Whisman School District, 2006 WL 3293747 (2006):  The firm was successful in dismissing an action to invalidate a voter-approved parcel tax due to the lack of standing of the plaintiff, who did not reside in the school district.  The court of appeal upheld the dismissal by the trial judge. 
  • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Whittier Union High School District, 15 Cal.App.4th 730 (1993):  A taxpayers association challenged special assessments used by school districts to finance recreational improvements to school facilities and grounds that were also used for community recreational purposes during non-school hours. The court held that school districts qualified as “special districts” within the meaning of the Landscaping and Lighting Act and were  authorized to make the types of improvements and to furnish the maintenance and servicing provided for in that Act.  It held that the districts’ formation of special recreational improvement and maintenance districts was consistent with the general statutory authority granted to them and in keeping with their authority to make school facilities and grounds available for public use as civic centers. The legislative purpose of the Civic Center Act is to make school buildings centers of free public assembly as long as such assembly does not encroach upon educational activities.  School districts are authorized to provide athletic and recreational activities, and to furnish lighting for those activities, because it serves the districts’ important secondary function as providers of recreational activities for the community. 
  • Hayes v. Commission on State Mandates, 11 Cal.App.4th 1564 (1992):  We filed an amicus brief in support of a claim by county superintendents of schools to recoup state-mandated costs incurred in connection with special education programs. While the court of appeal ultimately held that the special education requirements imposed were federal mandates, and not reimbursable state mandates, the court did find that the costs of special education programs could be considered state mandated and subject to subvention to the extent that the state implemented the federal law by freely choosing to impose new programs or higher levels of service upon local school districts.
  • Garrick Development Company v. Hayward Unified School District, 3 Cal.App.4th 320 (1992):  Our attorneys successfully defended an appeal by residential property developers contesting school facilities fees required to obtain building permits.  The court of appeal held that the fees imposed did not violate the equal protection clause.  It also held the fees did not exceed the reasonable cost of the facilities and therefore did not constitute an invalid “special tax” enacted without voter approval, notwithstanding the lack of any specific plan to build new school facilities. In addition, there was no unconstitutional taking without just compensation, given the clear and close connection between the fees imposed and new residential construction, and the failure of the developers to show that the amount of fees imposed denied them an economically viable use of their land. 

Representative Construction Cases

  • Los Angeles Unified School District v. Karcher: Our attorneys have successfully handled numerous professional negligence and construction defect cases.  In this case, we represented one of the nation’s largest districts in an action to recover for damage to school buildings caused by a fire which occurred during asbestos abatement. We recovered over $400,000 from the contractor after establishing that the fire was caused by failure to properly ground the equipment.
  • Tahoe Truckee Unified School District v. Town of Truckee:  Our attorneys successfully sued the Town of Truckee to avoid the District’s payment of the Town’s traffic mitigation fee.
  • Pittsburg Historical Society v. Pittsburg Unified School District:  In this case, we defeated a petition for writ of mandate brought under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to halt demolition of a claimed historical school building and to prevent construction of a new school at that site.

