Pronouns: she, her, hers
Heather Scott is an associate in Burke, Williams & Sorensen’s Los Angeles office and a member of the firm’s Litigation Practice Group. Heather has experience representing individuals, insurance companies, and business entities in a wide variety of civil litigation matters.
Prior to joining Burke, Heather worked on both coasts. While living in New York, Heather worked in litigation at firm specializing in music law. When she moved back to her hometown, Los Angeles, Heather worked in litigation at an insurance defense firm. Heather also worked for regional centers, which provide services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Heather represented the regional centers’ interests in their consumers’ criminal proceedings.
Heather graduated cum laude from Fordham University School of Law with an LL.M. in fashion law. She earned her J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law where she obtained certificates in dispute resolution and Entrepreneurship and the Law. While at Pepperdine, Heather served as Associate Editor for Pepperdine Law Review’s digital media publication. She also holds a bachelor of liberal arts degree in psychology from Loyola Marymount University.
Krishan Chopra is a seasoned general practitioner with more than 20 years of experience representing public agencies in California. Krishan began his career in private practice in Southern California representing cities, schools districts, and special districts, then transitioned to Northern California where he worked as a Deputy County Counsel for the County of Napa. Most recently, Krishan served as the City Attorney for the City of Mountain View after serving the City as both an Assistant then Senior Assistant City Attorney.
Krishan’s practice specialties include land use and planning, environmental compliance (CEQA), governmental ethics and conflict of interest, public contracting and construction, initiative and referenda, Brown Act and open meeting compliance, and public records production. He brings many years of experience working as legal counsel to City Councils, Planning Commissions, and various advisory bodies, as well as working collaboratively with public agency staffs, focusing on providing practical solutions and the efficient delivery of legal services.
Krishan graduated from Loyola Law School in 1997, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Classical Studies cum laude, from Colgate University in 1991.
Kellan has also provided legal representation and guidance to developers, property owners, and management companies in the affordable housing industry throughout the United States. He has regularly volunteered his time to provide pro bono legal services to a range of clients, from low-income tenants to nonprofit organizations.
In addition to his legal career, Kellan is a Rent Stabilization Commissioner and past Commission chairperson for the City of West Hollywood. The Commission hears all appeals from the city’s hearing examiner and acts as a policymaking body to ensure proper administration and enforcement of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance.
Kellan is also the president and co-founder of Handle With Care, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on providing emergency supplies to the unhoused community while acting as a bridge to other social services.
He is a member of the State Bar of California and the Washington State Bar Association.
Mark Mercer is a senior associate in Burke’s San Diego office and a member of the Public Law Practice Group. Mark previously served for 14 ½ years as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Diego as the advisory attorney for the Public Works and Public Utilities Departments. During this time, he gained vast experience in advising public agencies in contract procurement, bid disputes, drafting construction contracts, managing contractor claims, prevailing wage compliance, Proposition 218 compliance, and managing conflict of interests in contracting. Additionally, Mark has experience with advising local agencies on Brown Act and California Public Record Act compliance.
Prior to working at the City of San Diego, Mark had experience in insurance defense and representing sureties in construction litigation.
Mark holds a CEQA Practice Certificate from the University of California San Diego Extension. He also served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve from 1993 until 1999.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Donald Le is an associate attorney in Burke’s Los Angeles office and is a member of the Labor & Employment, Labor Relations, and Education Law practice groups where he represents employers, including public agencies, municipalities, private schools, special districts, community college districts, K-12 schools, and private entities, in various labor, employment and education matters.
Donald’s employment experience includes advising and representing employers on issues relating to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, disability accommodation and interactive process, leaves and benefits, pre-employment and privacy issues including drug and alcohol testing, HIPAA/CMIA, free expression, employee discipline and due process, workplace investigations, and performance management. Donald’s experience also includes advising public safety clients on the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act and has worked on high-profile civil litigation cases regarding excessive force issues. Donald also advises and represents employers in navigating meet and confer obligations under the MMBA and EERA, and works exclusively on transactional matters. Donald also has specialized knowledge under the ACA, including the employer shared responsibility provisions and advises public agencies on their obligations.
Donald regularly advises private schools, community college districts, and K-12 schools on matters such as harassment or discrimination claims, discipline and termination, independent contractor issues, employee performance management, disability accommodations, construction, preventative measures, and other student, faculty, and governance-related issues. He works extensively on contractual matters such as employment and enrollment agreements, vendor and facilities use contracts/disputes, services agreements, transportation agreements, travel waivers, releases, as well as employee and student handbooks.
Donald also represents employers throughout the various stages of litigation in both state and federal courts, as well as DFEH/EEOC matters, administrative matters, writs of mandamus. His litigation practice includes all aspects of discovery, motion practice, and trial preparation, including deposition preparation and appearances, drafting demurrers and motions for summary judgment, and preparing pretrial motions and witnesses for trial.
Meghan Nihan’s practice focuses on real estate transactional matters and public/private partnership development matters. She has experience with purchase, sale, easement, license, and lease transactions; government purchases of property in lieu of condemnation; ancillary matters such as title review and due diligence; and advising clients on property management landlord/tenant issues.
Meghan was previously an associate in the Corporate and Real Estate practice groups of two Southern California law firms. She was also an associate in the Eminent Domain practice group of a law firm based in Orange County for five years, where she advised staff during the planning phase of a public transportation project, drafted and negotiated purchase and sale agreements, and handled all aspects of eminent domain litigation if a voluntary purchase transaction was not consummated.
During law school, Meghan completed environmental coursework. Early in her career, she worked as a Legal Fellow at Orange County Coastkeeper, whose mission is to protect the region’s water resources. Meghan’s work there included bringing lawsuits to enforce the Clean Water Act and reviewing and drafting comments regarding local policies or Environmental Impact Reports.
Lisa Lee is a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorenson, LLP with over 25 years of litigation experience and a strong background in constitutional law/civil rights litigation, contract litigation, employment litigation and criminal law. She is a trial lawyer who has successfully represented individuals, businesses, police officers and governmental entities in more than 90 jury trials throughout California.
Lisa worked as a Deputy City Attorney with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office for six years representing Los Angeles Police Department officers, as well as the Los Angeles Police Department and City of Los Angeles, in a variety of police civil rights matters in both state and federal court. She successfully litigated and tried use of force matters, including officer involved shootings.
Lisa spent nine years in general civil practice where she served as advisory counsel for small businesses, as well as successfully litigating tort, contract and employment litigation matters. Lisa also provided administrative, legal compliance and regulatory advice for business clients, including ordinance and municipal code matters.
Lisa was a criminal prosecutor for nine years with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney in Maui, Hawaii where she prosecuted sex crimes, homicides, and serious and violent felonies. She also investigated officer involved shootings and provided training for new prosecutors and law enforcement.
Lisa is dedicated to providing her clients with zealous and cost-effective representation. She has routinely and successfully resolved many cases without the necessity for trial by utilizing assertive case strategies which drive down the settlement value of matters. Lisa has also obtained favorable results for her clients through pretrial motions, including motions for summary judgment.
Mark Wilson is a senior associate in Burke’s Labor and Employment Practice Group. Mark has provided representation at MOU grievances, multi-year contract negotiations, meet-and-confers, unfair labor practices, and disciplinary matters.
Mark’s litigation experience includes labor arbitrations and civil litigation related to discrimination, whistleblower complaints, wage orders, FEHA/ADA complaints, and medical/family leave compliance, among others. He has represented clients in internal affairs investigations, external investigations, workplace investigations, criminal investigations, disciplinary actions, and appeals.
Prior to joining Burke, Mark represented public sector unions. He also served as in-house counsel for a large trade association in Washington, DC and as a Legislative Advisor for a several members of the United States Senate.
An associate in the Burke’s litigation group, Alexander Kim focuses his trial practice on the defense of public entities, such as municipalities, transportation providers, and school districts in property damage and personal injury matters, including wrongful death and catastrophic injuries.
Alexander graduated from Rutger’s School of Law – Newark in 2017. Immediately thereafter, Alexander obtained an opportunity as a year-long judicial clerkship in Bergen County, New Jersey for the Honorable Rachelle L. Harz, who oversaw Mass Tort Litigation matters. As part of his clerkship, Alexander gained experience and knowledge as to the practice of Mass Tort Litigation, in addition to general civil litigation.
Prior to joining Burke, Alexander developed and focused his litigation practice in New York, New York. While working in New York, Alexander’s practice areas included General Liability, Premises and Retail Liability, New York Labor Law, Automobile Liability, Trucking & Transportation Liability, Maritime Litigation, Subrogation and Excess Insurance Coverage. His practice included New York State and Federal Courts, and New Jersey State and Federal Courts. Alexander’s success in his practice resulted in being recognized as a 2021 New York METRO Rising Star associate.
In addition to his litigation experience in New York, Alexander’s litigation experience also includes the defense of business and American Disabilities Act claim.
Alexander’s involvement in litigated matters includes all aspects of cases, from inception through resolution. This includes executing written discovery plans, conducting and defending depositions, arguing motions, participating in mediation and arbitration, and all other aspects of trial preparation. Alexander is committed to open lines of communication with clients, making sure to keep them informed with respect to discovery, pleadings and case status.
In addition to Alexander’s experience in the legal world, he previously served in the United States Army. Alexander initially enlisted as a Private First Class in 2009, ultimately rising to the rank of First Lieutenant as a Military Intelligence Officer. In completing his service, Alexander was honorably discharged in 2018.
Connor Hyland is an associate in the public law group of Burke, Williams & Sorensen’s San Francisco office. Connor has experience advising cities on general municipal law, including, drafting ordinances, advising staff on land use and development, and CEQA litigation.
Connor earned his Juris Doctor at the University of California at Irvine School of Law in 2019. During law school, Connor spent over three semesters working as a student attorney in the Environmental Law Clinic at UCI Law advocating for environmental justice and cleaner oceans while gaining administrative law experience. At the clinic, Connor advised clients on issues related to the California Environmental Quality Act, the Coastal Act, and the Clean Water Act.
Prior to joining the Burke, Williams & Sorensen, Connor litigated dozens of workers’ compensation cases for cities, counties, and private sector companies. Connor has extensive experience taking cases from pre-litigation through litigation to settlement or formal legal resolution. Connor has taken numerous depositions and hearings on behalf of public and private clients. He has also taken many issues to trial and through appeal as the lead attorney.
Natalie Price has litigated a wide range of cases for public entities and their employees, such as officer-involved shootings, civil rights, employment, dangerous conditions of public property, wrongful death, personal injury, and general government tort liability matters in state and federal trial and appellate courts. Natalie has second-chaired trials, including a USERRA employment trial which resulted in a defense verdict and a fatal officer-involved shooting trial wherein the involved deputy avoided an award of punitive damages against him. Additionally, Natalie has assisted in trial preparation in numerous cases which settled shortly before trial.
Natalie handles cases from pre-litigation through appeal, and has successfully drafted and argued demurrers, motions to dismiss, summary judgment motions, discovery motions, Daubert motions, motions in limine, and jury instructions. Most recently, Natalie successfully argued an employment discrimination matter before the California Court of Appeal and obtained an order from the Ninth Circuit affirming summary judgment in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and FEHA discrimination and retaliation case.
Natalie advises clients regarding potential exposure, complex and novel legal issues, litigation budgets, and strategies to avoid future litigation.
While in law school, Natalie externed for the Honorable Larry A. Burns of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California and at the San Diego Public Defender’s Office, where she appeared in court almost daily and achieved favorable results for clients. Natalie served as a member of the San Diego International Law Journal, as Student Bar Association Vice President, and was extensively involved in the Moot Court program, where she argued before judges of the Ninth and Second Circuits and won national and intramural awards for her brief writing and oral advocacy skills.
John Horstmann is an associate in Burke’s Los Angeles office and a member of the firm’s Litigation Practice Group. John has experience in representing public entities, business entities, and individuals in a wide variety of civil litigation matters including wrongful death cases, mass casualty tort actions, traumatic brain injury cases, catastrophic injury cases, dangerous condition on public property cases, and civil rights violations. John has experience in all aspects of litigation including written discovery, depositions, and assisting with trial. John has worked on numerous high-exposure cases and consistently achieved positive results for his clients.
Prior to joining Burke, John was an associate with an AM Law 100 firm based in Los Angeles and a Fellow for the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). During the ABOTA Fellowship, John clerked for the Honorable Victor E. Chavez of the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles.
While in law school, John was the Competitions Chair of the Trial Advocacy Honors Program at Southwestern Law School, a member Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity, and clerked for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Hardcore Gang Division.
Isabella Urrea is an associate in Burke’s Labor and Employment Practice Group. Isabella’s areas of practice include labor and employment; discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; personal injury; torts; civil rights; contract; business; and administrative hearings. She also has experience with general liability; products liability; premise liability; medical malpractice; privacy torts; personal injury; and insurance defense.
Isabella has experience in all stages of litigation including written discovery, conducting depositions, and assisting with trial preparation, including motions in limine, jury instructions, and exhibit and witness lists.
During law school, Isabella was a part of the prestigious award-winning Trial Advocacy Honors Program. As a law student, Isabella gained criminal law experience as a Certified Law Clerk at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, White Collar Crime Division where she analyzed the detective’s investigation and recommended appropriate charges. She also wrote a prosecution trial brief for a fraud scheme involving over twenty victims resulting in a plea of no contest.
Robert Messinger practices in the areas of real estate, land use, land-based financing, community economic development, and general municipal law. He has represented a variety of municipalities, housing authorities, special purpose public agencies, nonprofit entities, and developers in a broad range of complex multi-party real estate transactions, land entitlement and planning matters, and public finance matters. Robert has extensive experience in real property transactions involving real property acquisition and disposition transactions, commercial leasing, ground leasing, options, easements and licenses, and landlord and tenant representation.
Robert also has extensive experience assisting public agencies with airport matters, parks and open space issues, special purpose entity formation and governance, advising Countywide Oversight Boards in interpreting and implementing the redevelopment dissolution statutes, and the interpretation of and compliance with the Surplus Land Act.
Robert is known for his commitment to helping his clients achieve their goals by providing pragmatic strategies and his ability to pursue a collaborative approach in order to achieve resolution. His commitment to delivering superior work product, exceeding client expectations through exceptional service, integrity, and results are the personal values that form Robert’s client relationships.
Rachel Balchum is a senior associate in Burke’s Labor and Employment Law Practice Group. Rachel represents public and private employers and individuals in employment disputes, including in the areas of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage and hour. She provides preventative counseling regarding employment practices, including COVID-19 issues, as well.
In addition, Rachel represents clients in trust and estate, financial elder abuse, and business litigation.
During law school, Rachel served as a legal extern at the United Nations Development Programme in Guatemala.
Allen Acosta is a senior associate in Burke’s Los Angeles office in the Labor and Employment Practice Group. Allen has represented public and private clients in all facets of labor and employment law, including defending single-plaintiff lawsuits and collective actions, workplace investigations and employee discipline, and labor arbitrations.
Before joining Burke, Allen was an associate with a full-service employment law firm in Los Angeles, where he defended public agencies throughout California in state and federal courts and arbitral tribunals and provided advice and counsel to clients on a wide array of labor and employment issues.
Earlier in this career, Allen was an in-house attorney for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he successfully defended false arrest and excessive force lawsuits, appeals from administrative proceedings, and employment litigation under Title VII, Americans with Disability Act, Rehabilitation Act, and Federal Employers Liability Act. Allen also provided advice and counsel to the Port Authority’s Chief Security Officer and the Port Authority Police Department on airport security issues, police practices, criminal investigations, and labor and employment matters. Allen also drafted legislation that the New York Legislature enacted in 2020 to curb illegal taxi operations at New York’s airports.
Allen also served as a prosecutor in New York City at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, where he gained trial experience and handled felony investigations and grand jury presentations.
While attending Boston University School of Law, Allen completed externships with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California in the Criminal Division and the Honorable Vanessa L. Bryant, U.S. District Judge for the District of Connecticut.
Alondra Espinosa is an associate in Burke’s Public Law Practice Group and provides advisory and litigation services to cities and other public agencies. Alondra’s practice focuses on a variety of public law and land use issues, including environmental law, water law, open meetings laws, public records, public contracting, and code enforcement. Alondra is a member of the California Special District Association’s Legal Advisory Working Group.
Alondra earned her Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and was admitted to the Bar of the State of California in 2017. She graduated with a concentration in Environmental Law. While in law school, she clerked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the General Counsel’s Water Law Office and assisted in-house counsel at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California working on a variety of legal matters involving CEQA litigation, water rate challenges under Prop 218 and Prop 26, and disclosures pursuant to the Public Records Act. Alondra earned her B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Leila Moshref-Danesh is a senior associate in Burke’s Riverside office. Prior to joining Burke, Leila served as a Deputy County Counsel in the Land Use Division of the Riverside County Office of County Counsel. Leila has experience in the areas of land use entitlements, special districts, the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Public Records Act, CEQA, right-to-farm issues, citrus pest control districts, cannabis dispensaries, habitat conservation plans, the Endangered Species Act, mitigation fees, and stormwater and water quality permits.
Kelsey earned her J.D. at the Tulane University School of Law, where she was president of the school’s chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice and a student attorney in the Tulane University Domestic Violence Law Clinic. Kelsey also spent a summer studying international art law in Siena, Italy and subsequently interned with the Holocaust Art Restitution Project.
Mary Wagner is an experienced public law attorney who has been representing local governmental agencies for over 25 years. Mary has served as the City Attorney for the City of Sausalito since 2002 and is currently an Assistant City Attorney for Benicia. Previously, Mary was the Assistant City Attorney for the cities of La Quinta and Lancaster.
In representing cities, Mary brings her practical approach, legal expertise, and serves as an active member of the team. In Sausalito, she was part of a Management Academy that trained Sausalito and other Marin County jurisdiction employees the skills needed to move into management.
Mary believes in proactive representation. She has presented on conflicts of interest and the Brown Act.
