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

Obtained summary judgment on behalf of the County of Tehama in an equal protection civil rights case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff moved from Alaska to Tehama County to cultivate marijuana on a large scale. After a neighbor complained to Code Enforcement about plaintiff building large, unpermitted greenhouses to grow marijuana, Code Enforcement issued a number of code violations to the plaintiff in connection with his planned marijuana grow. Plaintiff sued the County of Tehama and the individual Code Enforcement officers in federal court on the grounds that the County treated him differently than other marijuana growers in the County. The court held that there was no evidence of differential treatment and dismissed Plaintiff’s lawsuit.

Successfully defended a challenge to a County of Tehama ordinance that bans the outdoor cultivation of marijuana. The petitioner, a medical marijuana patient association, sought an order from the Tehama County Superior Court that the County’s ban on outdoor cultivation of marijuana was unconstitutional and in conflict  with California law. The court upheld the County’s ordinance on the grounds that the outdoor cultivation ban was within the County’s right to enact reasonable regulations to regulate the cultivation of marijuana.

The court sustained the Demurrer to plaintiff’s first amended complaint without leave to amend filed by firm.  The court agreed that plaintiff’s causes of action were not timely filed within the statute of limitations.   Plaintiff had various theories of civil liability against the former deputy district attorney and criminal defense attorneys involved in his prior criminal conviction.

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].

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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