Representative Special Education and Student Cases

  • Walnut Valley Unified School District v. Superior Court (Rowland Unified School District) 2011 WL 242427 (Cal.App. 2d Dist. 2011):  We represented Rowland Unified School District which obtained a writ preventing the Walnut Valley Unified School District from enrolling any students who resided within Rowland's boundaries for the 2010-2011 school year under its District of Choice program.  Rowland maintained that, as a school district with an average daily attendance (ADA) of less than 50,000, it was entitled to limit the total number of pupils transferring out to surrounding school districts of choice, including Walnut Valley, to 10% of its ADA.   Under Education Code section 48307(b), “A school district of residence with an average daily attendance of less than 50,000 may limit the number of pupils transferring out [to school districts of choice] to 3 percent of its current year estimated average daily attendance and may limit the maximum number of pupils transferring out for the duration of the program ... to 10 percent of the average daily attendance for that period.”  Walnut argued that the proper interpretation of the 10 percent cap was to examine the total number of Rowland's District of Choice transfers currently enrolled in Walnut (742) and elsewhere (114), divided by Rowland’s current year ADA (15,420), which would equal only 5.55 percent. The court disagreed, admonishing that this flew in the face of the plain language of the statute and its legislative history that the 10 percent cap was based on Rowland’s ADA for the duration of the District of Choice program.  It found, and the Court of Appeal agreed, that the 10 percent cap on transfers out of a District of Residence meant 10 percent of the ADA during the entire duration of the District of Choice program.  Since more than 10 percent of Rowland’s students had transferred out under the program, it was entitled to cap that amount until such time as 2,054 students no longer represented more than 10 percent of its ADA over the duration of its District of Choice authorization.   In addition, we were successful in recovering $100,000.00 in attorneys’ fees and costs from Walnut Valley on behalf of Rowland.
  • California School Boards Association v. Brown, 192 Cal.App.4th 1507 (2011):  DWK has been at the forefront of litigation and non-litigation solutions to the governor’s decision to veto funding for AB 3632 mental health services for special needs students.  In this case, CSBA, Los Angeles Unified School District, and others sued directly in the court of appeal to challenge the governor’s authority to veto the appropriation of reimbursement funding for AB 3632 services, arguing that the authority to make an appropriation of mandate reimbursement funding belonged exclusively to the legislature.  Although the court of appeal sided with the governor, the decision is on appeal to the California Supreme Court for further review.
  • Carlson v. San Diego Unified School District, 2010 WL 2034800 (9th Cir. 2010):  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment in the District’s favor finding that a dispute about occupational therapy goals for a disabled student was a dispute about methodology and was therefore not subject to the court’s review.
  • K.S. v. Fremont Unified School District, 545 F.Supp.2d 995 (N.D. Cal. 2008), 232 Ed. Law Rep. 738; K.S. v. Fremont Unified School District, 679 F.Supp.2d 1046 (N.D. Cal. 2009), affirmed, 2011 WL 362467 (9th Cir. 2011): In this case, an autistic student with cognitive deficits filed claims under the IDEA, Section 504, the ADA, and the Unruh Civil Rights Act.  The court made several significant rulings, including that the ALJ in the due process hearing was entitled to give some weight to the testimony of the District’s witnesses based on their personal experience with the student, and that the evidence supported the ALJ’s conclusion that the student made meaningful progress, even though it was slow and uneven.  The court upheld the ALJ’s reliance on alternative evidence of the student’s capacity for progress, given that a valid IQ score could not be obtained due to the student’s low cognitive functioning and distractibility.  Further, the court rejected the challenge to the District’s expert witness, ruling that the admissibility standard for expert testimony used in federal court did not apply in special education administrative hearings.  The judgment in favor of the District was affirmed in its entirety by the Ninth Circuit.
  • J.W. v. Fresno Unified School District, 50 IDELR 42, 108 LRP 22325, 2008 WL 5329946 (E.D. Cal. 2008); J.W. v. Fresno Unified School District, 570 F.Supp.2d 1212 (E.D. Cal. 2008); J.W. v. Fresno Unified School District, 611 F.Supp.2d 1097 (E.D. Cal. 2009); J.W. v. Fresno Unified School District, 626 F.3d 431 (9th Cir. 2010):  This was an IDEA appeal and a claim for discrimination under Section 504 and the ADA brought on behalf of a hearing impaired student with a cochlear implant.  After the District obtained a judgment in its favor on the IDEA claim, the student dismissed the discrimination claims.  Along the way, the District obtained a number of favorable and precedent setting rulings that were affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, including that 1) in order to challenge the qualifications of the ALJ in a due process hearing, a parent must make the challenge at the hearing, not wait for the appeal; 2) the statute of limitations on the student’s claim for denial of FAPE begins to run when the student knew or should have known he was injured – i.e. when the assessment was issued or the IEP was offered; 3) to assert a discrimination claim in the education context, something more than a mere failure to provide the FAPE required by the IDEA must be shown; 4) the District’s placement of the student in general education, at the parent’s request, did not violate the least restrictive environment requirements of Section 504’s regulations, despite the contention that it failed to provide sufficient supports and services in that setting; 5) the occasional use of sign language by the District was not a change in the student’s mode of communication without parental consent since his primary mode of communication remained oral; 6) the District’s failure to include a general education teacher at an IEP meeting did not result in a loss of educational opportunity for the student or infringe the parents' opportunity to participate where the general education teacher had attended an IEP meeting one month earlier; and 7) the District’s failure to make a formal, written offer of placement prior to the start of the school year did not deny the student a FAPE since the District made the offer at an IEP meeting at start of school year, the parents fully participated in the IEP meetings, and had enough information to appropriately evaluate the offer. 