Arielle Berne is an associate in Burke’s Los Angeles office and a member of Burke’s Litigation practice group. Arielle’s areas of practice include public entity defense, premises liability, dangerous condition of public property, general tort litigation, and wrongful death matters.
Arielle also serves as the City Prosecutor for numerous cities including Lawndale and Santa Clarita where she successfully handles criminal litigation and prosecution of code enforcement matters. Serving in this capacity gives Arielle a broad range of litigation and courtroom experience.
Arielle’s practice also includes employment litigation matters including wrongful termination and retaliatory discharge, employment discrimination and harassment, sexual harassment, Americans with Disabilities Act, and FEHA and FMLA disputes.
During law school, Arielle interned for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office in its employment and litigation groups. Additionally, Arielle represented clients with the Washington Innocence project. She also was an extern for Judge John Ruhl.
Arielle was a Managing Editor of the Washington Journal of Environmental Law and Policy. She also held the role of President of Moot Court Honor Board at UW Law.
Arielle graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a concentration in Law and Society.
Kate Im is an associate attorney in Burke’s Los Angeles office and is a member of the Labor & Employment, and Education Law practice groups. Kate represents and advises cities, school districts, and other public agencies on matters ranging from employee discipline, hiring, and layoffs, collective bargaining, discrimination/civil rights claims, and governance issues. Her practice includes related litigation matters such as civil suits, writs of mandamus, and administrative hearings.
While attending the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Kate interned with at the Lanterman Regional Center Special Education Law Clinic and the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles at their Keck/LA County Hospital location.
Payan v. Los Angeles Community College District (9th Cir. 2021) ---F.4th---
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Gena Burns is a senior associate in Burke's Labor and Employment and Public Law Practice Groups. Gena provides advice and assistance to the firm’s clients regarding all aspects of labor and employment law.
Gena regularly advises clients and litigates matters concerning equal employment opportunity laws, disability and family medical leave, wage and hour issues (including class actions and PAGA claims), sexual harassment, workplace violence, public employee benefits and retirement, employee discipline and disciplinary arbitrations, collective bargaining processes, and interpretation of labor contracts. She has represented clients in both state and federal court.
Gena has extensive experience with employee disciplinary hearings and has served as counsel to the San Diego County Civil Service Commission. Gena has also served as lead negotiator for public agencies. She has successfully handled cases before the Public Employment Relations Board and the National Labor Relations Board. Gena has experience counseling clients with respect to workplace and compliance issues including employee terminations, reductions-in-force, the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, CalPERS, the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act and the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act. She has developed handbooks and regularly reviews and drafts personnel policies and procedures. Gena delivers training on labor and employment related matters. Gena conducts independent investigations of complaints involving discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and workplace misconduct.
Gena graduated cum laude from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. While in law school, she was a member of the UC Hastings Business Law Journal and studied at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
Elizabeth Mitchell handles all legal issues confronted by local agencies and special districts from advice regarding board and legislative actions, administrative policy implementation, and open meetings, election laws and effective government to claims avoidance, mitigation and processing, negotiations, advisory and transactional law, labor and employment law, water law, public contracts, insurance, liability issues, real estate, leases, easements and development agreements, low income housing projects, workers’ compensation, civil rights and regulatory and code enforcement, and public works, infrastructure and rate setting. Admitted to the California State Bar in 1999, Elizabeth utilizes her extensive background as a trial attorney in civil litigation and business transactions to help public agencies, municipalities, special districts, joint power authorities, non-profits and businesses avoid potential future legal problems before they arise. She has been focusing on public interest law since 2015, but also has a corporate and transactional practice.
Before joining the firm, Elizabeth was a partner in the litigation department of one of San Diego’s premiere mid-size business defense firms. Her sophisticated trial practice included international and multi-district civil litigation in state and federal court, unfair competition and trade secret cases, intellectual property, creditors’ rights, environmental causes, large corporate bankruptcies and American with Disabilities Act claims, among others. She also has experience with all aspects of transactional and corporate advice, contracts, negotiations, compliance and strategic planning, leases, franchises, acquisitions and other complex corporate work. Elizabeth also spent time at a boutique plaintiff’s class action firm pursuing high profile public interest cases including privacy and constitutional rights, labor and employment law, health care and technology, false advertising and the Lanham Act. Before law school, she served as a legislative intern for the majority chairman of the House of Representative’s Education Committee.
Elizabeth is now General Counsel for the Vista Irrigation District, the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Solana Beach, the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Coronado, and the Assistant General Counsel for SBCS Corporation, putting her diverse background to work for local government, special districts, non-profits and businesses throughout California.
Richard’s experience includes assisting employers throughout the employee discipline process, preparing workplace policies and handbooks, advising employers with leave related issues, and guiding employers throughout the interactive process for workplace disability accommodations.
Richard litigates in state and federal courts and consistently draws on his litigation experience when providing advice to employers. Richard’s litigation experience entails handling the various stages of pre-litigation all the way to jury trial.
Richard has represented public entities at various different levels of government, and private entities that varied from small regional businesses to large national enterprises. Richard is also experienced in representing non-profit clients and draws on his experience providing legal services to the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.
During law school, Richard clerked for multiple public entities. Richard’s experience and passion for serving public and non-profit entities enables him to provide exceptional service and creative solutions for his clients.
Richard’s first career as a manager in the financial services industry enables him to provide employers with practical strategies and creative alternatives to solving employment personnel issues while simultaneously complying with state and federal employment laws.
During his free time, Richard loves to enjoy the outdoors. He enjoys spending time at the beach and hiking state and national parks with his family.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Neel Ghanshyam is a senior associate in Burke, Williams & Sorensen’s Los Angeles office. Neel has extensive experience representing public entities, including K-12 school districts, hospitals and law enforcement agencies, in matters pertaining to litigation, investigations, writ actions, employee discipline and employee relations. Prior to practicing law, Neel worked as a legal investigator for the U.S. Department of Labor, where he assisted in their ERISA compliance program and assisted in auditing employer and union retirement benefit and health benefit plans.
Neel earned his Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School. He served as the school’s Student Bar Association President in 2013-2014.
A senior associate in the Burke’s litigation group, Monica Schwartz focuses her trial practice on the defense of public entities, such as municipalities, transportation providers, and school districts in property damage and personal injury matters, including wrongful death and catastrophic injuries.
Prior to joining Burke, Monica focused her public entity practice on the defense of law enforcement, such as police departments, sheriffs’ departments, individual officers, jails, and jail medical staff in civil rights litigation. While working in this practice area she served as managing associate on many high profile cases involving wrongful death police shootings, excessive force and wrongful arrest, employment disputes, and deliberate indifference/medical malpractice.
In addition to her experience in public entity defense, Monica’s litigation experience includes the defense of business, employment, real estate, intellectual property, toxic tort, and medical malpractice lawsuits, at both the state and federal levels.
Monica's involvement in litigated matters includes all aspects of cases, from inception through resolution. This includes executing written discovery plans, conducting and defending depositions, arguing motions, and all other aspects of trial preparation. Monica is committed to open lines of communication with clients, making sure to keep them informed with respect to discovery, pleadings, and case status.
Charles Abbott is a highly skilled litigator with experience in complex civil litigation, such as class-action defense, personal injury, intellectual property, employment, privacy and insurance defense. He has represented public entities and large public business in the retail, food and beverage, entertainment, telecommunications, and entertainment industries. Mr. Abbott has tried numerous civil jury trials to successful conclusion in federal and state courts in California. He also has a proven track record of designing and implementing compliance programs and leading internal investigations for corporate clients alleged to have committed FCPA, UK Bribery Act, AML, fraud, bribery, global privacy, trade and export control, and environmental regulations across multiple industries.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Michael R. Nebenzahl is a seasoned litigator with 40 trials to verdict and is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). His practice focuses on the defense of high stakes personal injury litigation matters involving wrongful death, catastrophic injuries, emotional injuries and brain damage.
Michael has built his practice over the last two decades handling cases for public entities such as cities, school districts, utility companies and transportation agencies. He defends claims of dangerous conditions of public property, claims of liability stemming from the wrongful conduct or negligent acts of employees, and claims in defense of employment-related matters. These defenses range from roadway design, to the protocols and practices for maintaining streets, sidewalks, and infrastructure, to urban forestry, as well as termination and/or discriminatory employment-related matters. While he knows that a bell can't be un-rung, Michael takes great pride in understanding how and why any incident occurred and spending much time, effort and analysis in providing advice to his clients on how to prevent future harm.
One of Southern California's most experienced and well-regarded trial attorneys, Michael has been representing clients such as the City of Beverly Hills for over two decades, and his defense verdict for the Rose Bowl in a 2008 brain damage case resulted in being named to the Daily Journal's List of Top Ten Defense Verdicts.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Susan Arduengo is a partner in Burke’s Los Angeles office and a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Law practice group.
Susan is an Association of Workplace Investigators (AWI) Certificate Holder and the convener for the AWI Los Angeles Mentoring Circle. Susan conducts workplace investigations as a neutral fact-finder. She has investigated a variety of employment-related complaints including allegations of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, gender and disability discrimination, retaliation, abusive conduct, workplace violence, wage and hour violations, and “me too” claims. Employers rely on her findings in order to make informed decisions on how to resolve internal workplace complaints.
Additionally, Susan performs California’s mandatory sexual harassment prevention training for supervisory and non-supervisory employees. She is experienced in virtual and in-person training to groups both large and small. She also creates customized training focused on particular workforce concerns, including Employment Law/HR Bootcamp, interactive process and reasonable accommodation, and Wage and Hour 101. Susan has also served as a speaker on pay equity matters for community groups.
Susan has litigated on behalf of California employers against claims of discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and harassment in addition to defending against wage and hour class actions and PAGA claims.
Susan’s litigation experience defending employers provides her an advantage in providing her clients preventative employment counseling. Susan’s counseling work is focused on litigation avoidance on matters related to employee discipline, leaves of absences, and separation issues. Susan is also experienced in drafting employment policies, handbooks, and separation agreements as well as performing employment law compliance audits.
Susan is active in Burke’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Winter Hankins is a senior associate in Burke Williams & Sorensen’s San Jose Office and a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.
Winter is experienced in handling claims involving harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and leaves of absence under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA). She has experience advising clients regarding the interactive process and disability accommodation, disability retirement, discipline, due process rights, layoffs, and wage and hours compliance. In addition, Winter is an experienced workplace investigator and is an Association of Workplace Investigators Certificate Holder (AWI-CH). She has conducted complex workplace investigations involving sworn and non-sworn employees, as well as overseen numerous investigations and advised employers regarding next steps in addressing investigation findings.
She is passionate about training and cultivating diverse and positive workplace culture. Winter is a graduate of the Alameda County Leadership Academy, which focuses on diversity and understanding how to manage individuals with different social and economic backgrounds, skill sets, and personality types. She is also an active member of the Charles Houston Bar Association.
Prior to joining Burke, Winter served as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Hayward, where she represented the city in state, federal, and administrative proceedings and counseled the Airport, Police, Fire, and Housing Department in a variety of legal matters, including contract negotiation, policy updates, developing ordinances and resolutions, and their investigation and response to tort claims.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Tamar Burke is an associate in the public law practice group. She advises public entity clients on all matters, including California Public Records Act and Brown Act compliance, code enforcement, eminent domain, and general municipal governance issues. Tamar has worked on litigation cases involving the Public Records Act and the Brown Act, property maintenance issues, quiet title, and eminent domain. Her litigation practice includes drafting and managing discovery, drafting motions in limine and corresponding oppositions, and otherwise preparing cases for trial or hearings. She has also worked as a reviewer for CEB’s Municipal Law Handbook.
Tamar earned her J.D. from UC Hastings and graduated cum laude with a concentration in government law. As a law student, Tamar interned with the Government team of the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office where she worked on the City’s sanctuary city litigation and provided advice to various City commissions and departments. She also interned with the State of California’s Office of Legislative Counsel, drafting legislation regarding environmental, education, transportation, and energy law. As a member of the nationally ranked UC Hastings Moot Court Team, she competed in the Evans Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. She was also selected to participate in the UC Hastings Appellate Project, and represented a client in proceedings before the Ninth Circuit.
Before law school, Tamar received her B.A. in Political Science from UC Davis. Throughout her undergraduate studies, Tamar worked in and around government by interning in state legislators’ offices and working at a lobbying and consulting firm to further environmentally sound policies in California.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Elisabeth Frater is a Partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP with over 25 years of litigation experience and a deep background in employment law and litigation, business litigation, administrative law, workplace misconduct and EEO investigations, and criminal law. She is a trial lawyer who has represented individuals, officials, businesses and governmental entities in more than 125 jury trials throughout California.
Elisabeth worked for the California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, for over nine years, first as a Deputy Attorney General and then as a Supervising Deputy Attorney General overseeing a team of litigation attorneys in the Employment and Administrative Mandate Section of the Civil Division. Agencies she has represented include the California State University, the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the California Horse Racing Board, the California Department of State Hospitals, California State Parks and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
She has handled complex employment litigation and appeals including state and federal cases brought under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act. She has provided legal advice to top managers and executives in public agencies and departments on civil rights cases, adverse employment actions, discrimination policies, privacy issues and workplace violence. She has conducted workplace investigations into matters involving sworn and non-sworn employees.
Elisabeth previously spent five years in private practice, representing individuals and entities in business and employment cases, workers’ compensation claims and criminal matters. Earlier in her career she served as a deputy in the District Attorney offices in Sacramento, San Francisco and Napa counties, where she tried felony cases, conducted grand jury proceedings and worked with municipal police departments, county sheriff’s offices and other law enforcement agencies.
Elisabeth is committed to providing clients with excellent and cost-effective representation. She has successfully resolved numerous disputes through mediation, and aggressively pursues strategies to eliminate defendants and claims from cases at the earliest stages of litigation through motions to dismiss, demurrers, and motions for summary judgment. An expert at jury selection and providing a vigorous and strategic defense at trial, in recent years Elisabeth has won defense verdicts in several employment cases on behalf of state officials and public agencies.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Eric Phillips practices in the areas of land use, real estate, and CEQA compliance. Eric represents clients in all phases of the development process, including property acquisition, entitlement and administrative approvals, CEQA compliance, compliance with state housing laws, and negotiating real estate disputes. Eric has particular experience with State Density Bonus Law, the Housing Accountability Act, SB 35, and Housing Element Law.
Eric assists private clients to successfully obtain subdivision maps, density bonuses, development agreements, and other land use approvals. He also has served as special counsel to numerous public agencies and provides advice on writing ordinances and legislative findings related to zoning, subdivisions, inclusionary housing programs, rent control and tenant protection measures, and impact fees. In both roles, Eric has worked with various clients to negotiate and close purchase and sale agreements, draft loan agreements, create below-market-rate rental and for-sale programs, perform property diligence, craft residential preference programs, and work with technical consultants to prepare Draft and Final EIRs.
Joanne Madden’s practice focuses on litigation involving commercial disputes, corporate governance, and employment matters. She represents companies involved in disputes concerning lease obligations, online service agreements, trade secrets, risk allocation between suppliers, and employment contracts. She also has extensive experience representing transportation and construction companies in general liability matters. Her clients include individuals, non- profits, small to mid-size businesses, as well as Fortune 500 companies.
While primarily a litigator, she also advises clients on risk management in various settings. She has counseled individuals, corporations, and public entities concerning compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, California’s Unruh Act, Wage and Hour regulations, OSHA, Motor Carrier regulations, environmental regulations such as California’s Proposition 65, and consumer protection laws. Joanne also counsels a national product distributor on claim and litigation management. She appears in federal and state courts, arbitrations, administrative hearings as well as before special masters.
Joanne serves as Judge Pro Tem for the San Francisco Superior Court, mediating landlord tenant disputes and sitting as a small claims judge.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Bernard Gehlhar focuses his practice on the representation of consumer product companies, defending them in products liability litigation, advising on regulatory and corporate issues, and assisting with contractual matters. Bernard also has extensive experience dealing with other types of products, including industrial products. Bernard works closely with clients to gain an understanding of their business model and objectives in order to provide practical guidance on day-to-day business decisions in the context of legal risk.
In addition to his litigation and litigation management roles, Bernard is a trusted advisor to clients in various related areas, including product safety and regulatory compliance. He routinely assists clients with Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) compliance and reporting; product recalls, and in reviewing product manuals, safety warnings, labels, and other collateral materials. Bernard assists clients with negotiating and drafting contracts, including licensing and vendor agreements. Bernard also has significant experience counseling clients with respect to advertising and promotional activities, including sweepstakes and contests.
Bernard has experience with a broad range of civil litigation matters, including class actions and other complex cases. In addition to products liability cases, Bernard has handled commercial disputes and defended professional liability matters on behalf of mortgage brokers, insurance agents and brokers, third-party administrators, investment advisors, securities broker-dealers and attorneys, among others. He also has litigated business torts and defended claims of breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and vicarious liability for the acts of employees and agents.
Bernard handles cases in state and federal trial courts and in various arbitration forums and has extensive experience with appellate proceedings. He has drafted countless briefs and argued before the California Courts of Appeal and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in matters involving a range of substantive areas, including professional liability, products liability, general liability, business torts, and ERISA.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Patricia Peden is a seasoned trial attorney and member of Burke's Intellectual Property Practice Group. Her practice focuses on litigating patent infringement cases, trade secret litigation, and other complex commercial litigation. In addition to bringing to the table a deep knowledge of substantive legal doctrines, Patricia offers clients solid business judgment and an unwavering commitment to client service.
Patricia understands cases are won by hard work, creative thinking and mastery of the law and facts. She litigates with an eye toward trial, allowing her to make cost-benefit judgment calls during discovery based on what is truly needed for a successful result. Patricia maximizes early case planning to ensure litigation costs are proportional to case value. And she understands the importance of teamwork and communication. She strives to provide her clients with clear, concrete solutions to complex legal problems.
