Practice Group Details

Public Law

For more than 80 years Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP has been your premier option for innovative solutions to complex public law problems.  Our public law practice began in 1938 when founding partner Louis H. Burke was appointed as City Attorney of the City of Montebello.  Today, our public law practice delivers a full range of services and represents the spectrum of public and quasi-public entities including municipalities, special districts, counties, joint powers authorities, and departments of the State, as well as special purpose entities such as redevelopment agencies, economic development corporations, and affordable housing non-profits.  Multidisciplinary coordination is the hallmark of our practice. We bring together the experience of trusted general counsel, talented litigators, insightful employment counsel, and innovative specialists to provide you with comprehensive services or teams which can address problems holistically, effectively, and efficiently.

Burke's Public Law Practice Group maintains a number of "Practice Teams" with attorneys focused on specific areas of public law.  Burke's Practice Teams include:

City Attorney/General Counsel Practice Team

As the title suggests, this Team focuses on representation of clients as their city or town attorney or general counsel.  The team members stress multidisciplinary management of legal services, legal service cost management and control, risk assessment and avoidance, as well as proactive high quality legal advice.  The Team currently represents over 30 public or quasi-public entities as city attorney or general counsel.  Issues of concentration include:

  • The Brown Act, implementation, interpretation, and defense
  • Conflicts of Interest, including the Political Reform Act
  • FPPC regulations and Self-Dealing statutes
  • Public Records Act responses, document retention, and use policies 
  • Franchising
  • Code enforcement and prosecutions
  • Election procedures and challenges
  • Federal, state and local government relations
  • Growth management
  • LAFCO proceedings
  • Land use planning, housing and development
  • Mobile home rent control
  • Nuisance abatement
  • Public works bidding and contract disputes
  • Risk management and insurance recovery
  • Telecommunications

Governmental Ethics Practice Team

The Governmental Ethics Practice Team focusses on the landscape of issues involving false claims, conflicts of interest, including Government Code section 1090, the Political Reform Act including regulations adopted by the Fair Political Practices Commission, fiduciary and ethical duties, whistleblowing defense, the Brown Act, and the Public Records Act. We have accomplished trainers for Assembly Bill No. 1234 required ethics training courses and other special needs.

Members of the Governmental Ethics Practice Team include City Attorneys, Assistant City Attorneys, trial lawyers, litigators, and staff attorneys. Our members include experts in ethics and conflicts of interest. They have assisted cities, counties and joint powers authorities in investigations involving ethics, legal representation, and related claims.

While our attorneys have counseled many governmental entities on their responsibilities and duties, avoiding costly violations of laws and regulations while formulating compliance solutions, we have also represented numerous entities, including most of the largest cities in the State of California, in lawsuits seeking recovery for breaches of public trust and conflicts, and violations of the False Claims Act. We have represented clients in defending against whistleblowing claims arising under many federal and state laws, including Labor Code section 1102.5, the False Claims Act, and the Whistleblower Protection Act. There are now whistleblower protections incorporated into many governmental laws and programs, and our law firm has experience with the cases and issues arising under them.

Environmental & Land Use Practice Team

Public agencies across California have trusted our Environmental and Land Use Practice Team members to handle the most complex and sensitive of legal matters. Our Team is always on the cutting-edge of environmental and land use issues due to the wide range of public agencies and other entities we represent and the broad scope of legal issues in which we are involved. From CEQA to CERCLA, Prop 65 to Section 404 permits, and whether it’s the Planning and Zoning Law, Subdivision Map Act or recent legislation like SB 375 we have in depth experience with all major environmental and land use statutes.  We have helped ensure the legal defensibility of CEQA documents, Housing Elements, Development Agreements, and then been able to successfully defend the decision to adopt these documents in court.  

Special Districts Practice Team

The Special Districts Practice Team focuses on collaborative and creative ways to serve District needs in a cost-effective manner.  Members are regularly engaged to act as general counsel providing advice on day-to-day matters such as open meeting laws, conflicts of interest, regulatory compliance, and legislation that authorizes District action or that may uniquely effect District operations.  The Team also provides labor and employment advice and litigation defense.  Representative clients include water, sewer, public utility, port, transit, park and recreation, healthcare, resource conservation, and community services districts. 