  • G.B. v. San Ramon Valley Unified School District, 51 IDELR 35, 108 LRP 54022 (N.D. Cal. 2008):  We defeated this appeal of the administrative law judge’s order allowing the District to conduct an assessment of a disabled student and denying funding for an independent educational evaluation (IEE).  The court ruled that the parent was not entitled to an IEE based on her disagreement with a final assessment report issued in 2008, when the parent had been presented with a draft of the report almost two years earlier.  We also obtained costs against the parent. 
  • Johnson v. Special Education Hearing Office, 287 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2002):  An autistic child sought a preliminary injunction to change the “stay put” order issued by the administrative law judge in a due process hearing.  The Ninth Circuit applied the traditional preliminary injunction analysis and held that the district was not required to provide the exact same program the child had received under his Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), including the same vendors and supervisors, when he transitioned between educational agencies due to his age; rather, the District was required to provide an interim placement in conformity with the child's IFSP.  The court held that for purposes of the IDEA’s “stay put” provision, the “current educational placement” is typically the placement described in the child's most recently implemented Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  
  • Arcadia Unified School District v. State Department of Education, 2 Cal.4th 251 (1992) (en banc): The California Supreme Court held that school districts' statutory authority to charge fees for pupil transportation did not violate the free school guarantee or the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.  There was no violation of the free school guarantee because transportation is not an essential element of school activity.  There was also no violation of equal protection because, to the extent the statute created a classification based on wealth, the requirement that indigent children be exempt from paying the fees cured the problem.
  • Fremont Union High School District v. Santa Clara County Board of Education, 235 Cal.App.3d 1182 (1991): After a school district expelled a student who used a stun gun during an altercation with another student on a campus other than the one on which he was enrolled, the county board of education ordered the student reinstated. On behalf of the school district, we petitioned for writ of mandate ordering the county board to set aside its decision. The court held that the school district had authority to expel the student under the Education Code because this conduct was sufficiently related to school activity or attendance even though the conduct occurred at school other than that in which pupil was enrolled. 
  • S.H. v. Rowland Unified School District, 2005 WL 2901840 (Cal.App. 2d Dist. 2006):  We represented the District in an action challenging its decision to expel a student for vandalizing an employee’s car with a knife and having that knife on campus.  The District’s expulsion decision was upheld by the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal, and plaintiff’s request for review by the Supreme Court was summarily denied. 
  • Willis v. San Jose Unified School District, 2005 WL 2093024 (Cal.App. 6th Dist. 2005): We successfully dismissed an indemnity action that sought damages and attorneys’ fees of more than $1 million for a former student. In an underlying suit, the former student had claimed that a former teacher had sexually harassed her while he was employed by the District. The District withdrew its defense of the former employee, and after the District defeated the underlying suit on summary judgment, the student and the teacher stipulated to a judgment against the teacher, the assignment of the teacher’s indemnity rights to the student and the student’s collection of the judgment only against the District.  We successfully argued that the plaintiff could not assert that the teacher acted within the course of employment because she previously alleged he sexually harassed her, which is outside the scope of employment as a matter of law. After the case was dismissed on demurrer, the plaintiff appealed, and the District again prevailed on appeal. 
  • Woodbury v. Brown-Dempsey, 108 Cal.App.4th 421 (2003): The firm served as amicus counsel on behalf of the California School Boards Association Education Legal Alliance. As urged by CSBA, the Court of Appeal held that in the context of student expulsion hearings, the school board has the discretion to issue subpoenas but was not mandated to issue subpoenas on request. 
  • Tinsley v. Superior Court, 150 Cal.App.3d 90 (1983):  In the wake of Proposition 1, which barred the California courts from ordering mandatory pupil reassignment or transportation in certain desegregation cases, our firm litigated whether a group of parents and students were entitled to pursue their desegregation claims without specifying the nature of the segregation they claimed to exist.  The court held that in the absence of any claimed intentional, de jure segregation, Proposition 1 prohibited it from ordering busing or student reassignment as a means of achieving quality education, but that unintentional, de facto segregation could still be attacked by any other legal means, i.e., school closure, school site selection, creation of special “magnet schools,” curriculum changes, or other steps to overcome the adverse effects of school segregation.   