Patricia has extensive federal court experience. She clerked for two federal judges, the Honorable David Folsom in the Eastern District of Texas and the Honorable Richard C. Tallman at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She has litigated disputes ranging from large, complex cases with multi-million-dollar damage claims to smaller suits between private parties. Her patent infringement cases have involved a wide range of technologies, including cellular telephony, recombinant human erythropoietin, LED technology, Wi-Fi, various chipsets, software and business methods, to name a few. She has litigated non-compete agreements and trade secret disputes. She has substantial experience litigating cases in the Eastern District of Texas, the Northern District of California, and other magnet venues for intellectual property disputes. Patricia has considerable experience with complex commercial cases involving trade secrets and non-compete agreements, copyright, trademark, antitrust, fraud, breach of contract, business torts, and defamation.
Patricia also maintains an active appellate practice.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Eli Flushman is a public law partner in Burke’s Marin County office. Eli is a skilled municipal law attorney who has great experience advising cities on general municipal law, including, drafting ordinances, advising staff on land use and development, code enforcement, public nuisance litigation, and general litigation.
Eli’s code enforcement practice centers on working with cities to abate properties with nuisance conditions utilizing administrative enforcement, civil litigation, receiverships, demolitions, inspection and abatement warrants, and voluntary compliance. He also has experience conducting criminal prosecutions for municipal code violations, and opposing Pitchess motions.
Eli is a graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law. At USF, Eli was the President of the Jewish Law Student Association and a member of the USF Trial Team. Eli received his undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, where he spent a year with the baseball team. Prior to his employment with Burke, Eli worked for the City of Vallejo, where he built up and led the Neighborhood Law Program, a successful campaign utilizing legal processes to drastically improve the quality of life for citizens of Vallejo. Eli spent over six years in Vallejo, where the Neighborhood Law Program was involved in over 25 Receivership cases, and 20 public nuisance lawsuits, turning over severely dilapidated and nuisance properties and helping to create an environment that made Solano County one of the top real estate markets in the country.
Prior to his work with the City of Vallejo, Eli has worked in the City Attorney's Office in Redwood City and in Berkeley, and as a Staff Attorney for the League of California Cities.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Robert Dickerson, Jr., Chair of Burke’s IP Practice Group, has been litigating patent, antitrust, trademark, copyright, and trade secret cases for over 30 years, most of those as first chair, and many of those for Fortune 500 companies. He has litigated cases in many U.S. District Courts throughout the country, before the International Trade Commission, and in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, compiling an exceptional win-to-loss ratio. He has also successfully argued cases before various appellate courts, including the Federal Circuit, and has been retained to lead and consult on litigation in other countries.
Robert's experience involves a multi-billion dollar antitrust case against Google, and patent cases involving a wide range of technologies, including various types of medical devices, optical networks, 3-D printing, flashlights, laser sintering, stereolithography, biotechnology (including genetically modified plants), integrated chip design, medical diagnostic methods and devices, veterinary products, commercial garment processing, laminated flooring panels, computer switch products, non-volatile memory, business methods, video and other games, database management, data encryption and securitization, and mechanical devices, among many others.
He is registered to practice patent law by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, oversees patent and trademark prosecution matters, and advises clients on their overall IP portfolios, including national and global IP strategies and licensing programs for patents and trademarks. He has also successfully asserted copyright infringement cases, obtaining large settlements for his clients.
Robert has litigated general business and franchise matters in state courts and before administrative agencies. He has represented a national distributor of motor vehicles and handled a wide variety of motor vehicle distributor/dealer issues and litigation throughout the country, in addition to its IP and antitrust matters.
Robert also counsels clients on all IP aspects of transactional matters (including M&A) and provides infringement and freedom-to-operate analysis and opinions for patents, trademarks and copyrights. He has directed the development and implementation of IP audit, capture, evaluation, and monetization programs for companies engaged in research and development.
Robert has twice been named as one of the Top 75 IP attorneys and one of the Top 30 Patent Litigators in California by California Daily Journal on the basis of results obtained in large-stakes patent litigation. He has been named as a Tier 1 Patent litigator and as a California Highly Recommended Litigation Star by Benchmark Plaintiff, an IP Superstar by Los Angeles Magazine for each of the last 19 years, and has been recognized in several Who's Who listings of IP attorneys.
Robert has often been quoted in major publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, on hot topics and current cases in IP law, and has published articles in the ABA Journal and other legal publications.
Robert was lead counsel in a pro bono matter that resulted in the largest judgment ever obtained in a Public Counsel pro bono consumer fraud case, for which he received the "California Angel" award from California Magazine.
Robert started his career at IP powerhouse Lyon & Lyon, where he was Associate, then Partner, and then the first ever Managing Partner of the firm, and he has also been Chair and Co-Chair of the IP Groups of large national and international law firms.
In law school, Robert was a member of Moot Court Honors Program and on the intercollegiate team competing in the Giles Sutherland Rich Patent Law National Competition (Winner, Regional Finals), a member of Law Review, and winner of the Jurisprudence Award in Property.
Prior to starting law school, Robert worked as a cowboy on a cattle ranch, paid for his undergraduate education by playing lead guitar in a professional rock n' roll band, and worked for Shell Development Corporation involved in research and development of herbicides and pesticides.
“Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” (Thomas Alva Edison).
“Very few things are ever as good or bad as they seem at the moment, so don’t overreact to either.” (Author Unknown).
Pronouns: he, him, his
Marvin Cho is an associate in Burke, Williams & Sorensen’s Los Angeles office and is a member of the firm’s Employment Law and Litigation practice group. He is an experienced litigator whose practice includes representing public and private employers in state and federal court, in arbitration proceedings, and before administrative agencies such as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Prior to joining Burke, Marvin worked at a prominent boutique employment litigation firm where he gained significant experience litigating claims for discrimination, retaliation, and harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), wrongful termination claims, whistleblower actions, violations of California wage and hour law, and representative actions under the Private Attorneys General Act. Thereafter, Marvin joined a public entity defense firm where he defended civil lawsuits filed against municipalities including high-profile employment litigation alleging violations of the FEHA, civil rights cases against local law enforcement arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and personal injury actions.
Marvin has substantial experience in all phases of civil litigation including engaging in motion practice, drafting appellate briefs, appearing in court for oral argument, taking depositions, handling all aspects of discovery, negotiating settlements, and preparing for trial.
In 2010, Marvin graduated magna cum laude from UCLA with a B.A. in Psychology. He earned his J.D. in 2014 from UC Davis School of Law where he was an editor of the UC Davis Law Review and graduated Order of the Coif. During law school, Marvin served as a judicial extern to the Honorable James V. Selna of the United States District Court, Central District of California. After law school, and prior to entering private practice, he served as a law clerk for all three Justices of the Supreme Court of Guam.
Susan Chelsea has over three decades of employment law, business and commercial litigation, automobile dealership representation, construction law, and government contract claims experience.
Susan’s practice primarily focuses on employment law, but over the past 30 years she has handled matters involving general business litigation, contract disputes, construction contract disputes, consumer claims, government contract claims, mechanic’s lien and stop notice claims, and general liability defense.
Susan’s employment practice includes both counseling and litigation work. She drafts and updates employee handbooks, other employer policies and procedures, employment agreements, severance agreements, nondisclosure agreements, commission agreements, pay plans, and anti-harassment policies. Her employment counseling practice includes wage and hour compliance, hiring and firing, and FMLA, CFRA, and ADA compliance.
Susan conducts workplace investigations as an independent investigator. She also counsels employers through the investigation process when the investigation is handled in-house or by an independent third party investigator.
An experienced litigator, Susan has successfully tried and arbitrated cases involving wrongful termination, retaliation, wage and hour, trade secrets, and unfair competition as well as real estate issues, business disputes, construction disputes, securities transactions and products liability. Susan has defended employers in over 40 wage claims before the California Labor Commissioner. She has also successfully defended employers subject to Labor Commissioner citations, eliminating or substantially reducing civil penalties assessed against employers. Susan has also successfully defended businesses against OSHA citations, including obtaining dismissal of citations after a successful appeal and hearing.
Finally, Susan has defended businesses against ADA claims, both in the employment context and related to accessibility issues.
Susan frequently presents on topics related to employment law and provides training to employers on various topics including anti-harassment and bullying, how to conduct proper workplace investigations, and compliance with updated laws and regulations.
A leader in the legal community, Susan served as Chair of USLAW Network’s Employment & Labor Law Practice Group. Susan was a faculty member of the University of San Diego Lawyer’s Assistant Program for nine years. She served on the Executive Committee of the State Bar Real Property Law Section and was the Co-Chair of the Litigation Subsection of the State Bar Real Property Law Section. She also served as Co-Chair of the San Diego County Bar Association Construction Law Section, and a barrister with the Inns of Court, Wallace Inn.
Mark Nys represents automobile and recreational vehicle dealerships (single point, independent and automobile dealership groups) and automobile and recreational vehicle manufacturers, direct and indirect lenders, flooring lenders, automobile service centers and surety bonding companies in litigation involving catastrophic loss, negligence, fraud, product liability, warranty, lemon law and auto financing disputes throughout California. He has had extensive experience representing clients in franchise disputes between dealers and between dealers and manufacturers of automobiles and recreational vehicles.
In the construction industry, Mark represents owners, developers, general contractors, subcontractors and design professionals in both residential and commercial construction, construction defect, workplace injuries and complex construction transactional matters. He provides guidance in both public and private works projects, counseling clients on construction financing, mechanics’ liens, stop notices, and enforcement actions. Mark also regularly represents sureties in claims against contractor license bonds.
Mark also regularly defends mobile home parks and homeowners’ associations from liability arising from resident litigation. Licensed before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Mark is also experienced in litigating intellectual property disputes.
In addition to appropriate court admissions, Mark is a licensed California real estate broker and serves as a trusted legal advisor to credit unions and other financial institutions in real estate transactions, credit union operations and lender liability litigation.
Originally from Santa Maria, California, Mark graduated from Claremont McKenna College in 1985 with a B.A. in Chemistry. Graduating Phi Beta Kappa, Mark was a 4-time NCAA All-American in both singles and doubles tennis. He then attended the University of California at Irvine, where he received his Graduate Certificate in Hazardous Materials Management before moving on to California Western School of Law and earning his Juris Doctorate in 1997. Mark retired after twenty years of service as a Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy with the rank of Commander.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Gina N. Giovacchini is an associate in Burke, Williams & Sorensen’s Los Angeles office. Gina’s areas of practice include public entity defense, premises liability, dangerous condition of public property, and tort litigation. Gina is a member of the firm’s Public Law and Litigation practice groups. Prior to joining Burke, Gina defended clients against a variety claims including product and premises liability, breach of contract, construction defect, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, class-actions, and complex tort litigation.
Gina earned her Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and was admitted to the Bar of the State of California in 2016. She graduated with concentrations in Criminal Justice and Public Interest Law and was a member of the Center for Juvenile Law and Policy. Gina also clerked for the Capital Habeas Unit for the Oﬃce of the Federal Public Defender of the Central District of California, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Honorable Julia W. Brand of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California. Gina earned her B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Gregory Thomas is a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP who litigates complex cases in the following areas: government tort liability, civil rights, constitutional law, jail conditions of confinement, wrongful arrest, excessive force, catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death, products liability, writs and appeals, moving and storage claims and professional liability.
Greg has focused on litigation since becoming a member of the State Bar of California in 2005. He is admitted to practice before all the courts of the State of California, all United States District Courts in California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Greg has extensive experience in all phases of civil litigation from pre-litigation negotiations to pleadings, law and motion, discovery, alternative dispute resolution, jury trials to verdict, writs and appeals, and enforcement of judgments and settlements.
During law school, Greg served as a Judicial Extern for Justice Patricia D. Benke, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One and for Judge J. Richard Haden (Ret.), Superior Court of California, County of San Diego. He was also a member of the University of San Diego’s National Moot Court Team and Moot Court Executive Board.
From 1997 to 2002, Greg served as an officer in the United States Navy aboard surface combatant ships actively deployed to areas ranging from the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Japan.
Temitayo (“Ope”) Peters is a partner in the firm’s Oakland office. A member of the firm’s Litigation and Public Law Practice Groups, Ope provides legal representation for counties, cities and other public entities. She also provides litigation assistance to the firm's Employment Law Practice Group.
Prior to joining the firm, Ope worked in various legal capacities for several human rights-focused non-governmental agencies and foreign governments worldwide, and in Washington, D.C. for a prominent lobbying firm.
As a student at Pepperdine University School of Law, Ope earned certificates in International & Comparative Law and Dispute Resolution. She also participated in a mediation clinic where she facilitated the settlement of numerous small claims cases, was a member of the moot court board, and spent two respective semesters studying in Washington, DC and London, England.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Kyle Anne Piasecki is an associate attorney at the Los Angeles office of Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP. She practices with the firm’s Litigation Department.
Kyle Anne received her law degree in 2016 from the University of Michigan Law School. While in law school, she served as a Senior Editor of the Michigan Journal of Law Reform and published an Article in the journal entitled Surviving Preemption in a World of Comprehensive Regulations, 49 U. MICH. J.L. REFORM (2015). Kyle Anne graduated magna cum laude in 2011 from Macalester College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. Prior to joining Burke, Kyle Anne clerked for The Honorable Steven B. Berlin in the Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Maxwell Blum is a partner in Burke’s Oakland office. His practice involves representing public agencies in litigation matters as well as providing advice on compliance issues and assisting with related transactions. Maxwell has worked on litigation cases involving environmental contamination, inverse condemnation, breach of contract, code enforcement, relocation assistance, and other issues. He has also worked as a reviewer for CEB’s Municipal Law Handbook. Prior to joining Burke, Maxwell practiced for several years at an international law firm where he worked on complex commercial litigation and internal investigations.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Mark Austin is a partner at the law firm of Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP, where his practice focuses on public-entity litigation, real estate litigation, corporate/partnership disputes, land-use and environmental litigation, and municipal tort defense (including dangerous condition cases, employment-related torts, and wrongful death matters). Mark has extensive trial experience, having handled multiple successful jury trials, bench trials, and arbitrations, and has successfully argued before the California Court of Appeal over a dozen times.
Mark began his career representing public entities on both litigation and transactional matters, including real-estate transactions and disputes, constitutional claims, complex land-use matters, employment disputes, and tort claims. Since that time, Mark has expanded his practice to include commercial disputes on behalf of businesses and developers of all sizes, private real-estate litigation, and environmental litigation. In his several years of practice, Mark’s clients have included residential and commercial developers, nationally recognized private companies, cities, counties, small businesses, and private homeowners. His focus on real estate litigation has given him substantial insights into drafting pitfalls, disclosure requirements, and judicial interpretations of written agreements.
Mr. Austin has acted as deputy city attorney for several cities, and in 2015 he acted as the Interim City Attorney for the City of Calexico. He has represented the City of Anaheim, the City of Irvine, the City of Dana Point, the City of Torrance, and the City of Vernon, among several others, on multiple high-profile matters and cases.
Oxford Preparatory Academy v. Edlighten Learning Solutions (2019) 34 Cal.App.5th 605 (enforceability of contractual arbitration agreement)
City of Cerritos v. Cerritos Taxpayers Assoc., et al. (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 1417 (complex validation action concerning purchase and development of senior-housing project)
In re County of Monterey Initiative Matter (N.D. Cal. 2006) 427 Fed.Supp.2d 958 (voting rights case)
City of Long Beach v. Department of Industrial Relations (2004) 34 Call.4th 942 (amicus; prevailing wage issue)
Pronouns: he, him, his
For almost two decades, Chip has advised clients in a wide variety of industries on labor and employment matters with a primary focus on traditional labor matters under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). Chip began his career at the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) and has experience settling disputes, drafting collective bargaining agreements, and handling purchase sale agreements, reductions in force, bargaining and effects bargaining, neutrality agreements, and strike contingency planning. He often advises clients in the drafting of employee handbooks, drug and alcohol testing policies, enforceability of arbitration agreements, as well as with regard to wage and hour issues and labor matters under the NLRA. Chip also has experience defending an employer against unfair labor practice charges and allegations of bad faith bargaining before the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Chip’s position as a former attorney for the NLRB allowed him to build a deep and varied skill set for investigating, responding to unfair labor practice charges, and negotiating settlement agreements for unfair labor practices.
Chip began his career as an attorney for the NLRB, serving as an attorney to Board members, as well as an attorney for the Office of Appeals and Region 31. Chip also served as labor counsel to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, where he supported the president and vice president of the organization in various issues related to labor law and assisted the studios effectively arbitrating grievances.
Pronouns: he, him, his
A former professional city planner, Ed Shaffer excels in achieving positive outcomes for environmental, land use, and real estate law clients. He manages regulatory practices and resolves objections by interested parties such as applicants, neighbor groups, agency staff and decision makers.
Ed represents real estate developers, commercial and industrial property owners, and public agencies. He is well versed in EIRs, development agreements and vested rights, general plans and zoning, use permits and subdivision matters.
A major aspect of his practice involves guiding projects through the complex requirements of CEQA environmental review and development approval. In the process, Ed is able to strengthen the defensibility of approvals at risk of litigation.
His prior career as a city planner and planning consultant gives him special insight into the priorities of public officials and the best path to achieving approvals that satisfy all parties. Ed is known for his attention to detail without losing sight of the client’s overall goals, whether spotting serious errors in an EIR, negotiating key terms of a contract, or making sure approval conditions are workable.
Ed works with both buyers and sellers negotiating complex real estate options and purchase agreements, performing due diligence for the transactions, clearing title issues and helping close the deal. He also handles property rights matters, resolving and documenting easements and related issues.
Ed is active in the East Bay Leadership Council, an advocacy organization promoting the economic vitality and quality of life in Contra Costa County, the Bay Area, and the state, and for many years he served as Co-Chair of the Council’s Land Use Task Force and currently sits on the Board of Directors. These efforts involve close interaction with public officials at local, regional and state levels of government as well as key business leaders.
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Jerry Ramiza's practice emphasizes real estate transactional, land use, and public/private partnership development matters.
