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Practice Area Details

Governing Boards

 Governance

 Although most of our attorneys specialize in one or two practice areas within the firm, virtually all of our attorneys are experienced in handling the panoply of board-related issues that arise on a daily basis.  These issues are often sensitive and high profile, and we pride ourselves on providing boards with solid legal advice as well as the benefit of our depth of experience as attorneys. Questions regarding the Brown Act, the conduct of board meetings, the Public Records Act, conflicts of interest, election campaigns and board procedures come up regularly in the course of a public agency’s work, and we advise boards on all these issues.

Technology has created new concerns, as electronic correspondence and the Internet play an increasing role in day-to-day communications.  In addition, policies developed by governing boards must adhere to a myriad of complex laws and regulations.  Our attorneys are aware of the intricate requirements that govern the work of boards; we help to assure that a public agency’s elected officials are in full compliance with these laws as they conduct the public’s business.

Brown Act/Conflict of Interest

We are extremely well versed in the Brown Act and were the first school law firm to present numerous workshops around the state when the major Brown Act amendments of 1995 came into existence.  We continue to provide Brown Act in-services and our handbook on this topic is currently in its eleventh edition.

Not only are we knowledgeable about traditional public official conflict of interest rules, but our expertise extends to other ethics dilemmas that arise from time to time in school districts, including prohibitions on mass mailings at public expense, gift rules and reporting requirements, and the doctrines of incompatible offices and incompatible activities.

Campaign Issues

We also provide guidance to districts related to board member campaigns and measure elections, and can analyze and provide parameters for permissible forms of communications, use of district venues and activities of board members and employees during such campaigns. 

We work with voter polling firms and campaign consultants to distill critical information for the development of bond and tax measures.  While we are not able to advise campaign committees regarding fundraising and reporting at district expense, we do assist districts in understanding the point at which campaign committees must be formed in accordance with regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission and can direct the district to recourses to enable legal fundraising during a campaign.  When district measures are successful, we counsel districts on the formation and training of citizen's oversight committees and advisory groups, and assist districts in maintaining public confidence through careful decision making related to use of voter-approved revenue streams.

California Public Records Act

We are also frequently called upon to address requests for records under the Public Records Act. We work closely with districts to identify all documents which are exempt from disclosure as well as formulating appropriate responses to such requests. Our attorneys also have extensive experience in responding to petitions filed with the superior court challenging the withholding of records by districts.

California Tort Claims Act

We are experienced in the special protections and defenses afforded school districts under the Tort Claims Act. This expertise allows us to analyze a claim and advise on the best way to respond to a claim. By understanding the implications of failing to properly handle a claim, we are able to best protect the district’s interests and preserve the rights, remedies and objections afforded the district when confronted with a claim. Our expertise in the Tort Claims Act has provided numerous districts with successful results in litigation.

Settlement Agreements

As reflected by our broad litigation experience, we are able to craft settlement agreements in all areas of dispute. We pride ourselves on developing agreements that fully protect the district’s interests while at the same time give clear direction to those charged with implementing the terms of the agreement.  We are also available to assist in the interpretation of agreements and consult regarding the district’s options when a party to the settlement agreement is not meeting their commitments. 

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