Representative Charter School Cases

  • Shapiro vs. Los Angeles Unified School District: We successfully defended the District Board’s decision to approve the Birmingham Community Charter High School against a legal challenge by several teachers of the District and a community member. The petitioners challenged the decision asserting it was made without compliance with the statutory procedures and was an abuse of discretion in light of the individuals identified to operate the charter school. The court ruled squarely for the District, adopting our argument that the District did comply with procedures and the Board properly exercised its broad discretion. By successfully defending the charter decision, we also undermined a civil action seeking damages related to the Board’s decision. 
  • UTLA v. Los Angeles Unified School District, 177 Cal.App.4th 863 (2009) review granted, 104 Cal.Rptr.3d 129 (2009):  We provided advice regarding the legality of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) provisions related to the process for handling charter conversion petitions, and worked with the District to respond to a grievance challenging the Board’s decision to grant Locke Charter High School’s charter petition.  After the District denied the union’s grievance as not arbitrable, we successfully defended that decision in the trial court and obtained a ruling that the CBA provisions were invalidated by Education Code section 47611.5. Although the ruling was overturned on appeal, the California Supreme Court has granted review and this further appeal is now pending.
  • In re Fenton Avenue Charter School/Vaughn Next Century Learning Center v. Los Angeles Unified School District:  We defended a charter school’s efforts to obtain a temporary restraining order seeking to preclude payments related to special education costs. As a result of our defense, the matter was handled under the dispute resolution procedures of the charter, and an agreement regarding the charter schools’ contribution to special education encroachment was reached. This not only settled the dispute with these charter schools but also provided a model for structuring encroachment contribution district-wide.
  • California Charter Schools Association v. San Diego Unified School District: The firm successfully defended an action brought on behalf of eight charter schools claiming the District had failed to comply with Proposition 39 in denying the charter schools' requests to be housed in District facilities.  In obtaining judgment in the District’s favor, we barred the request for payment of millions in damages to the charter schools allegedly resulting from the District’s failure to provide facilities and the charter schools’ alternate facility costs.
  • Ridgecrest Charter School v. Sierra Sands Unified School District, 130 Cal.App.4th 986 (2005): In an action brought by a charter school to compel the District to provide space for the charter school at a single District site, we successfully argued that the decision where to house charter school students was a discretionary determination that could not be controlled by the courts. The Court of Appeal determined that a charter school is not absolutely entitled to a single site, and that school districts do have discretion in determining whether they can accommodate a charter school population at a single site. 
  • Bullis Charter School v. Los Altos Unified School District: We won a summary judgment in favor of the District, defeating a claim by a charter school that the facilities offered to it pursuant to Proposition 39 were not reasonably equivalent. The charter school sought an injunction and declaratory relief stating that the District had denied it a reasonably equivalent facility and that it was entitled to a specific school site that it preferred. Several causes of action were dismissed on demurrer, and on summary judgment on the remaining causes of action we presented overwhelming evidence in the District’s favor and successfully objected to the plaintiff’s evidence. 
  • CSBA vs. State Board of Education, California Charter Schools Association, 191 Cal.App.4th 530 (2010):  We represent CSBA, as well as ACSA and CASBO, in the challenge to the revised regulations adopted by the State Board of Education to implement Proposition 39. We worked with our clients through the rulemaking process and in the subsequent litigation to challenge many of the provisions of the regulations. Although the litigation was partially successful in invalidating regulations, the matter is now on appeal.