Real Estate/Land Use/Public-Private Partnerships
Jerry represents private clients and public agencies throughout California in connection with complex real estate and land use matters and transactions. Jerry’s work includes forward planning, assisting with development, land use, entitlement, design review, and permitting processes, environmental review, and CEQA/NEPA compliance. He routinely handles negotiation and documentation of purchase, sale, easement, lease and financing transactions; asset management (including loan administration, property management and landlord/tenant matters); negotiation and drafting of complex development agreements; foreclosures; public trust and tidelands transactions; surplus lands dispositions; workouts and secured transactions; and ancillary matters such as title insurance review, due diligence, environmental risk allocation and hazardous materials/ Brownfields matters. With over 15 years of experience in the redevelopment arena, Jerry is assisting successor agencies throughout the state in the implementation of the redevelopment dissolution act, ABx1 26. He also advises public agency clients in connection with the ferry-system transactions, affordable housing, federal contracting/BRAC process, utilization of federal grants, lease and parking revenue financing and assessment districts.
Charles W. Reese’s over thirty-five years of legal practice include significant litigation experience at both the trial and appellate levels on behalf of both local public entities and private businesses. He has been actively involved with regulatory compliance and cost recovery litigation at many environmentally contaminated sites throughout the western United States, and with numerous transactions involving the acquisition, sale, and environmental regulation of businesses and real property.
Chuck’s background includes litigation and transactional experience in the mining, engineering, chemical, and construction industries and in representing public entities. He is experienced with compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and with air, water, and hazardous substance regulations. He has successfully represented major corporations and numerous public entities in significant cases at both the state and federal trial and appellate levels.
In addition, Chuck is an experienced negotiator and advisor for both public and private entities. He has served on the board of directors of several national environmental engineering and manufacturing corporations. Chuck was the President and CEO of Wulfsberg Reese & Colvig prior to its merger with Burke.
Rick Reynolds practices primarily in the areas of real estate and financial services litigation, business litigation, transactional real estate, lending law, and bankruptcy law on behalf of clients in California, Nevada, and Arizona. He practices in the State, Federal, and Bankruptcy Courts, as well as the Courts of Appeal. His experience includes the purchase and sale of real property and businesses, secured transactions, asset purchases and sales in Bankruptcy, receiverships, partition, easement and boundary disputes, contract and business tort litigation, and foreclosure-related litigation.
The national directory of attorneys Martindale-Hubbell has awarded Rick its AV Preeminent rating, indicating that peers rank him at the highest level of professional excellence.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Steve Roland is active in the handling of real estate litigation involving purchase and sale, leaseholds, secured transactions, land-use and entitlement litigation, eminent domain, inverse condemnation, title issues, CC&R’s and joint venture and partnership disputes. Steve has represented Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, developers, public entities, landlords, tenants, retailers, owner-managers and brokers in matters involving shopping centers, urban and suburban mixed-use projects, condominium developments, office towers, business parks, industrial properties, master planned communities, hotel and resort projects, and mining projects. Steve’s practice also encompasses commercial matters, including unfair competition, trade secret, licensing, partnership and contract issues.
Steve has extensive jury trial, court trial and arbitration experience and has regularly appeared before administrative agencies including planning commissions, city councils and administrative appeals boards.
Steve’s work has involved properties and transactions in numerous states and in England, Canada, Norway and Australia. In addition to practicing in the federal and state courts of California, Steve has been admitted to practice pro hac vice or otherwise provided counsel in matters in Florida, Colorado, Texas, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii, Washington and Delaware.
Steve commenced private practice following clerkships with the California Supreme Court, Honorable Frank Richardson, and the San Francisco Superior Court, Honorable Ira Brown. He has served as an arbitrator and settlement panelist for the San Francisco Superior Court and as an expert witness on matters pertaining to the standard of care of counsel in commercial litigation.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Sergio Rudin is a partner in the Public Law practice group, and provides advisory, transactional, and litigation services to cities, special districts, and other public entities throughout California. His practice includes advising clients on all aspects of municipal law, including charter interpretation, cannabis regulation, conflicts of interest, elections, finance, redevelopment, land use and zoning, real property transactions, telecommunications and water use. Sergio currently serves as City Attorney for the City of Monte Sereno and Assistant City Attorney to the City of Rohnert Park. He also serves as the Assistant General Counsel for the Friant Water Authority, and previously served as Interim City Attorney for the City of South Lake Tahoe. Sergio enjoys developing proactive strategies to help clients complete their goals, avoid litigation risk and quickly resolve litigation whenever possible.
Sergio previously served as staff counsel to the California State Water Resources Control Board, where he advised on various programs for funding drinking water, storm water, and wastewater infrastructure, including the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, negotiated project financing transactions, and advised on state and federal compliance matters. This included counseling the Board on issuance of over $700 million in bonds, and on transactional matters for over 100 individual water and wastewater projects. Prior to state employment, he worked for a private firm primarily representing general contractors in complex commercial litigation in various forums. Sergio also served as a law clerk to Judge Vidmar at the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Deepa Sharma provides litigation and advisory services to a broad range of public and private sector clients throughout California.
While in law school, Deepa served as a law clerk in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which oversees federal grants to state and local transit providers. She interned at the State of California’s Office of Legislative Counsel, where she assisted in drafting legislation in the areas of energy, environmental, transportation, and education law. Deepa also served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Maria P. Rivera of the California Court of Appeal, and was a staff editor and executive board member for the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly.
Before law school, Deepa served as a policy aide in the California State Legislature, and worked as a political consultant to various local and statewide campaigns.
Edith Shea is a partner with the firm and a member of the Litigation Practice Group. An experienced civil litigator, she has represented public and private clients in state and federal actions and appeals for more than twenty-five years. Edith maintains a varied litigation practice and has handled matters in the areas of business litigation, bad faith insurance law, construction, employment and international trade. She has also represented clients in both complex and class actions. Prior to entering the private sector, Edith was a Trial Attorney with the United States Department of Justice. She tried cases to verdict before the United States Court of International Trade and otherwise represented the United States before that court and before the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. She has also tried cases to verdict on behalf of corporate clients, before the United States District Courts and before the Superior Court for the State of California. She has also handled multiple appeals before both the California Court of Appeal and the Ninth Circuit and she has drafted a responsive brief on a writ petition before the United States Supreme Court. Additionally, Edith has successfully resolved numerous matters through dispositive motions and has proven skills in managing discovery and litigation in complex actions. She has extensive experience negotiating for clients in mediations and settlement conferences and has demonstrated her commitment to the efficient resolution of disputes by serving as a Mediator and an Alternative Dispute Resolution Neutral for the Los Angeles Superior Court. In connection with this work, she completed training on Mediating the Litigated Case at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law.
Edith is fluent in Spanish.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Anna Shimko is Chair of Burke's Real Estate and Business Practice Group. She focuses her practice on all areas of land use, real estate development, and environmental law, representing both public agencies and private landowners and developers in administrative and court proceedings to bring projects to fruition. Anna has particular expertise in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). She works closely with project proponents, public agencies, and environmental consultants on preparing and defending CEQA and NEPA documents such as negative declarations, environmental impact reports (EIRs), and environmental impact statements (EISs), including for complex projects such as water rights transfers, multi-phased mixed-use projects and large campus master plans. Anna helps private clients through all stages of the land use approval process, obtaining entitlements to build or expand large shopping centers, stand-alone retail stores, mixed-use projects, hospitals, hotels and resorts, golf courses, residential developments, and quarries, among others. She also assists cities, counties, special districts, and state agencies in regulating land and development, negotiating real estate transactional documents and development agreements, and updating general plans, specific plans, and zoning codes. Anna represents clients in matters involving the Subdivision Map Act, annexation, historic resources, public-private partnership transactions and financing mechanisms, the Coastal Act, air quality regulations, water supply, climate change regulations, transportation planning, eminent domain, and inverse condemnation. Anna litigates land use, CEQA, and NEPA matters for public and private clients at trial court and appellate court levels, and serves as an expert witness throughout California in cases involving land use development issues.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Kevin represents cities and other local agencies regarding a wide range of public law matters, including land use and planning, CEQA and environmental law, inverse condemnation and eminent domain, open meeting and public records, taxes and assessments, elections and initiatives, contracts and torts, and due process and other issues of constitutional law. Kevin provides litigation as well as advisory services.
Kevin joined Burke, Williams & Sorensen in August 2012. Prior to joining Burke, Kevin was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Oakland, where he specialized in writs and appeals. Previously, Kevin was a shareholder at McDonough Holland & Allen, where he litigated cases for public agencies across the State, and a Legal Research Attorney for the San Francisco Superior Court, where he advised judges regarding complex litigation.
Kevin endeavors to reach positive outcomes for his clients, without litigation. But when litigation is necessary, Kevin zealously pursues successful outcomes in court.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Charlie Slyngstad is the Chair of the Litigation Practice Group. His public law and private client practice involves the relationships between employers and employees, businesses and contracting parties, and lawyers and clients. He has experience as lead trial counsel in cases that included allegations of fraud, real estate fraud, employee whistleblowing and retaliation, race discrimination, the False Claims Act, conflicts of interest, employee pension and welfare benefits, wrongful termination, legal malpractice, malicious prosecution, alter ego, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and breach of joint venture and purchase agreements. He also has handled many appeals, for both public and private clients.
Labor and Employment Law
Charlie has represented private and public employers in employment matters, providing preventive counseling and litigation defense against various legal theories. His representation has involved different industries, including health care, transportation, travel, entertainment, employee benefits, apparel, real estate, and housing. He has advised the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles since 2006, for which he has successfully prosecuted former employees and others who misused federal funds provided to the agency.
In several lengthy employment jury trials in Los Angeles Superior Court, Charlie was lead counsel for his client in reaching verdicts on whistleblower retaliation claims. He served as the primary attorney for a national employee benefits firm in a Department of Labor lead enforcement case in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. His class action experience has included serving as appointed class counsel on behalf of Plaintiff and Defendant classes.
Charlie is certified as a specialist in Legal Malpractice Law by the Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California, a subject area that includes the prosecution and defense of lawyers in professional liability disputes, conflicts of interest, ethics, malicious prosecution, and anti-SLAPP motions. In addition to matters involving lawyers and clients, he also has handled many complex business litigation cases for private companies, and claims for and against qui tam plaintiffs and others under the federal and state False Claims Acts in the healthcare, defense, entertainment, and housing industries. Additional cases have included a wide variety of other torts, including accounting malpractice, securities fraud and multiple fraudulent Ponzi schemes, violations of Business & Professions Code section 17200, creditors’ claims, false advertising, real estate transactions, bank fraud, and trademarks and trade names. He has taken to trial more than 35 such cases in California courts, including federal courts.
Real Estate and Business Law
Charlie, in association with bankruptcy counsel, advised Victor Valley Community Hospital as special corporate and litigation counsel in connection with obtaining the consent of the California Attorney General to sell all of its assets and thereafter confirming its Chapter 11 Plan of Liquidation. He has acted as outside counsel and provided advice to a number of businesses, including other health care enterprises, closely-held companies, and sole proprietorships. He currently acts as outside general counsel for the Odd Fellows Home of California, which owns and operates two large retirement communities in Napa and Saratoga, a role he also performed for Victor Valley Community Hospital from 1995-2011. In addition, Charlie has assisted court-appointed receivers in workouts and liquidations of businesses under court supervision.
Pronouns: he, him, his
A recognized figure in his field of eminent domain, Alan Sozio has played a lead role in numerous multi-parcel property acquisition projects throughout California. In addition to providing eminent domain legal services to more than 17 public agencies, Alan has since 2001 served as special acquisition counsel for the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority in property acquisitions spanning more than 11 grade separation projects in the San Gabriel Valley. He is the co-author of the seminal practice guide used by public agency practitioners entitled “Eminent Domain: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Acquisition of Real Property,” and is the author of the popular eminent domain blog, “Right to Take | Doing it the Right (of) Way—Recommended Steps for the Acquisition of Real Property by Eminent Domain.” He is active in the eminent domain legal community where he is a frequent speaker and author on topics related to condemnation.
Alan counsels public clients on early considerations and pre-acquisition activities necessary to the condemnation process. He litigates eminent domain and inverse condemnation actions and, when necessary, takes the matters through trial. Alan also drafts transactional documents, including purchase and sale agreements, right-of-entry agreements and leases, and provides advice regarding state and federal relocation assistance. He has appeared in both open and closed session with city councils, agency boards and other legislative bodies to speak on matters related to the acquisition of property and the condemnation process.
In addition to eminent domain actions, Alan litigates matters involving physical and regulatory takings, contractual and boundary disputes, unlawful detainer matters, land use and real estate issues.
In 2005, Alan successfully completed the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Trial Advocacy Program. Thereafter, on a pro bono basis, Alan prosecuted to verdict criminal cases, and obtained favorable bench rulings in evidentiary trials, for the cities of Anaheim and Inglewood.
Alan is a Brown Belt in the Israeli self-defense system of Krav Maga, and is a former "AA" rated competitive beach volleyball player. When not at the office, he enjoys surfing, skiing, and relaxing with his family on the beach.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Benjamin Stock is an accomplished litigator in both state and federal courts. His litigation and transactional practice emphasizes municipal law, eminent domain, land use, and construction law. Additionally, Ben serves as Town Attorney for both Ross and Tiburon, City Attorney for the cities of Benicia and Foster City, and General Counsel for Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority, Sanitary District Number 5, Sausalito-Marin City Sanitary District, and Vallejo Flood and Wastewater District.
With regard to his eminent domain practice, Ben plays a key role in public clients' property acquisition activities. He counsels public clients on early considerations and pre-acquisition activities necessary to the condemnation process. He also litigates condemnation actions, negotiates settlements and, when necessary, takes the matters through trial. Additionally, Ben drafts transactional documents related to the acquisition of property through eminent domain. He is currently assisting multiple public entities with their condemnation needs throughout the state. Ben has spoken at numerous conferences on issues involving eminent domain.
In addition to eminent domain, Ben has extensive experience representing public entities in litigation at both the trial court and appellate court levels. His areas of specialization include inverse condemnation and land use, CEQA, breach of contract, environmental law, and dangerous conditions public liability.
Ben also assists numerous public entities across the state on complex land use matters and in tax allocation matters before the State Board of Equalization.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Katy Suttorp, a partner in the Orange County office of Burke, Williams and Sorensen, LLP, represents and counsels a wide range of employers, including municipalities, special districts, school districts, community college districts, and private entities, in numerous labor and employment law matters. These include disability accommodation and interactive process, employee discipline and due process, leaves and benefits, state and federal wage and hour audits and disputes, wrongful termination, workplace investigations, Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act/Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, employee speech and privacy, workplace violence, pre-employment and privacy issues, including drug and alcohol testing, HIPAA/California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, and CalPERS and CalSTRS audits and disputes. In connection with that representation, Katy has drafted and revised a variety of personnel rules and employee handbooks, personnel-related ordinances and resolutions, board policies and administrative regulations, collective bargaining agreements/memoranda of understanding, and employer-employee resolutions/local rules.
To further educate clients regarding many of these issues, Katy has developed in-depth, customized training focused on clients’ particular problems and areas of concern, including interactive process and reasonable accommodation, discipline and due process, performance evaluations, and prevention of harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and abusive conduct.
Katy also provides advice and representation for a variety of labor matters, including acting as lead negotiator, representing agencies in proceedings before PERB, and providing workplace training addressing challenges in supervising represented employees.
During law school, Katy clerked at the U.C. Davis office of the Campus Counsel and served as a summer extern for the Honorable Gary A. Feess, a judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. She also served as editor-in-chief of the environmental law and policy journal, Environs. In recent years, Katy completed a two-year appointment to the Program Review Committee for the American Inns of Court.
Pronouns: he, him, hisEducation and Employment
Brian Pierik received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Loyola University in Los Angeles and his Juris Doctor degree from Loyola School of Law. Brian has been a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen since 1982.
Brian is the City Attorney for the City of Camarillo, the City of Atascadero, the City of Carmel by-the-Sea, and the City of Pacific Grove. He is Legal Counsel for the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission.
Brian has also served as special counsel to over 40 public agencies in California in a wide range of matters including: Brown Act, Public Records Act, conflicts of interest, land use, property transactions (sales, purchases, leases, easements, licenses), LAFCO, annexations, drafting ordinances, resolutions and contracts, AB 1234 training, elections, transportation; public works, airport issues, civil rights, planning, environmental, growth control, administrative law, tort and other liability, employment law, litigation, appeals, eminent domain, inverse condemnation, land movement, and many other public law matters.
Brian has written and presented papers before the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities, City Attorneys’ Association of Los Angeles County, California Specialized Training Institute, Public Works Officers Institute, City Clerk’s Department of the League of California Cities, and Southern California Water Utilities Association.
Brian has successfully represented many public agencies throughout California in litigation in both the trial courts and appellate courts. Representative cases include:
Land Use: City of Goleta v. Superior Court, 40 Cal. 4th 270 (2006). The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City finding that a newly incorporated City has the authority to deny the Final Map.
Land Use: Gong v. City of Rosemead, 226 Cal. App. 4th 363 (2014). This is an important case for public agencies with regard to many issues including the discussion on Government Code Section 815.3, the Government Code claims requirement, judicial notice, and the immunity provisions of Government Code Section 818.4.
Brown Act: Taxpayers for Livable Communities v. City of Malibu, 126 Cal. App. 4th 1123 (2005). Brian successfully represented the City at trial of this Brown Act case.
CEQA: SCOPE v. City of Santa Clarita, 197 Cal. App. 4th 1042 (2011). Brian represented the City at the trial on the Petition for Writ of Mandate. The trial court ruled in favor of the City and the judgment was affirmed on appeal.
CEQA: Save Atascadero v. City of Atascadero, 2014 WL 3105199 (July 8, 2014). Petition for Writ of Mandate challenging the City of Atascadero’s approval of the Del Rio Commercial Specific Plan. The trial court ruled in favor of the City which was sustained on appeal.
CEQA: SCOPE v. City of Santa Clarita; Vista Canyon Ranch, 2014 WL 7204118 (2014). Petition for Writ of Mandate alleging CEQA violations by the City on a 185 acre residential and commercial project. The trial court ruled in favor of the Petitioner. On appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court decision and ruled in favor of the City.
