Public Entities

Handling everything from the claim stage to the Supreme Court, Porter Scott attorneys provide legal counsel to various public agencies including cities, counties, school districts and county offices of education, special districts, and joint powers authorities.

Porter Scott understands that the environment in which public entities function is constantly changing and that their involvement in litigation raises issues beyond the particular lawsuit. We appreciate the public trust bestowed on us as representatives of public agencies.  With those principles in mind, we have handled thousands of matters involving public entity liability.  Everything from dangerous condition claims, to contract disputes, to employment matters, to constitutional actions.  Because of that, our public agency clients, and the communities they represent, get superior representation and advice.

Our experience includes handling claims involving:

  • ADA accessibility compliance
  • Anti-SLAPP
  • Child Protective Services
  • Civil rights claims
  • Constitutional claims
  • Contract disputes
  • Dangerous condition of public property
  • Defamation, false light, invasion of privacy
  • Employment
  • Land use matters
  • Police liability, including false arrest, excessive force, search and pursuit issues

Firm obtained a defense verdict for the County of Nevada in a retaliation case.  Plaintiffs, husband and wife, sued the Sheriff’s Department for violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The wife claimed she was terminated after she made a complaint of sexual harassment.  The husband claimed the department retaliated against him by creating intolerable working conditions forcing him to quit.  The Jury rejected both claims, finding that County neither violated any protected conduct engaged in by the plaintiffs nor acted inappropriately in the decisions and actions it took.

Crime Justice & America (CJA) sued Butte County because the Sheriff would not allow physical distribution of its free publication giving general legal advice to inmates in jail.  The County did not oppose distribution because of content, but due to the threat of jail security from the vast quantity of unwanted paper.  The Ninth Circuit had previously recognized that CJA had a First Amendment free speech right to distribute, as long as CJA could demonstrate under the four Turner factors concerning legitimate penological objectives that distribution would not unduly disrupt jail operations. Following a bench trial (and appeal) successfully defended by Porter Scott’s John Whitefleet and appellate expert, Thomas Riordan, the judgment was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit because the Turner factors had indeed been correctly applied in favor of the County.  Given that the inmates now had access to the publication through numerous electronic kiosks installed in the jail, there was no constitutional violation.  Crime Justice & America, Inc. v. Honea (9th Cir., Nov. 29, 2017, No. 15-16119) 2017 WL 5762809 [published opinion].

Taylor Rhoan successfully defended two counties in the Third District Court of Appeal in a lawsuit challenging the fees charged by Clerk-Recorder Offices for Official Record Copies under Government Code Section 27366. Interpreting an issue of first impression, the Court of Appeal validated the Counties’ ordinances and determined that the fees recouped the direct and indirect costs necessary to providing the service to the community. These cases have established new precedent accepting a broad-scope definition of direct and indirect costs and empowering counties with discretion in determining the methodology used to calculate user fees.

Successfully brought a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim under the Bane Act on behalf of Department of Health and Human Services and Child Protective Services for alleged failure to remove a child.  The Court held that plaintiff could not support a claim under the Bane Act which prohibits any person from interfering by threats intimidation or coercion with the exercise or enjoyment by any individual of rights secured by the constitution.  (California Civil Code Section 52.1.) Court granted plaintiff an opportunity for leave to amend but plaintiff declined to pursue this claim realizing it would be fruitless.

Successfully brought a Demurrer resulting in dismissal of entire action on behalf of County Sheriff’s Department on the basis of Eleventh Amendment Immunity. The plaintiff sued alleging that the Sheriff’s Department deprived her of medical care while she was being detained in a sober cell. Plaintiff alleged that the County had a custom and practice of depriving inmates of medical care for serious medical needs. The Court held that in the provision of law enforcement duties the Sheriff’s Department is a state actor entitled to Eleventh Amendment Immunity and dismissed the entire action.

Important Update on Qualified Immunity

US Supreme Court grants Qualified Immunity The doctrine of qualified immunity, when properly applied, shields law enforcement from burdensome litigation and armchair quarterbacking in federal court. In its first decision of 2017, White v. Pauly, …

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Supreme Court Expands Public Entity Liability On Dangerous Conditions Claims Involving Third-Party Conduct

Can a public entity be liable for dangerous condition of public property if a third party causes plaintiff's accident and there is no causal connection between the condition of the public entity's property and the …

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Design Immunity Does Not Exist Even If City Engineer Made Decision To Place Safety Devices

The case Castro v. City of Thousand Oaks seems to continue a recent trend to limit immunity under dangerous condition law.  This time, the court applied a very narrow reading of the law to overturn …

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