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Compiled by Nathaniel Barr / Northern California's Best Lawyers 2017


 Altshuler Berzon: Michael Rubin (appellate practice; employment law – individuals; litigation – labor and employment, 2006) represented two of California’s largest public school teachers’ unions in an appeal that reversed a lower court decision. The decision would have removed protections for teachers who have taught for more than two years, had it stayed in effect, and given the state education system more freedom in determining good versus bad teachers and deciding when teachers should be let go.

► Best Best & Krieger: Gene Tanaka (litigation – environmental, 2016) represented the City of Ontario, California, in negotiations with residents over how best to provide water for 37 homes in the semi-rural area near the city’s airport. Residents of these homes have needed to truck bottled water in from other places for nearly 10 years, due to well water contamination that came about as a result of a toxic cleaning agent that was used at the airport from the 1940s through the 1970s. Under the agreement, Ontario and nearby city Upland will take over the work of providing alternative water supply for the effected residents.

► McManis FaulknerJames McManis (bet-the-company litigation; commercial litigation; criminal defense: white-collar; litigation – First Amendment; litigation – intellectual property; litigation – municipal, 1997) represented a nurse, Shiow-Huey Chang, who was forcibly removed from her vehicle by Sheriff’s deputies in Santa Clara County after refusing to sign her ticket without speaking to their supervisor. Ms. Chang brought a suit in civil court, winning a jury verdict that included $40,000 in damages. The jury agreed that the deputies had used excessive force in reacting to Ms. Chang’s refusal and that the Sheriff had "ratified" the deputies’ misconduct by not acknowledging it or disciplining them after the fact.

► Minami Tamaki: B. Mark Fong (personal injury litigation – plaintiffs, 2014) won $3.25 million for the family of a 78-year-old bicyclist who was crushed by a Muni bus in San Francisco. These busses have a bumper guard attached to them, which can prevent serious injury and death in collisions with bicycles and pedestrians: the bus, in this case, was missing this safety device, which could have prevented the elderly cyclist’s death.

 Nossaman: Michael Patrick Durkee (land use and zoning law, 2013), of San Francisco, is representing the real estate developer Thomas Hodge and his family business in a dispute with the City of Napa over its decision to raise parking fees, which, the Hodge family argues, would put a hamper on new development in Napa.


Private Practice:

► Norton Rose Fulbright has launched a new office in San Francisco, including Clifford M. Gerber (municipal law; public finance law, 2012), Gerald J. McGovern (public finance law, 2007), and Eric D. Tashman (public finance law, 2008). Seventeen lawyers in total joined the firm from Sidley Austin in San Francisco, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

In-House & Government:

► Aaron J. Alter (leveraged buyouts and private equity law; securities / capital markets law; venture capital law; 2007) moved to an in-house counsel position with Hawaiian Airlines. He was previously with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto.

► Robert Gebhardt (personal injury litigation – defendants, 2006) is general counsel at Berkeley-area startup, Smilables, Inc. He was previously with Cooper, White & Cooper in San Francisco.

IN THE NEWS FEATURE: Obtaining Justice in a Tragedy

Eustace de Saint Phalle
 (personal injury litigation – plaintiffs, 2016) of Rains Lucia Stern represented the Donohue family in obtaining justice and damages from a building contract company that built the balcony that collapsed last year in Berkeley, resulting in the deaths of six young people, including the Donohues’ daughter, Ashley, 22, and their niece, Olivia, 21. The two young women were with others on the apartment complex balcony neighboring the UC-Berkeley campus celebrating a 21st birthday party when the structurally unsound balcony detached from the building wall and dropped 50 feet to the ground. The tragic collapse was noted afterward by state building inspectors to have been a result of careless workmanship, leading to structural inadequacy, which made it impossible to protect from water damage.

De Saint Phalle brought suit for his clients against the contractor business and the case was settled out of court. The family brought their efforts further, pleading to the California State Senate, which passed a bill that will require contractor companies to disclose settlements related to defective construction projects.

"We hope that this bill will ultimately force contractors who build defective structures to publicly disclose their settlements," said mother Jackie Donohue. "Secret settlements only help contractors hide their negligent conduct."

The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Brown in September, 2016, and sponsored by Senators Loni Hancock of Berkeley and Jerry Hill of San Mateo, will also require that contractors’ disclose felony convictions and gives the state legislature leeway to review standards and codes related to overhanging structures, as well as recommend any necessary improvements.