Election Contest: Tran v. City of Rosemead, LASC Case No. GS 011559 (June 2009). Petition for Writ of Mandate in which Brian successfully represented the City at trial. Former Mayor John Tran alleged the City wrongfully rejected absentee ballots on the basis of signatures which did not match the voter registration signature.
Eminent Domain: City of Santa Clarita v. NTS Systems, 137 Cal. App. 4th 264 (2006). Eminent domain case to acquire property for the construction of a major arterial road in the City. Brian was trial counsel for the City of Santa Clarita. The trial court ruled in favor of the City and the judgment was affirmed on appeal.
Brian has substantial experience in all phases public works, examples include:
Springfield Interchange: Completed in 2012 on time and within budget, the Springville Interchange was constructed on U.S. 101 in the City of Camarillo at a cost $40 million. Brian assisted with many phases of the Springville Interchange Project including review of bid documents and advice on construction issues.
Camarillo Library: Opened in 2007, this new Library project came in on time and within budget, replacing the former library, and at 65,621 square feet is one of the best libraries in the State of California. Brian assisted with site acquisition, annexation issues with LAFCO, grant funding, and construction issues on this $28 million project.
Atascadero City Hall Project: Brian was involved in providing legal advice to the City of Atascadero on a major reconstruction project of the Atascadero Historic City Hall with a project cost of $33 million. The project was completed in 2015 on time and within budget.
Water Desalinization Plant: This City of Camarillo project began construction in 2019 and will be completed in 2021 at a cost of approximately $50 million. The Plant will treat groundwater that is high in salt content in order to provide potable water for the community. Brian has assisted in all phases of this project including site acquisition, annexation issues with LAFCO, drafting of bid documents and contracts and construction issues.
City of Santa Clarita Bridge and Roadway Projects: Brian has advised the City of Santa Clarita on numerous major bridge and roadway projects including advice on preparation of bid documents, review and analysis of bids, evaluation of bid protests, construction management issues, surety issues, liquidated damages, stop notices, change orders, extra work and delay claims and arbitration.
Brian has extensive experience in real property transactions, examples include:
Sale of City Property for Hotel Conference Center: A $70 million project; Brian assisted with the sale of 12 acres to the developer and the contracts for public improvements.
Sale of Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District Property: The District owns 13 acres in the City of Simi Valley that was utilized for District offices and other purposes. Brian assisted the District with sale of property for $21 million.
Purchase: Alamos Canyon, Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. Brian assisted Park District with the acquisition of 326 acres in Alamos Canyon for open space including 55 acres of sensitive habitat.
Sale: Former Camarillo Library. Brian has assisted City staff with the potential reuse of the former library and a proposed sale to a non-profit to construct and operate a children’s museum at the site.
Purchase: Guardian Building, Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. Brian assisted the District with purchase of a building on Guardian in the City of Simi Valley for $9 million as the new site for District Administrative Offices, recreational facilities and maintenance facilities.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Traci Park exclusively advises and assists employers and management in labor and employment law and civil rights litigation. Her wide-ranging practice includes representing clients in FEHA, Title VII, wrongful termination, employee compensation, and civil rights matters. Traci has extensive trial and appellate experience, and she regularly handles grievance arbitrations, disciplinary appeals, administrative hearings, and agency investigations.
Traci also has a significant counseling practice, which includes drafting employment policies, performing employment law compliance audits, and advising on employee discipline, performance management, and due process issues. Traci is a member of the Association of Workplace Investigators and frequently serves as a personnel investigator and neutral fact-finder.
Traci regularly advises employers about issues and policies related to cyber-security, social media, and on-line conduct of employees and elected officials, and she regularly writes for the California Lawyer Magazine Social Media Column. She contributes to a number of treatises, including the 2010-2018 editions of Legal Trends and the 2001-2007 editions of The California Employer. Traci recently authored articles on use of social media by police, social media policies for public entities, defining on-line threats, social media and the First Amendment, and litigating sexual harassment in the #MeToo environment.
Traci is an experienced trainer who has conducted hundreds of seminars on all aspects of employment law and civil litigation. Her recent presentations include Facebook and the First Amendment, hacking and cyber-misconduct, privacy and privilege in litigation, harassment prevention, social media in the workplace, managing difficult employees, HR boot camp for managers, workplace hazing, bullying and violence, administering protected leaves of absence, strategies to prevent lawsuits arising from terminations, disability discrimination, conducting lawful workplace investigations, and effective discipline and workplace documentation.
Traci regularly conducts employment law training for members of the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority. She has recently presented for the California State Bar and the PARMA, IPMA-HR International, CalPELRA, CSDA and League of California Cities conferences, among others.
Traci likes surfing, Facebook, and the Los Angeles Chargers.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Nathan Oyster’s practice at Burke focuses on two main areas: He defends law enforcement officers and local governments in civil rights litigation, and he provides guidance to law enforcement agencies on the implementation of policies that reduce the likelihood of litigation.
Nathan’s litigation experience is extensive, and he currently serves as the lead police litigator for the cities of Alhambra and Rialto, in addition to his work as outside counsel for agencies throughout the state He has tried cases in both state and federal court, with his first jury trial coming at age 24. He has also argued before both the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the California Court of Appeal. Nathan has defended nearly every type of police litigation that an agency could face, including officer-involved shootings, deaths due to excited delirium, class action litigation, malicious prosecution claims, allegations of excessive force, and allegations of unconstitutional jail conditions. He is adept at defending litigation brought under Section 1983, the Unruh Act, the Ralph Act, and the Bane Act.
Since joining Burke, Nathan has added advisory work to his litigation practice. Nathan advises law enforcement agencies throughout the state on a variety of policy issues. Nathan is particularly focused on issues pertaining to police body-worn cameras, and he has lectured on that topic in multiple venues. Representative clients include the cities of Alhambra, Culver City, Delano, Hemet, Long Beach, and Rialto.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Nick Muscolino is a partner in the firm’s Oakland office. Nick specializes in the legal and procedural defenses available to public entities under California law. He has successfully represented public entities in trial and appellate courts throughout California in disputes concerning inverse condemnation, preemption, eminent domain, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), water rights, flood and storm water diversions, public nuisance, negligence, quiet title, breach of contract, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the Fair Housing Act, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the First Amendment, Section 1983, preemption, redevelopment dissolution, local land use and zoning, and general plan consistency.
Nick also provides advisory services to cities and other public entities. He has served as a deputy or assistant city attorney to several cities. In that capacity, he advises on the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, CEQA, litigation, mobilehome issues, civil rights issues, affordable housing, and other areas of general municipal law. Nick drafts the staff reports, resolutions, ordinances, and agreements (e.g., purchase and sale, joint powers, loan, disposition and development), that public agencies need to serve the public. He also provides opinion letters on the legality of various housing preferences under state and federal law, and other land use and zoning-related issues.
Nick graduated Order of the Coif from the University of California, Davis in 2009, where he served as an Executive Editor of the Journal of Environmental Law and Policy. After law school, Nick served as a law clerk to the Honorable Justice Morgan Christen of the Alaska Supreme Court (now of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) in Anchorage before entering private practice at a large law firm in San Francisco.
Nick works closely with clients to understand their goals and to determine how to achieve their desired outcomes in the most cost-effective and timely manner.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Karen Murphy is a partner in Burke’s Oakland office and has been representing public agencies for over 20 years. She currently serves as the General Counsel of Union Sanitary District, and advises numerous public agencies on a full range of municipal law issues, including Brown Act, Public Records Act, conflict of interest laws, public contract code, code enforcement, contract review, and bidding and claims procedures. Karen served as the Assistant City Attorney of the City of Brentwood from 2006 to 2011, where she was the primary attorney staffing the Community Development Department and former Redevelopment Agency. From 1999 to 2006, Karen was an associate with the law firm of McDonough Holland & Allen, PC
Karen also has particular expertise advising public agencies on land use and development, housing and real estate issues. She advises public agencies on CEQA compliance, the subdivision map act, and land use approval procedures and processing of land use applications for projects ranging from use permits to complex commercial, mixed-use and residential projects. More recently, she has advised cities on the implementation of California’s new housing laws, including SB 330. In addition, Karen has negotiated and drafted development agreements and amendments for hotel, residential and mixed-use development projects.
Karen’s real estate experience includes drafting and negotiating purchase and sale agreements, leases, easements, licenses, and disposition and development agreements.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Gregory Murphy is a trusted advisor, counselor, and transactional attorney for public entities throughout California. He currently serves as City Attorney for the cities of Buellton, Lawndale and Temple City. Greg also has over 13 years’ experience serving as Assistant or Deputy City Attorney to a number of the firm’s municipal clients and legal counsel to the firm’s joint powers authority and special district clients.
Greg regularly advises elected and appointed officials, navigating delicate issues with politically-divergent boards. He presents clearly and in real-world terms the impacts of legal constraints on agency activities. Greg takes time to understand clients’ long- and short-term goals and how the law affects those objectives, finding ways to achieve them whenever possible. His focus on crafting legal advice that is practical, workable, and client-centered creates confidence and lasting relationships.
Experienced in the areas of land use and development, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), public contract law, prevailing wage law, purchases and sales of real property, and municipal economic issues, Greg has advised developers and public contractors as well as public entities. He attends planning and community development commission meetings and handles closed-session briefings of legislative bodies. He also advises on a number of election law issues ranging from charter amendments and ballot designations to election contests and post-contest litigation. Greg also engages in litigation related to land use, tax, contract, and election issues.
What I’ve Learned: Be creative. If you start a project thinking you can find a way to accomplish it, you’ll often be right. If you start by thinking you can’t accomplish it, you’ll always be right.
Mark Mulkerin's practice includes litigation and commercial matters for public and private entities in a wide variety of subject matters.
Mark has successfully represented clients in eminent domain, inverse condemnation, land use, ground and riparian water matters, public works, construction law and construction defect actions, business and finance matters, products liability, complex business and personal tort, and computer and Internet-related litigation.
Mark has successfully defended public entities, developers, and general contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, and other design professionals in multi-party construction defect actions, as well as in general legal matters. He also has successfully represented public entities, businesses, and individuals both in the defense and prosecution of civil litigation claims. Mark has also represented EarthLink Network, Inc. and other commercial enterprises in computer law, general business, and Internet-related matters.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Monica Sanchez McQueen is a partner in Burke’s Los Angeles office, representing public and private sector clients in labor and employment law matters.
Monica has represented and advised employers on matters involving numerous federal and state law claims, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, defamation, leaves of absence, whistleblower violations, freedom of speech, and association, privacy, and wage and hour, including collective and class action suits. In addition, Monica’s practice includes representation of public employers in areas unique to public employment such as due process, disciplinary procedures, the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, CalPERS, and the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act and the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act.
Monica has an extensive counseling practice, focusing on preventive measures of employment and labor law. In this regard, she has drafted and revised employee handbooks, personnel rules, personnel ordinances, updated specific policies and advised public agencies on the handling of a variety of employment matters. Monica has developed and led comprehensive wage and hour audits analyzing City-wide practices of a broad range of job positions and industries and recommended changes to policies, procedures and collective bargaining agreements to ensure compliance with all aspects of state and federal wage and hour laws. Monica has evaluated and responded to CalPERS’ comprehensive pension audit findings of City-wide compensation and reporting practices and developed and implemented policies and procedures to ensure future compliance with CalPERS' rules and regulations.
Monica has represented public agencies in all aspects of labor and has identified issues to bargain, recommended, drafted and responded to proposals, advised lead negotiators and members of bargaining teams, has acted as negotiator for police, fire and miscellaneous unions during labor negotiations, and drafted and oversaw implementation of labor agreements. In addition to labor negotiations, Monica has extensive experience in handling related labor relations matters, such as grievances, PERB proceedings including unfair practices, unit recognition, unit modification, elections, and unit decertification. Monica has negotiated and drafted employment contracts for high-level employees. She also conducts a variety of workplace trainings for managers and employees on matters such as the prevention of discrimination and harassment, workplace violence and working in the public sector.
While attending the University of California, Los Angeles, Monica interned at the United States Department of Education, in the Office of the Secretary, in Washington D.C. While in law school, she was a member of the San Diego Law Review. She was also the secretary for Phi Delta Phi, a legal honor fraternity, and the Secretary for the Hispanic National Bar Association, Law Student Division. Monica studied at the University of San Diego Institute of International and Comparative Law in Barcelona, Spain and Oxford, England.
Pronouns: he, him, his
John McOsker has been a complex business litigator and labor and employment litigator and day-to-day advisor since he joined the State Bar of California in 1993. Throughout his career he has served in various roles for the firms with which he was affiliated including managing partner, litigation group chair, business litigation subcommittee chair and management advisory board. Upon graduation from law school and admission to the bar, John’s practice has been focused on business litigation and labor and employment in the private security, healthcare, insurance, and aviation sectors. John has defended companies in various forms of administrative hearings, agency enforcement actions, and adversarial proceedings, including in front of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Small Business Administration, the United States Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, the California Attorney General, CA DFEH and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, as well as in state and federal courts across the state and country.
John represents employers in a wide variety of employment-related matters, including both defense of litigation and day-to-day counseling regarding employment decisions, employee conflict and liability avoidance, and legal compliance. John is a member of the LA County Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Section, which concerns itself with significant developments in employment discrimination law. John has not only experienced labor and employment from a lawyer’s perspective, but he has actively and directly managed legal departments, compliance departments and human resources staffs both in-house and as a dedicated outside Legal/HR Manager, for over a decade. As a result, John has not only first-hand experience giving sound labor and employment advice, but also on-the-ground experience executing legal, compliance and human resources strategies.
Additionally, John assists employers developing strategies to avoid litigation. This includes working with employers to modify employment policies and practices, conducting workplace investigations, engaging in workplace counseling/interactive process, and drafting employee handbooks, employment agreements, arbitration agreements and severance agreements. John assists employers with devising and executing recruiting strategies, reductions-in-force, onboarding and off-boarding. John helps employers devise and roll-out policies that enhance clients’ objectives while complying with the law.
Finally, John has a significant traditional labor law practice, both transactional and adversarial. John negotiates and drafts collective bargaining agreements and memoranda of understanding covering workforces in the service industries spanning unique and diverse jurisdictions, across the state and country. In addition to negotiating and drafting agreements, John defends grievances, conducts arbitrations, represents clients on Unfair Labor Practice charges, participates in representation hearings, elections, de-certifications, and other NLRB proceedings.
John’s entire legal career has been spent in and around Los Angeles and he has volunteered his time and expertise to the local community. He was appointed by Mayor James K. Hahn to serve on the Harbor Area Planning Commission and did so from 2001-2006. He served as the Commission’s President from 2002-2006. In addition to his service on the Area Planning Commission, he was appointed to membership on the Port Community Advisory Committee. He has volunteered as a member of the Board of Managers of the San Pedro Peninsula YMCA since 2005 and has been a legal volunteer for the St. Lawrence Brindisi/Watts Youth Center since 1995. John is a founding Board Member of LA Fleet Week, a non-profit established to annually host the United States Navy for fleet activities in the Los Angeles Harbor beginning 2016.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Stephen A. McEwen joined Burke in 2003. Stephen currently serves as the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Atascadero. He previously served as City Attorney for Buellton and Laguna Woods and Assistant City Attorney for the cities of Hemet and Stanton. In these roles, Stephen has drafted numerous ordinances and resolutions and has advised cities on a wide range of legal issues with a special emphasis on the Public Records Act, the Brown Act, and code enforcement. Stephen has also utilized his extensive constitutional law background to advise municipal clients on First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment issues.
Stephen is responsible for supervising code enforcement efforts for Burke’s municipal clients. In this capacity, he utilizes the full range of code enforcement tools, including informal office conferences, inspection warrants, administrative hearings, civil nuisance actions, and misdemeanor prosecutions. Although his emphasis in this area is on resolving code violations without the need for judicial intervention, he has successfully prosecuted numerous code enforcement cases to completion. Stephen obtained a guilty verdict from a jury on all counts against a property owner for maintaining multiple building code and property maintenance violations. He obtained guilty verdicts against two defendants for operating an unpermitted nightclub. He has also obtained preliminary and permanent injunctions in multiple code enforcement matters involving zoning violations, public nuisance conditions, and unpermitted marijuana facilities.
In addition to his code enforcement prosecution experience, Stephen has handled a broad array of litigation for the firm's municipal and governmental clients, including disputes involving eminent domain, inverse condemnation, tort liability, construction defects, construction contract disputes, CEQA, and the Federal Civil Rights Act. He served as co-counsel in a successful bench trial regarding a client's right to take property through eminent domain. Stephen successfully defended the City of East Palo Alto in a trial involving alleged Brown Act and Due Process violations.
Stephen advises municipal clients throughout the state on issues related to medicinal and adult-use marijuana. He has obtained numerous preliminary injunctions against unpermitted dispensaries and successfully defended cities against an array of constitutional and state law challenges brought by dispensary operators. In 2012, he authored the League of California Cities’ amicus brief in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, Inc., in which the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that local governments have zoning authority to prohibit medicinal marijuana dispensaries within their boundaries. As a result of this work, Stephen was appointed in 2014 to the League of California Cities Ad Hoc Cannabis Regulation Committee. He also served two terms as the City Attorney Department representative for the League’s Public Safety Policy Committee from 2014-2015.
After law school graduation, Stephen clerked for Judge Arthur L. Alarcon on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He later served as a Deputy Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the California Department of Justice. As a prosecutor, Stephen represented the state in two successful trial-level prosecutions, over seventy felony criminal appeals in the California Court of Appeal, and over eighty habeas corpus proceedings in federal district court and the Ninth Circuit. In November 2002, he represented the California Department of Corrections successfully in an evidentiary hearing in Federal District Court in a case involving allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Nancy Marr brings a national perspective to her ERISA and insurance litigation practice. Serving as in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 insurance company on the East Coast, she managed cases across several circuits. She previously practiced with a boutique litigation firm in Los Angeles. Her current focus is in litigation involving life, health and disability coverage, ERISA fiduciary liability, annuity contracts, and bad faith actions.