  • San Francisco Unified School District v. Urban Pioneer Experiential Academy and Related Cases: We represented the District in a wrongful death action seeking millions of dollars in damages brought by the families of two boys who were killed while participating in a charter school camping trip. The District was the charter granting agency and was alleged to have knowledge of the lack of appropriate supervision by the charter school administration. We cross complained against the charter school for indemnity and the case was successfully settled without any contribution by the District. In this way, the district saved millions in damages that were sought against it related to the death of these students.
  • California Charter Academy: We represented the Orange Unified School District as one of three school districts that authorized the California Charter Academy (CCA) which operated charter schools across the state in violation of law. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction commissioned a FCMAT audit of CCA. Our advice to the District regarding investigation and revocation of CCA lead to the conclusion by FCMAT that the District had exercised appropriate oversight and protected the District from extensive liability. The charter school operators were indicted on 150 counts of criminal conduct and are awaiting trial.  We successfully defended the District in the subsequent bankruptcy proceedings which included an adversarial proceeding by the trustee to collect allegedly excessive oversight fees paid to the District by CCA.
  • Renaissance Charter High School v. Los Angeles Unified School District: DWK attorneys worked with the District to defend a suit by Renaissance Charter High School to preclude the District from revoking the charter and to compel participation in the dispute resolution process. We assisted the District by supporting its ability to take action to revoke a charter without compliance with the dispute resolution provisions of the charter.
  • Revocations Including Appeal through the State Board of Education: We have handled numerous other revocations for districts, including a revocation of MATTIE Academy where the District Board’s decision to revoke was appealed to the SBE and ultimately upheld. DWK attorneys have pioneered the revocation process, handling revocations prior to the establishment of a statutory process. When the legislature adopted a process, it reflected the process developed by DWK to ensure a decision would stand up to a due process challenge by a charter school. With regard to the recent MATTIE Academy revocation, the California Department of Education agreed with the District’s determination and found that all 27 grounds for revocation were supported by substantial evidence. 

Training and In-Servicing

Dannis Woliver Kelley prides itself on its preventative and problem-solving approach to litigation.  Our attorneys have provided practical and timely trainings to our clients in the areas of law that affect their decision-making on a day-to-day basis and help reduce their exposure to liability.  These topics include: 

  • Sexual Harassment: Training and Strategies for Avoiding Liability
  • Worker's Compensation: Human Resources’ Role in Determining Rights and Benefits  of an Injured Employee
  • Protecting Employees
  • Handling Subpoenas for Student Records
  • Avoiding Liability for Violation of Student Constitutional Rights
  • Litigating the Special Education Appeal
  • Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Serving Students Under Section 504
  • Litigating Under the False Claims Act
  • How to Effectively Handle Stop Notice Claims
  • Contractual Indemnity: Protection from Liability
  • Litigating a Facilities Dispute Under Proposition 39
  • Monitoring and Oversight: Protection from Liability (Charter Schools)
  • Revocation: Litigating the Closure of a Charter School
  • Understanding and Managing the Brown Act
  • Responding to California Public Records Act Requests
  • Getting a Grip: Effective Management Related to Students with Aggressive  Behaviors
  • Public Officer Ethics and Conflicts of Interest

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