While in law school, Nancy was a judicial extern for Hon. Dickran Tevrizian, United States District Court, Central District of California, and a note and comment editor for the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Journal.
Words of wisdom from a senior partner before a first court appearance, “Remember who your client is and know your way to the courthouse.”
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Dan Maguire is a partner in Burke’s Palm Desert office. He counsels life, health, and disability insurers in pre-litigation, coverage, trial, and appellate matters.
Dan represents our clients in individual and group disability, life, long-term care and investment product disputes. He is a frequent speaker on insurance and ERISA matters, and has given presentations at numerous national conferences including the Defense Research Institute, ALI/ABA, American Conference Institute, International Disability Insurance Society, Association of Life Insurance Counsel, and Eastern Claims Conference, for which he acts as Vice-President. He is Past Chair of the Health and Disability Insurance Law Committee of ABA-TIPS. His pro bono work has included client representation through Los Angeles Public Counsel, and the Public Service Law Corporation. Dan is also a licensed California Real Estate Broker.
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Eric S. Vail, a Partner of Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP, is Chair of the firm’s robust Public Law Practice Group and serves on the firm’s Management Committee. During his twenty-five-plus years practicing public law, he has gained invaluable experience representing a variety of public entities as either general or special counsel, and become fluent in general municipal law; problem-solving, conflicts of interest and public transparency, land use, public transactions, transition issues and joint powers authorities. Currently, Eric serves as City Attorney for the City of Cathedral City and as General Counsel to SunLine Transit Agency. He is also currently serving as Interim City Attorney for the City of Rialto.
Through the years Eric has also represented a number of other public entities as City Attorney, Interim City Attorney, Assistant City Attorney, or special counsel, including the City of Hemet, City of Temple City, City of Rialto, Omnitrans, Orange County Development Authority, City of Moreno Valley, Riverside Redevelopment Agency, the Housing Authority for the County of San Bernardino, the Goleta Redevelopment Agency, Riverside County Education Foundation, and Housing Partners I, Inc., Hemet Community Land Trust, Port Hueneme Redevelopment Agency, City of Lawndale, City of Elk Grove, City of Banning, City of Lake Forest, City of Hesperia, City of Ontario, and the Chaffey Joint Union High School District.
Offering practical legal solutions to organizational problems are Eric’s hallmark. He has experience with recall elections, term limits and citizen initiatives. He has helped City Councils negotiate and contract with new and outgoing city managers and other department heads, and has helped navigate difficult retirement, discipline and dismissal of employees. In his capacity as City Attorney, Eric has administered legal resources and overseen cost containment and cost avoidance programs for his clients and managed legal staffs of up to 30 legal service providers.
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Erica Vega has dedicated her entire legal career to the representation of cities and other public agencies across California. She serves as City Attorney for the City of Eastvale and General Counsel to West Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District. She is also Assistant City Attorney for the cities of Cathedral City and Wildomar, Assistant Town Attorney for the Town of Yucca Valley, Deputy City Attorney for the City of Rialto, and Assistant General Counsel to Sunline Transit Agency. Erica has worked with numerous other public agencies in both general and special counsel roles throughout her 15 years of practice.
Erica serves as a trusted advisor to public agency governing bodies, commissions, and staff on a wide array of legal issues, including transparency and conflict of interest laws, planning and zoning laws, housing, first amendment issues, elections, and solid waste laws and regulations, among others. She ensures that she delivers advice to clients in a manner that is understandable and contains practical guidance that can be readily applied in the real world. In providing advice, Erica focuses on both legal compliance and risk assessment, understanding that many complex situations faced by public agencies do not have clear cut answers.
Erica has extensive experience advising cities on land use and environmental issues related to proposed development projects, including large private development projects and public infrastructure improvements. Erica routinely advises public agencies on CEQA compliance throughout the project processing and approval process. She has reviewed CEQA documents for and advised on freeway interchange improvements and major state highway projects, General and Specific Plans, large commercial and mixed use developments, university campus expansions, hospitals, and a master planned development proposing over 1,000 new homes. She has also assisted agencies in obtaining permits and approvals from the federal, state and regional environmental regulatory agencies.
Erica advises agencies on the conduct of local elections. In particular, Erica has extensive experience advising on ballot measures, whether initiated by the agency or voter petition. She has worked on numerous initiatives, referendums, and recall attempts, including situations where there are competing ballot measures. Erica is knowledgeable on the local elections process from start to finish. She has drafts ballot measures and impartial analyses and works closely with the local elections official to ensure Elections Code procedures and requirements are satisfied.
Erica also advises cities on the rapidly evolving area of cannabis regulation and taxation. She has drafted ordinances establishing cannabis business regulatory programs and taxes, working collaboratively with city staff, law enforcement, and stakeholders in the process. She advises city staff throughout the business licensing and land use permitting processes.
Erica is an active in organizations representing the interests of public agencies. She currently serves on the League of California Cities’ Governance, Transparency and Labor Relations Policy Committee. She previously served for six years on the Public Records Act Committee of the League’s City Attorney’s Department. She is a contributor to the League's publications on the Public Records Act, "The People's Business," conflicts of interest, “Providing Conflict of Interest Advice,” and the Municipal Law Handbook.
A graduate of Smith College, Erica majored in Government. She also studied in Geneva, Switzerland, where she was enrolled at the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute for International Studies, and interned at the Center for International Environmental Law. Erica obtained her Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Hastings. At UC Hastings, Erica focused her studies on public law and policy. She participated in the school's Center for State and Local Government Law and Public Law Research Institute.
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Jack P. Lipton is a Partner and is Chair of our Education Law Practice Group. His practice encompasses a wide range of areas, particularly involving public and private schools and colleges. Jack Lipton has experience in collective bargaining, special education, school facilities, governance, student discipline, human resources, the Brown Act, accreditation, licensing, financial aid, construction, real property transactions, interpretation of the Education Code and Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, contract review, and other legal issues affecting educational institutions, and he has handled cases in both state and federal courts as well as with the Public Employment Relations Board, the Bureau for Private Post-Secondary Education, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Employment Commission. Jack, who has a Ph.D. in Psychology, has a special interest in the field of psychology-and-law. Jack also has extensive litigation experience, and he has handled writs and appeals before the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Jack has served on the Editorial Board for the Journal of College and University Law, published by the National Association of College and University Attorneys.
Jack received his J.D. degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Arizona College of Law, where he served as Articles Editor of the Arizona Law Review and graduated in the top 4% of his class. After law school, Jack served as a Law Clerk to the late Hon. Thomas Tang at the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
A member of the California Bar, Jack is admitted to practice in the Northern, Eastern, and Central Districts of the U.S. District Court in California, as well as before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Jack received a B.A. degree in Psychology, cum laude, from U.C.L.A. He earned a Master’s degree in Social Psychology from California State University, Northridge, and his Master’s thesis concerned psychological aspects of eyewitness testimony. Jack received a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside; Jack’s doctoral dissertation, sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department, dealt with juries.
Jack Lipton is Principal Bassist and a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Lawyers’ Philharmonic Orchestra.
Prior to becoming an attorney, Jack had a career as an academic psychologist and taught at Humboldt State University, Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. Also, before earning his Ph.D., Jack taught at Chaffey College, Fullerton College, and San Bernardino Valley College. Jack has been an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University, and at Southwestern University School of Law, where he teaches Education Law.
Jack Lipton has served as a Mediator and an Arbitrator, and he was Foreperson of the Grand Jury for the Central District of California.
Jack has served as Chair of the Committee on Legal Issues of the American Psychological Association (“APA”) where he was involved with amicus briefs on behalf of the APA. Though currently inactive, Jack is licensed or certified to practice psychology in California, Arizona, and New York. As a psychologist, Jack has served as a consultant in both the public and private sectors, and he has regularly testified as an expert witness.
Jack is widely published and has given lectures and presentations in forums throughout the United States and abroad such as at universities and professional conferences. Jack also provides legal assistance to psychologists and other mental health professionals.
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Martin Kosla primarily practices in the areas of real estate, business and public law.
Martin has handled numerous judicial foreclosure matters for public entities concerning delinquent special taxes and assessments, including assisting clients with complex workouts, and taking judicial foreclosure cases to trial. He also has experience in handling real estate transactions, including preparing agreements related to the purchase, sale, and lease of real estate. He has experience is drafting various agreements concerning real property, including purchase and sale agreement, easements and deeds of trust, as well as affordable housing agreements. (Martin is also licensed as a real estate broker in California.)
He has also handled a broad range of business litigation cases ranging from defending companies for breach of contract arising out of the supply of goods and services to representing officers of private companies in disputes between their members. Martin has experience in transactional work, including preparing documents associated with the formation of California corporations and limited liability companies. He also has experience in handling trademark matters for private and public clients.
Martin has experience in defending government entities against alleged breaches of constitutional rights, including claims under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments.
Prior to relocating to California, Martin practiced for four years as an attorney in Melbourne, Australia, where he specialized in all aspects of business litigation. During this time, Martin also handled various real estate and transactional matters for individual and corporate clients.
Before becoming an attorney, Martin served as a forward observer in the Royal Australian Artillery.
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Keiko Kojima's practice includes a broad range of litigation matters, including insurance coverage disputes, bad faith liability actions, and contractual disputes. Keiko's primary focus is in the area of ERISA and employee benefits, including the representation of insurers in life, health, and disability litigation. She also provides litigation assistance to the firm's Education Law Practice Group.
While attending Brown University, Keiko interned for former Congressman Esteban E. Torres in Washington D.C. She was also selected to participate in the Everett Public Service Internship Program to work as a summer intern for Citizens for Tax Justice in Washington D.C. While in law school, she received an American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Michelle Kenyon provides legal representation for cities and other public agencies as city attorney and special counsel. Michelle currently serves as City Attorney for the cities of Rohnert Park, Calistoga, Piedmont and Pacifica, Town Attorney for the Town of Moraga, and Special Counsel to several cities in the Bay Area. She previously has served as Acting/Interim City Attorney for many cities including the City of Redwood City, Daly City, Pleasant Hill, and the Town of Danville. Her practice includes advising city councils and staff in all areas of municipal law issues such as annexation procedures, bidding and claims procedures, CEQA, code enforcement, conflicts of interest laws, contract review, elections, Government Tort Claims Act, initiatives, referenda, land use and planning, municipal finance, open meeting laws, personnel, Proposition 218, and water supply assessments.
Michelle’s other areas of specialty include land use litigation and appellate advocacy. She is experienced in both state and federal trial and appellate courts, including written appearances in the U.S. Supreme Court. She has successfully served as lead attorney in litigation involving CEQA, inverse condemnation, election law, civil rights, Proposition 218 and rent control, with several outcomes garnering published decisions.
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Steve Velyvis is a well-respected land use and environmental law attorney with over 20 years of expertise advising and representing public agency and private clients in administrative proceedings and before state and federal trial and appellate courts.
Steve has extensive advisory and litigation experience with and works daily on projects addressing complex legal issues spanning the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Federal Power Act, and the California Coastal Act, as well as the state and federal legal and regulatory frameworks governing clean water, clean air, endangered species and electricity generation and transmission. He also routinely represents clients in land use and planning-related matters.
While Steve has extensive advisory and litigation experience with a multitude of environmental laws, he is most experienced with CEQA, having represented parties on all three “sides” of the CEQA equation. In other words, in addition to successfully representing Burke’s many municipal and public agency clients, Steve has also successfully represented numerous private clients (e.g., project applicants and project opponents.) In this regard, Steve distinguishes himself as a leading CEQA practitioner. Steve’s deep and varied experience gives him invaluable insight into what all three sides on a given CEQA project are thinking at every step along the way. This unique perspective also enables him to develop cutting-edge legal strategies aimed at resolving conflicts and prevailing in litigation, as opposed to simply posturing or falling back on routine "cookie cutter" advice and litigation tools. In sum, Steve draws on his collective experience to help Burke’s clients think outside the box and routinely provides successful, cost-effective results.
John Welsh is Burke, Williams & Sorensen's Managing Partner and Chairperson of the Management Committee. He has served in these positions since 1996 and is responsible for the firm’s management strategy and financial performance. John is a regular presenter and commentator at continuing education law forums and law practice management conferences.
When not serving in the above roles, John provides corporate expertise to the firm's private business and not-for-profit clients. Specifically, John serves as corporate counsel to numerous companies and has negotiated and drafted all of the following documents: supply agreements, distribution agreements, joint venture agreements, franchise agreements, employee confidentiality agreements, leases, sale and purchase of assets and stock agreements, covenants not to compete, partnership agreements, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and SEC filings. Additionally, John has corporate litigation experience involving discovery, law and motion, and trial work involving each of the following causes of action: breach of contract, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, fraud, trade secrets, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.
John's education law experience encompasses a wide variety of institutional and student-related legal issues including, but not limited to, due process rights in disciplinary and tenure matters, sexual harassment, minority-based admissions and scholarship programs, reasonable accommodations for disabled students, student waivers, inappropriate discipline of students by faculty, right to privacy and public records access, duty of care of institution and its employees, free speech and assembly rights, plagiarism, student assault and battery, revocation and withholding of diplomas, campus crime disclosure, drug testing, accreditation and certification, open meeting laws, and institutional liability for employee negligence.
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Nora Wetzel is a commercial litigation attorney in Burke’s San Francisco office with a focus in commercial real estate and data privacy matters. Nora handles real estate litigation involving purchase and sale, leaseholds, land-use litigation, and eminent domain, as well as general commercial matters. She advises clients regarding their compliance with U.S. federal and state privacy and information laws, data security, breach responses and state and federal security breach notification laws.
Nora provides prompt and efficient legal service to healthcare entities and related businesses, educational institutions, public entities, retailers, commercial landlords and tenants, business owners, property owners, developers and public utilities on litigation matters involving commercial real estate disputes, cybersecurity and privacy, eminent domain actions, breach of contract claims and product defect claims.
Nora has jury trial and mediation experience, as well as regulatory compliance experience in connection with state attorneys general and the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Nora has been designated as a Certified Information Privacy Professional, United States (CIPP/US) by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).
J. Todd Wulfsberg practices in the area of construction and general litigation. While a law student, Todd assisted on matters ranging from residential works of improvement to multi-million dollar commercial construction projects. Since becoming an attorney, his practice has focused on construction and general civil litigation, as well as drafting design and construction contracts for cities, counties, and other public entities throughout Northern California. His work has included the prosecution and representation of multi-national design-build contractors, local public entities, private businesses, and individual owners throughout Northern and Southern California on a wide variety of contract-related matters and disputes. He has provided legal counsel and assistance to numerous public and private clients during all stages of construction, including drafting front end contract documents, assisting with bidding, bid disputes, bidder selection, and award, contract enforcement and change order management, claims handling, pre-litigation claims assessment, early dispute resolution, mediation, arbitration, and litigation. His litigation and arbitration experience includes drafting of initial and responsive pleadings, pre-trial discovery, taking and defending percipient and expert witness depositions, law and motion and ex parte practice, mediation, arbitration, summary judgment and other dispositive motions, pre-trial preparation and trial, and post-trial motion practice and appeals, in both state and federal courts throughout California.
Before attending law school, Todd was a top sales associate for Citrix Online, a successful division of Citrix Systems. He was instrumental in developing the inside sales division of Citrix Online’s direct sales group, now one of the largest sales divisions at Citrix Online.
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Thomas Jex is a partner with the firm and serves as the City Attorney for the City of Wildomar, Town Attorney for the Town of Yucca Valley, and provides special counsel services for the Jurupa Unified School District.
Tom serves as a trusted advisor to public agency governing bodies, commissions, and staff on a wide array of municipal legal issues, including the Brown Act, Public Records Act, conflict of interest laws, planning and zoning laws, contracts, and constitutional issues, among others. He delivers advice to clients in a manner that is understandable and contains practical guidance that can be readily applied in the real world. Tom provides advice on both legal compliance and risk assessment, understanding that many situations faced by public agencies do not have clear cut answers.
Tom regularly advises elected and appointed officials, navigating delicate issues with politically-divergent boards. He clearly presents the impacts of legal constraints on agency activities. Tom takes time to understand the agency’s long- and short-term goals and how the law affects those objectives, finding ways to achieve them whenever possible. He focuses on crafting legal advice that is practical and workable.
Tom augments his practice by serving as a member of the Brown Act Committee of the League of California Cities - City Attorney's Department. He has served as an adjunct professor for the University of California Riverside Extension where he taught courses on the Public Records Act and Redevelopment Law.
Tom lived for two years in Quito, Ecuador and is proficient in Spanish.
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David Hyndman practices primarily in the area of commercial litigation, with a focus on construction disputes and related matters. He represents public and private entity clients in a variety of projects, including EPC contracting, construction management, public works projects, and other complex construction matters. His experience includes evaluating and resolving claims and disputes involving water processing plants, power plants, roadways, schools, hospitals, tunnels, and airports, among other issues. David also represents clients in commercial disputes and general litigation matters. During the course of his career, he has represented clients in jury trials, arbitrations, and mediations. David is admitted to practice in both California and Wisconsin.
David also has significant experience in implementing efficient and effective procedures for managing pretrial discovery in complex cases. This has frequently included managing document intensive e-discovery and electronic database issues, including implementing cost effective protocols for the review and production of millions of paper and electronic documents, as required by and in compliance with current and evolving Federal and State rules.
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Chad Herrington provides legal representation for cities, counties, and other public agencies. He currently serves as the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Eastvale, and provides general counsel services to numerous other cities and agencies throughout California. His practice involves advising public agencies in all areas of municipal law including the public records act, open meeting laws, conflicts of interest laws, contracting issues, procurement, code enforcement, CEQA, and land use and zoning. Chad enjoys working closely with elected officials, commissioners, and staff to provide legal solutions and practical advice on a wide range of issues.
Chad's other area of specialty includes municipal law litigation, with a focus on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, contract and property disputes, and tort claims. His litigation experience includes the successful representation of public entity clients at all stages of litigation, including trials and appeals.
Chad is passionate about public law and has been working with public entities his entire career. Prior to joining Burke, Williams & Sorensen in 2012, Chad served as a graduate law clerk and attorney in the Alameda County Counsel's Office, and worked for a private firm representing school districts and community college districts in a variety of transactional and litigation matters.
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Neil Yeager has developed an extensive and diverse practice in the areas of business, finance, commercial, and real property law where he has gained expertise over the course of more than forty years of legal practice. His practice involves both private and public clients of the firm. He has represented client interests in a broad range of complex business, finance, and commercial matters, including contract negotiation, personal property secured transactions, securities law, municipal bond law, equipment leasing, and commercial loan transactions. He also has in-depth experience in a full array of real property transactions involving commercial and industrial leasing, ground leasing, real property acquisition and sale transactions, real property finance, construction lending, options, easements and licenses, and landlord and tenant representation.
During the course of his career, Neil was continuously involved in advising Unified Grocers, Inc., one of the country's largest retailer-owned grocery wholesalers. He represented this client in acquisition and leasing transactions relating to retail supermarket locations throughout California and the west, including both the acquisition and leasing of existing locations and the construction and leasing of new locations. Neil had lead responsibility over the years in representing this client in the bulk acquisition and disposition of numerous supermarket locations which became available through divestitures connected with chain store mergers.
Neil has also represented many other grocery and non-grocery industry clients in acquisition and leasing transactions, including stock and asset purchases and sales, facilities leases, and general business and contract matters.
Neil's depth of experience has made him a valuable resource to the firm's many public entity clients. He serves as real property counsel to the firm's public clients regarding matters such as the acquisition of property for municipal facilities, parks and open space, and the leasing or other disposition of property for commercial development. Neil has also had extensive involvement in a variety of public finance matters involving the firm’s clients, including the issuance of municipal bonds.
Successful adjudication before the California Supreme Court of the “Between-Term” rule in the Unemployment Insurance Code, and invalidation of appeals board precedent decision (United Educators of San Francisco AFT/CFT v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (2020) 8 Cal.5th 805);
Dismissal of charter school legal challenge to revocation of its charter (Butte County Superior Court Case No. 156847);
Successful defense of challenge to school district award of meal service contract (San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CPF-12-512681);
Summary Adjudication in favor of City against charter school's attempt to exempt itself from local zoning requirements (Santa Clara County Superior Court Case No. 1-13-CV-255504);
Successful challenge to county board of education’s attempt to grant exemption from local zoning to countywide charter school (San Jose Unified School District v. Santa Clara County Office of Education et al. (2017) 7 Cal.App.5th 967);
Successful judgment after trial in nuisance action against charter school operating in violation of local zoning ordinances (Santa Clara County Superior Court Case No. 1-13-CV-255504);
Demurrer sustained without leave to amend as to Petition for Writ of Mandate regarding salary schedule issue (Santa Clara County Superior Court Case No. 16-CV-297270);
Favorable court of appeal decision addressing material revision requirement for additional charter school sites (Today’s Fresh Start Charter School v. Inglewood Unified School District (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 276);
Denial of charter school Writ of Mandate challenging school district facilities allocation under Proposition 39 (Santa Clara County Superior Court Case No. CV340197);
Dismissal of charter school Writ of Mandate challenging school district facilities allocation under Proposition 39 (San Francisco County Superior Court Case No. CPF-20-517094);
Affirmance of attorneys' fees award on behalf of school district against charter school (Sixth District Court of Appeal, Case No. H045884);
Denial of charter school Writ of Mandate under Proposition 39 (Alameda Superior Court Case No. RG21090115).
In the area of charter school law, John has extensive experience advising school boards on the granting, denial, oversight, monitoring and revocation of charters. John’s experience includes the following:
Representation of several large urban and rural unified school districts, as well as smaller K-8 districts, on how to deal with charter school issues.
Advising school boards on a number of high-profile charter revocations, as well as on the review of charter petitions, having reviewed approximately 200 charter petitions on behalf of school districts.
Advising school districts on best practices in charter school oversight, proposed charter school legislation and charter school funding
John also practices in the areas of personnel and employment law, with a focus on school district personnel issues and labor relations. He has also compiled a successful record representing school districts in arbitration hearings and unfair practice claims before PERB. John has also been certified as an Interest Based Bargaining trainer, and speaks frequently before industry associations on charter school and school district personnel legal issues.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Stephanie Gutierrez is a senior associate attorney at the Riverside office of Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP and is a member of the Public Law Practice Group. Stephanie advises cities and other public agencies on a variety of public law issues related to the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, the Political Reform Act, and code enforcement.
Stephanie regularly drafts contracts, ordinances, and resolutions as well as other development related agreements. She also routinely represents city planning commissions at their meetings and provides training to local government officials. In addition, Stephanie contributes to the League of California Cities’ Municipal Law Handbook. Stephanie earned her Juris Doctor degree from University of La Verne College of Law. During law school, she served as a judicial extern for Associate Justice Carol D. Codrington of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, and was Editor in Chief of the Journal of Law Business and Ethics. She also received a Master of Public Administration degree from University of La Verne College of Business and Public Management.
Stephanie has received a lot of advice throughout her legal journey by her mentors, but has received the best from her family: "In between goals is a thing called life that has to be lived and enjoyed."
Laurie Gustafson is an accomplished commercial real estate attorney with more than 25 years of experience. Laurie focuses her practice on complex real estate, finance and construction transactions. She assists clients, both private and public, with the acquisition and disposition of commercial real property, due diligence, financing, leasing, design and construction, development and management. She handles a wide range of projects including offices, corporate campuses, retail, restaurant, shopping centers, multi-family, industrial, rural, infrastructure and mixed use. Laurie has also represented numerous cities throughout California as special real estate counsel on real property acquisitions, dispositions and leasing. She has also assisted cities with the negotiation, documentation and closing on affordable housing projects.
Laurie served as the Law Clerk to Chief Justice Edmond W. Burke of the Alaska Supreme Court from 1984-1985.
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Brian Ginter is experienced in all phases of civil litigation from pre-lawsuit settlement negotiations and pre-judgment provisional relief through trial and appeal. He has obtained favorable results for clients at all stages of their dispute, including temporary restraining orders, writs of attachment, summary judgment, and verdict.
Brian’s practice is concentrated in the areas of business litigation, employment law, and professional liability. Having had the benefit of working in litigation firms since he was admitted to the bar, and before that as a paralegal and law clerk, he is able to prosecute and defend a wide variety of cases, which have included allegations of fraud, mass tort, unfair competition, and breach of contract. Recently, he second-chaired a trial involving a breach of contract claim by a harbor terminal company against a defaulting tenant. The case also involved allegations by the defendant that the terminal company breached the contract and damaged the defendant’s oil trading business by approximately $30 million. After a bench trial, the defendant agreed to settle the case by paying the firm’s client over $5 million.
Brian’s employment law experience involves claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. He is frequently called upon to assist clients in difficult and sensitive cases of whistleblower retaliation or fraud and other criminal activity. Brian represented the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission in matters arising out of wide-ranging public corruption. The cases included claims against event promoters that paid more than $2 million to a person who was then employed by the Coliseum Commission. After approximately six years of litigation, which included a successful appeal to the California Court of Appeal and a parallel criminal prosecution, the defendants agreed to pay the Coliseum Commission $3.5 million. Other recent work includes representation of a public entity in defense of race discrimination allegations. The case resulted in a unanimous defense verdict after a two-week trial.
In the professional liability arena, Brian has successfully represented lawyers, architects, and engineers involving claims of breach of contract, malpractice, conflicts of interest, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud. He has also litigated claims against these professionals as well as accountants when the professional’s service has caused injury to the client.
Away from the office, Brian enjoys staying active in competitive sports. He is an avid baseball player. Along with his wife, he also races with the Vintage Auto Racing Association and other vintage auto racing organizations.
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Algeria Ford is a member of the Public Law, Labor and Employment, and Education practice groups. In the area of litigation, Al’s practice includes labor and employment litigation, civil rights litigation, tort litigation, and code enforcement and marijuana litigation. Al’s practice also includes conducting independent internal investigations, serving as lead labor negotiator for public entity negotiations, advising and representing employers on discipline issues and during grievance procedures, drafting ordinances, and providing general advice to department heads, elected officials, and private employers. Al currently serves as General Counsel for the Banning Library District and as special counsel for the Hesperia Unified School District, the Val Verde Unified School District, and Fritts Ford Riverside. Al also currently serves as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Cathedral City and the City of Rialto.
Prior to joining the firm, Al represented public sector clients while employed with the San Bernardino Office of County Counsel as a member of both the litigation and employment groups. As a member of the Office’s litigation group he defended County departments and employees in numerous state and federal court cases. In that capacity Al obtained successful results on various motions and as counsel in jury trials. As a member of the Office’s employment group, he served as primary employment counsel for the County’s Sheriff Department, assisted in drafting policies and rules, regularly advised on POBR issues, Internal Affairs Investigations and employment disputes, and represented the County before the Civil Service Commission and during labor negotiations. In addition, Al advised the Sheriff Department during federal investigations.
An experienced litigator, Al previously worked as a Deputy District Attorney with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted multiple cases to jury verdict. Prior to that he worked for the Louisville Metro Public Defender’s Office, obtaining successful results for clients at hearings and jury trial.
During law School, Al was the Editor-in-Chief of two of the school’s three legal journals, was a member of the Moot Court Board, and served on the school’s National Trial and National Environmental Moot Court Teams. In addition, he won the School’s prestigious oral advocacy competition during his second year of law school and received honors for obtaining the highest grade in Advanced Constitutional Law, Advanced Trial Practice, and Criminal Procedure.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Nira Doherty is an experienced city attorney, litigator, and land use expert. Her litigation and transactional practices emphasize land use, CEQA, housing and government law issues. She serves as the City Attorney for the City of Menlo Park, General Counsel for the Tahoe Transportation District, and Assistant City Attorney for the City of Benicia.
Nira serves as special counsel to dozens of city and public agency clients on land use, zoning, CEQA and Subdivision Map Act matters. She represents clients in all phases of development including entitlement and administrative approvals, general plan updates, CEQA compliance and enforcement of zoning laws.
Nira advises public agency clients on State housing laws including Density Bonus Law, SB 35, Housing Accountability Act, SB 330 and ADU laws. She has negotiated and drafted development agreements and performed affordable housing diligence review.
Nira has also overseen citizen initiatives from inception to election and represented cities in litigation regarding ballot measures. She has successfully served as lead attorney in litigation involving CEQA, general plan updates, inverse condemnation, contract disputes, health and safety receiverships, code enforcement matters, and tort claims.
Nira graduated from UC Davis School of Law where she was a member of the UC Davis Law Review and Editor-in-Chief of the UC Davis Environmental Law and Policy Journal. Nira externed for the former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court, N. Dist. of California and clerked for Judge Steven Bernard of the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Kara DiBiasio is an accomplished trial lawyer, specializing in real estate, CEQA litigation, and eminent domain. Kara handles all types of real estate litigation, including common area disputes for residential, commercial and retail properties, enforcement of ECR, CC&R, and other restrictive covenants, disputes regarding development agreements, leases, purchase and sale agreements, and other breach of contract claims. Kara’s practice also encompasses commercial matters, including partnership and contract disputes.
Kara has represented Fortune 500 companies, business owners, property owners, retailers, public utilities, public entities, private individuals, landlords and tenants in matters involving shopping centers, mixed use projects, industrial properties, residential properties, and master plan communities.
Kara has successfully resolved cases for her clients through jury trials, motion practice, and settlement including mediation. Kara handles all aspects of litigation, including pre-lawsuit counseling, initial investigation, development and execution of strategic discovery plans, handling of complex e-discovery matters, and though depositions, motion practice, settlement discussions, ADR, trial preparation, and trial.
Kara earned her J.D. from UC Davis, where she was a member of the Negotiations Honors Board, Moot Court Board, and winner of the 43rd Annual Neumiller Moot Court Competition. Kara graduated as a member of the Order of the Barristers for excellence in oral advocacy. During law school, Kara interned at the California Department of Justice in the Office of the Attorney General working in the Appeals, Writs and Trials division.
Kara has continued her commitment to her alma mater as an Adjunct Professor at UC Davis, King Hall School of Law. Kara teaches law students practical skills they will use throughout their legal careers, including negotiation strategies and effective client interviewing and counseling.
Kara earned her B.A. from California State University, Chico, where she studied political science and graduated summa cum laude. While studying at Chico State, Kara worked in a legal clinic, where she provided legal assistance to tenants and landlords in matters including habitability issues and unlawful detainers.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Sheila Delshad represents clients in various labor and employment law matters. Her counseling practice focuses on discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour claims, independent contractor issues, employment contracts, due process, medical leaves and disability accommodation and public pension and health benefits. Sheila also has extensive experience counseling and assisting clients with internal reviews and revisions of employment policies and procedures, as well as conducting neutral investigations of workplace complaints.
Sheila has served as lead labor negotiator for multiple collective bargaining agreements and continually advises employers on an array of labor relations matters such as the meet and confer process, grievances, discipline, layoffs, reorganizations and contracting out.
Sheila’s litigation practice includes considerable work defending public agencies against class action claims of worker misclassification and discrimination. She has defended and counseled employers in matters involving both state and federal law, such as equal employment opportunity under Title VII, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disability Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the California Family Rights Act, the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Act and the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.
While attending University of Southern California Law School, Sheila represented indigent clients with USC’s Immigration Law Clinic and with Bet Tzedek Legal Services. Sheila has also served as an extern to the United States Attorney's Office and as a law clerk to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Timothy Davis is a partner in Burke, Williams & Sorensen's Silicon Valley office and is Chair of the firm's Labor and Employment Law practice group.
Tim has tried to verdict employment cases in both federal and state court, and has conducted over 70 employment arbitrations. Tim routinely defends employers in litigation matters in actions involving state and federal law, such as Title VII, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Americans with Disability Act, Age Discrimination and Employment Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, California Family Rights Act, California Pregnancy Disability Act, Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights, and wage and hour issues, including wage and hour class actions. He has represented employers in claims of wrongful termination, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of loyalty, unlawful interference with prospective economic advantage, unfair competition, and constitutional rights violations. His practice also includes the representation of employers before state, federal, and local administrative proceedings, including the Department of Labor, local civil service commissions, PERB, EEOC, and OSHA. Tim's reported decisions include Alhambra Police Officers Association v. City of Alhambra, (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th, 413.
Tim also represents both public and private employers as a lead negotiator during collective bargaining with their employee groups, including police, fire, general employees, and management groups. Additionally, his practice includes internal investigations of employment complaints involving discrimination and harassment, as well as the presentation of seminars on how to prevent discrimination and harassment and investigate allegations of discrimination and harassment. He also trains human resources professionals and managers regarding proper investigation techniques. His practice includes development of personnel rules and policies including discipline and grievance procedures, and the investigation of grievances. He advises management clients on labor and employment law compliance matters. He has also served as legal advisor during grievance proceedings.
Tim's commitment and experience in public law began in law school, where he co-authored the article, "Does a Public Law Attorney Owe a Duty to Third Parties?" which appeared in the Summer 1994 issue of the Public Law Journal.
Pronouns: he, him, his
Don Davis has provided contract city attorney and general counsel services to public agencies throughout California for over 25 years. He currently serves as the City Attorney for Rolling Hills Estates, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Camarillo, General Counsel for the Friant Water Authority, and General Counsel for the Bear Valley Community Services District. Don also provides special counsel services for numerous other Burke public entity clients.
Don has considerable expertise in land use and planning having advised numerous planning commissions and city councils throughout his legal career. He regularly consults with city planning staffs on matters ranging from General Plan amendments to use permits. Don has drafted dozens of major zoning and land use ordinances. His land use practice emphasizes the regulation of matters that implicate federal and state rights of freedom of speech and expression such as signage, adult businesses, protests, and solicitation.
Don enjoys governance issues and has extensive experience in the preparation and amendment of various governance documents such as joint exercise of powers agreements, joint powers authority bylaws, and memorandums of understanding between multiple agencies.
Don is an authority on the Brown Act, Public Records Act, and other government transparency and ethics laws and is the firm’s principal instructor for AB 1234 ethics trainings. He has provided seminars around the state on these subjects, which have been attended by hundreds of public officials and staff members. He is the principal author of the Brown Act Compliance Manual and the Public Records Act Compliance Manual for the California Special Districts Association. Don is an advocate for the use of plain language in governmental documents and his writing seminars on the topic are popular with local government associations and agencies.
Don regularly handles a broad range of real estate transactional matters for public agencies such as property acquisitions, financing, leasing, and dispositions. As part of such transactions, he provides advice on appraisals, title reports, legal descriptions, engineering, and survey issues. In the course of his practice, Don has assisted public and private clients in the purchase or sale of thousands of acres of property valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Don has drafted a variety of easement, license, and encroachment agreements with respect to both public and private uses and projects. Don has also worked on solar energy projects, including power purchase agreements.
Don has significant experience with a wide variety of environmental issues including CEQA and NEPA. In working with the firm’s public and private clients, Don has handled all aspects of the CEQA/NEPA compliance process, including the hiring and management of project specialists in various environmental disciplines. He routinely provides advice and opinions on
CEQA/NEPA compliance strategies, and has reviewed and commented on numerous CEQA/NEPA documents ranging from notices of preparation to mitigated negative declarations and environmental impact reports.
Don is proficient in negotiating, drafting, and reviewing contacts for public agencies, including contracts for public works projects, maintenance, goods and services, consultants and professional services. Don is a strong proponent of plain language in public contracts, which should be readable and understandable to public agency staff and the general public – not just lawyers.
Don regularly provides advice on a range of public finance matters such as Proposition 218 and 26, the adoption and adjustment of public fees, rates and charges (including sewer, water and solid waste rates), and has advised clients on the formation and oversight of assessment districts, community facilities districts, and other special financing mechanisms.
As a litigator, Don has successfully defended public agencies in matters involving due process, equal protection, freedom of speech, government torts, inverse condemnation, public bidding and contract disputes, and writs of mandamus including CEQA suits. Don also has represented private clients in real estate, contract, and business-related litigation.
Prior to becoming an attorney, Don served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Yemen and also worked as an international educational consultant.
Pronouns: he, him, his
A partner with Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP, David Darroch practices in the area of construction disputes, litigation and alternative dispute resolution. For the past 20 years, David has focused his practice primarily in the specialized field of construction law, construction litigation and construction-related issues. He represents public and private entities in the area of power engineering, infrastructure, transportation, wastewater, and industrial process engineering. David has extensive expertise counseling owners, construction firms, designers, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers regarding construction change management and project disputes. He has experience assisting clients with dispute resolution boards, mediations, and other informal dispute resolution methods and has extensive experience in prosecuting and defending claims and trying cases to verdict, including jury trials, court trials, arbitrations and appeals in construction matters large and small.
David is admitted to practice in the State and Federal courts of California, and has been admitted pro hac vice in various other jurisdictions in the United States.
Douglas Dal Cielo specializes in general business litigation and family law. Areas of expertise include real estate, business torts, employment litigation, and corporate disputes. He possesses significant trial experience, including eight jury trials and over 15 court trials. Doug’s last two jury trials resulted in verdicts for his clients in excess of $12 million and $2 million on behalf of plaintiffs. He has taken over 300 depositions, and served as a court appointed arbitrator and mediator. Recent accomplishments include the settlement of a $5 million shareholder dispute on behalf of the minority shareholder, a $3.2 million wrongful termination and fraud claim on behalf of the plaintiffs, a $1.6 million mechanic’s lien foreclosure action on behalf of the claimant contractor, and a $12 million jury verdict on behalf of a plaintiff in an elder abuse claim in Santa Clara County.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
For over twenty years, Deirdre Joan Cox has practiced in the construction and public contracting field. Joan's practice involves representing public agencies in complex construction matters, including strategizing development and procurement approaches, drafting construction documents, including performance and payment bonds and parent guarantees, advising clients during the course of construction, claims review and analysis, and claims resolution, including mediation, arbitration, and litigation. She assists in the resolution of issues that occur at the intersections between funding, design, acquisition, and construction. She serves as special counsel to a number of local agencies and general counsel for the Olivehurst Public Utility District. She has extensive litigation experience in state and federal court. Her efforts, from a project’s early stages through trial and beyond, allow public agencies to deliver public projects on time and on budget.
Her experience includes multi-million dollar projects for cities, counties, and other municipalities, including hospitals, community college, school and special districts, and other commercial facilities in myriad bond funded projects, individual projects, and capital improvement programs. She has particular experience in lease revenue bond financing, Mello-Roos bonds, public private partnerships, and other financing mechanisms.
Joan has extensive experience working with public entity clients to develop construction project manuals: “front-end” construction documents for all types of public works projects using delivery methods that involve competitive bidding utilizing lowest responsive, responsible bidding and “best value” concepts for traditional hard bid / design-bid-build, design-build, construction manager at risk, and lease-leaseback delivery mechanisms. She also drafts contracts for architects, engineers and other professionals.
Her work includes preparing the project documentation including drafting, negotiation, structuring of delivery and procurement approaches and risk evaluation. She also assists public entity clients in administering the bidding process and facilitating the defense and handling of bid protests, subcontractor listing, project setup, and related issues that arise during the bidding / proposal process including attending hearings and assisting in preparing findings and conclusions.
Joan also has experience in inverse condemnation and California land use, development and CEQA law, having represented both private and public entities in connection with flood control disputes, water rights, and environmental impact review/mitigated negative declaration issues.
Joan received her J.D. with honors from Golden Gate University School of Law. She served as a Settlement Commissioner for the Alameda County Superior Court, a fee arbitrator and a private mediator. She taught contract law at East Bay Law School for ten years. She has also taught Public Finance and Law & Economics at Golden Gate University. Over the last 12 years, Joan served as the Planning Commissioner, Councilmember, and Mayor of the City of Sausalito.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Melissa M. Cowan represents and advises insurers, third-party administrators, and employee benefit plans in first-party insurance matters at both national and local levels. For decades, she has actively litigated disability, accident, life, health, long-term care, and ERISA cases. Her results – including two separate jury verdicts for punitive damages against fraudulent insureds – have contributed to the development of insurance law within the Ninth Circuit. Melissa has combined her deep experience in investigating and uncovering fraud with her litigation expertise to advise and represent clients on fraud-related issues. She has received accreditation as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).
Melissa’s practice has expanded into class actions and complex commercial litigation. She also defends agents/brokers, religious organizations, and public law clients in general and business litigation.
Melissa is passionate about writing and speaking at national and regional forums. She strives for new ways to keep fraud and insurance issues practical and thought-provoking. Her special interests include “bad faith”, ERISA, litigation tactics, legal trends, and claims practices.
When not working tirelessly for clients, Melissa enjoys adventures with her family, musical theater, and UCLA Bruins volleyball and basketball. Her views on life and the law are exemplified in the philosophies of the great UCLA Coach John Wooden, who said, “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” In pursuit of excellence, “It is the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Susan Coleman is a Partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP with 27 years litigation experience and a strong background in constitutional law/civil rights litigation and employment law. Susan has defended individuals and officials, governmental entities and corporations in 50 civil jury trials in federal and state courts throughout California, with very successful results (over 95% defense verdicts). Susan is an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA).
Susan worked for the Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, for over 13 years. Since going to private practice, Susan has represented various entities such as the cities of Alhambra, Burbank, Hemet, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Modesto, Newport Beach, Pasadena, Simi Valley, Stockton and Riverside; the county of San Bernardino; the GEO Group; Management & Training Corporation; Alcohol Monitoring Systems Inc., the Bureau of Prisons, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and those entities’ individual employees and executives.
Susan also has extensive experience with class action litigation, including several class actions on behalf of the Department of Corrections, and she represented the Board of Parole Hearings in a lengthy bench trial involving the Americans with Disabilities Act (Armstrong v. Davis). In the last few years, Susan has defeated class certification in cases for various clients.
Susan has specialties in certain unique areas of law including officer-involved shootings and other uses of force, alleged wrongful conviction cases and ankle-monitor related litigation (for companies such as AMS, B.I. Inc., and LCA Inc.). She also conducts personnel investigations as needed for clients.
Susan has consistently taken measures to ensure excellent representation of her clients in a cost-effective manner. For example, she recommends LVN review and summary of medical records (providing a medical expertise at a fraction of attorney billing rates); she keeps brief banks on common areas of law in order to avoid re-inventing the wheel for each case; and she takes every effort to eliminate defendants and/or claims from the case at the earliest opportunity, prevailing on many cases at the motion to dismiss or demurrer stage. While many cases cannot be defeated at the initial motion stage, Susan has had excellent results in prevailing in summary judgment and at trial. She is also in favor of, and actively pursues, measures to decrease future litigation, such as pursuing the award and recovery of costs after prevailing, having plaintiffs declared as vexatious litigants where appropriate, or seeking recovery of fees and costs under FRCP 41(d) for prior lawsuits when there are successive similar lawsuits.
During law school, Susan served as Articles Editor for the Santa Clara Law Review. In addition, she held a clerkship for the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District for Justice J. Smith. After obtaining her J.D., Susan attended San Francisco State University’s Master’s in Tax program from 1994-1996, completing all but thesis.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Leah Castella is a partner in Burke’s Oakland office. She received her J.D. with Honors from the University of Texas, Austin in 1999 and her B.A. in Philosophy from Lewis & Clark College in 1995. She currently serves as the General Counsel of Ironhouse Sanitary District and Valley of the Moon Water District and as the Assistant General Counsel for Union Sanitary District and Vallejo Flood and Wastewater District.
As a seasoned public law lawyer, Leah is familiar with the full range of laws affecting California public agencies, including the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, the Political Reform Act, Proposition 218, and the Public Trust Doctrine. She has particular expertise advising public agencies on governance, rate setting, election law, and constitutional law.
Leah is also an experienced litigator and appellate advocate. She has handled dozens of cases in state and federal court on behalf of public and private clients. And she has successfully argued over a dozen cases in the California Court of Appeals involving myriad issues, including the public trust doctrine, California’s Anti-SLAPP statute, attorney’s fees, the Medicaid Act, Proposition 218, the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), inverse condemnation, and redevelopment dissolution disputes.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Megan A. Burke provides municipal law services to public agencies throughout California. She currently serves as the Assistant General Counsel for Valley of the Moon Water District and as the Assistant Counsel for the Eastern Contra Costa Transit District. Megan specializes in revenue issues, such as the adoption and defense of rates, fees, and taxes in compliance with Propositions 13, 218 and 26 and the Mitigation Fee Act. For example, she has assisted local agencies with the establishment and increase of rates for water, sewer and solid waste services and the adoption and management of various impact fees. Megan has also defended multiple lawsuits challenging the legality of rates and impact fees under the California Constitution and state law.
In addition, Megan provides special counsel litigation and advisory services on a wide range of public law matters, including the Bradley-Burns local sales tax law, eminent domain, inverse condemnation, local land use and zoning issues, general municipal law, the California Public Records Act, and conflicts of interest. Megan is currently prosecuting several actions on behalf of cities and successor agencies against the Department of Finance, which challenge adverse determinations related to the dissolution of redevelopment agencies.
Joseph Buchman maintains a diverse litigation and transactional practice, acts as general counsel to Montebello Land & Water Co., a mutual benefit non-profit water company, and as counsel to the Los Angeles Unified School District School Construction Bond Citizens' Oversight Committee.
Joseph has extensive background in public, corporate, business, and real estate matters, acquired from years of experience representing and advising clients in bankruptcy matters, eminent domain, real estate and title litigation, purchase and sale transactions, financing transactions, probate and estate planning, tort litigation, collection actions, contract disputes, and election litigation.
Susan Bloch specializes in affordable housing, economic development, and transactional real estate matters. Susan has over 25 years of experience representing private and non-profit developers and public agencies, including cities, counties, housing authorities, and redevelopment successor agencies in transactions involving the acquisition, development, financing, leasing and sale of residential, commercial and industrial properties; and the development and implementation of affordable housing policies and programs.
Susan has provided special counsel services on real estate and affordable housing transactions for Alameda County, Placer County, the Santa Clara County Housing Authority, the cities of Oakland, San Jose, Union City, San Leandro, Mountain View, Morgan Hill, San Carlos, Daly City, South San Francisco, Petaluma, Napa, Pleasanton, Redwood City, Dublin, Cathedral City, Rialto, Hemet, and Livermore, and other public entities including Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, Renewal Enterprise District, Sacramento Regional Transit District, East Bay Regional Parks District, the Transportation Agency of Monterey County, and the Moraga-Orinda Fire District. Her nonprofit clients include Veterans Housing Development Corporation, Christian Church Homes, YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley, the California Odd Fellows Foundation, and the Hilarita-Tiburon Ecumenical Association.
Before beginning her practice as an attorney, Susan served as Program Manager with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency and as a consultant to the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation and the National Economic Development and Law Center. She has been a speaker at conferences and seminars sponsored by the League of California Cities, the California Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), the Real Property Section of the California State Bar, the California Redevelopment Association, Housing California, the Northern California Association for Non-Profit Housing, California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED), the California Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies (Cal-ALHFA), the Bay Area City Attorneys Association (BACA) and the City Attorneys Association of Los Angeles County (CAALAC). She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of California Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies since 2014.
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Michael brings nearly thirty years of experience to his practice advising public agencies on all matters of municipal law while emphasizing real estate acquisition, site remediation, land use, CEQA, land disposition and development, and redevelopment dissolution. Michael served the City of Emeryville as its City Attorney from 1994 through 2015, after serving as its Assistant City Attorney for the previous five years, and routinely advised elected and appointed officials, City management and staff on a broad range of issues relating to economic redevelopment, hazardous materials remediation, affordable housing, planning and zoning, public contracting, public art, public finance (taxes, impact fees, assessments), governance (Ralph M. Brown Act, Public Records Act, Political Reform Act), and elections. Michael was also responsible for the management of several site remediation projects undertaken by the City and its former Redevelopment Agency, as well as the City’s regulatory Brownfields Program in coordination with the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Michael is a member of the Post-Redevelopment Task Force organized by the City Attorney’s division of the League of California Cities to provide guidance to cities and successor agencies on redevelopment dissolution matters.
Michael Bernacchi is a trial attorney whose practice is devoted to both commercial litigation and defense of life, health, disability, and property/casualty insurance claims. He has engaged in civil litigation and trials in state and federal courts for over twenty years. He has tried or second-chaired numerous cases to a conclusion. His business litigation experience includes complex business disputes, including actions under Business and Professions Code §17200, and litigation involving Proposition 64. He specializes in defending bad faith and ERISA claims but also has experience in property and casualty cases and environmental coverage disputes, recently successfully litigating several such cases on behalf of Beneficial Fire and Casualty Insurance Company.
Mike received his B.A. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1988 (cum laude in political science) and his J.D. degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles in 1992. While at Loyola, Mike was a note and comment editor for the Loyola Law Review.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Denise Bazzano is a member of Burke’s Public Law Practice Group where she leverages her multi-faceted experience in municipal law and litigation to assist public entities in a variety of legal and regulatory matters.
Denise regularly advises city councils, planning commissions, boards and staff on a wide range of both transactional and litigated matters including issues relating to code enforcement, cannabis regulation, contracts, land use, public works projects, animal control, purchasing, and liability exposure. Additionally, she provides regular advice regarding compliance with the Brown Act, the California and U.S. Constitutions, the Subdivision Map Act, and the Public Records Act. Denise also provides AB 1234 training as well as specialized training in the Public Records Act and other areas of public law.
Denise also advises clients on a broad range of land use and planning matters, including advising public agencies on issues related to CEQA compliance, land use approval procedures, and processing of land use applications for both commercial and residential development projects. Denise also provides advice on real estate transactions and has experience drafting and negotiating purchase and sale agreements, lease agreements, lease terminations, easements and development agreements.
Denise has extensive experience in code enforcement issues and regularly advises city councils, commissions, and staff on the interpretation and application of administrative laws and procedures, zoning regulations, as well as criminal enforcement of municipal codes. Additionally, Denise advises clients on constitutional considerations relating to a public agency’s enforcement efforts. She has worked with several cities to develop programs relating to the regulation of special industries such as massage and cannabis. Due to Denise’s skills and experience, she is able to provide both advisory and litigation services to her clients on enforcement issues relating to blighted property and substandard buildings. For each of her clients, Denise works closely with staff to develop an enforcement strategy that complies with legal requirements and achieves the code enforcement goals of the client.
Denise is currently a member of the League of California Cities Cannabis Regulation Committee.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Daphne Anneet is an experienced litigator, labor negotiator, and investigator. Daphne is Chair of the firm’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and Vice-Chair of the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group. She has also served as a member of the firm’s Management Committee.
A skilled litigator, Daphne has achieved excellent results for clients in state and federal court, as well as in arbitrations and administrative proceedings. She represents public and private entities in matters ranging from class actions, discrimination, harassment, whistleblower retaliation, wage and hour, worker misclassification, pension, civil rights, unfair labor practice disputes, false claims, and disciplinary appeals. As lead defense counsel in numerous class actions and complex litigation, Daphne has a proven track record of achieving successful results in a variety of creative and cost-effective ways. A graduate of the LA County Bar Association’s Trial Advocacy Project, Daphne has served as a pro bono prosecutor.
Daphne serves as the lead negotiator for employers during collective bargaining. She has successfully negotiated challenging and sensitive issues such as contracting out of fire services and waste management services, salary and health benefit concessions, furloughs, layoffs, changes to retiree medical benefits, and changes to pension benefit formulas and contributions. Daphne also has experience representing employers during fact finding proceedings.
As an investigator, Daphne has earned the distinction of Association of Workplace Investigators Certificate Holder (AWI-CH). She conducts independent investigations of complaints involving discrimination, harassment, retaliation, workplace misconduct, and alleged conflicts of interest. She also enjoys training and has written and lectured on a wide array of employment issues for many organizations at their annual training conferences and conventions.
In recent years, Daphne has taken on the role of General Counsel to local commissions. She serves as General Counsel to the City of Coronado’s Civil Service Commission. She has also served as General Counsel to the Simi Valley Disciplinary Appeal Board.
A team builder and team player, Daphne brings together superior litigation skills and subject matter expertise within the firm to develop winning litigation strategies. Daphne thrives on developing a deep knowledge of the client, its mission, structure and governance, practices and culture, and expectations of defense counsel. Her success is rooted in her proactive approach and deep commitment to building strong relationships with every member of the defense team, providing regular client communication, and building consensus on the defense strategy.
Daphne received her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Southwestern Law School, where she was awarded the Outstanding Woman Legal Graduate Award. She has been honored to serve on Southwestern’s Board of Trustees.
Daphne is a Past Executive Committee Member of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the LA County Bar Association, an affiliate member of CALPELRA, and a member of the Association of Workplace Investigators. She is a Past President of the National Association of Women Business Owners, LA Chapter. She has supported her local community as a soccer coach and member of the boards of AYSO - American Youth Soccer Organization and MHS Arts Angels.
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Gregory Aker specializes in the litigation and trial of complex business disputes. During his more than thirty years as an attorney, Greg’s litigation practice has included almost every major area of the law.
Greg has represented clients in litigation involving business and commercial contract disputes, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, violation of state and federal securities laws, unfair competition, the protection of trade secrets, secured transactions and commercial law, real estate transactions and land use disputes, evictions and other landlord/tenant disputes, wrongful termination and employment discrimination.
In the area of financial services litigation, Greg has handled cases involving commercial loans, bankruptcy claims, foreclosures, securities processing services, lender liability actions, deposit accounts, checks, wire transfers and other bank operations matters, the interpretation and enforcement of factoring agreements, and intercreditor agreements.
Greg has handled major litigation involving a variety of construction projects nationwide, including courthouses, power plants, condominium developments, and hotels. He has represented construction contractors and project owners, as well as architects and engineers, in litigation, arbitration, and mediation.