Public Transactions (formerly Redevelopment) Practice Team

Our Public Transactions Team counsels public agencies statewide on complex real estate and land use matters, with a focus on creating value for our clients and their real estate assets.  Our specialized expertise includes forward planning; assisting with land use, design and permitting processes; environmental review and compliance; negotiation and drafting of transactional documents, including complex development agreements, ground leases, and affordable housing loan agreements and covenants; ferry-system transactions; and ancillary matters from title insurance and due diligence to financing and Brownfields issues.  Our attorneys also advise clients on issues regarding the dissolution of redevelopment, including advice on other opportunities for economic development. 

Eminent Domain Practice Team

Our Eminent Domain Practice Team concentrates not only on litigating eminent domain matters, but also on the related relocation and real property law issues.  The Team regularly represents public clients in all aspects of property acquisition matters, from the pre-acquisition phase of eminent domain proceedings through litigation, trial, and appeal.  The Team's attorneys have successfully handled eminent domain cases for public agencies covering a variety of properties, including residential, commercial, industrial, vacant land (both entitled and unentitled), special use, and contaminated properties.  Likewise, the Team has dealt with an assortment of businesses affected by eminent domain, including retail stores, and service and manufacturing businesses, as well as such unusual businesses as military testing facilities and churches and  substantial experience in preventing and, when necessary, successfully litigating right-to-take challenges.  Our Team's experience is holistic.  We also handle the preparation of  transactional documents necessary for the acquisition of real and personal property interests, including purchase and sale agreements, land swaps, options, reversionary interests, deeds, leases, and other related documents.

Complex Issues/Litigation Practice Team

Legal problems don't come in silos.  This practice team knows that the term "municipal law"  is a misnomer, encompassing a huge and varied legal landscape from federal and state constitutional law to complex federal and state regulatory schemes.  Public agencies must operate in a daunting array of legal fields.  These include Planning, Zoning, Subdivisions CEQA, Land Use, Code Enforcement, Administrative Law, Public Trust, Taxes, Fees, Franchises, Exactions, Labor & Employment,  Public Works, Public Contracting, Police Practices, Civil Rights, Housing, Federal & State Constitutional Issues,  California Tort Claims Act, (Procedures, Immunities, Defense & Indemnification) Conflicts of Interest, Nuisance, Real Property, Ethics, Brown Act, Public Records Act, Charter & General Law City Powers, Federal and State Preemption and Elections.

We connect the dots and use creative and strategic thinking to sole your problem. 

We marry our command of the legal substance, with sophisticated trial and appellate, federal and state, litigation skills including administrative Writs, Traditional Writs, Quo Warranto, Prohibition, Supersedeas, Appellate Writs, Injunctions, Anti-SLAPP Motions, Federal Litigation, Appeals, Petitions for Review, Petitions for Certiorari,  As a result, when a public agency is confronted with complex interconnected problems or litigation, we are skilled at appreciating the whole legal picture while keeping track of the details.

Public Law Services:

  • Affordable housing
  • Cable television franchising
  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
  • Climate change
  • Coastal Act
  • Code enforcement and prosecutions
  • Commercial leasing
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Disposition and development agreements
  • Drafting ordinances, resolutions and opinion letters
  • Economic development
  • Election procedures and challenges
  • Eminent domain proceedings
  • Endangered species
  • Environmental law
  • Federal, state and local government relations
  • Financing techniques
  • Funding issues
  • General counsel services
  • Growth management
  • Historic preservation
  • Housing conservation and development
  • Infrastructure development
  • Labor and employment issues
  • LAFCO proceedings
  • Land use planning, planning, and inverse condemnation
  • Law enforcement defense
  • Litigation services
  • Mobile home rent control
  • Nuisance abatement
  • Open meeting (Brown Act)
  • Owner participation agreements
  • Plan adoption, extension and amendment
  • Prevailing wage disputes
  • Property negotiation, acquisition and disposition
  • Public records requirements
  • Public safety issues
  • Public taxation (Propositions 218 and 26)
  • Public works bidding and contract disputes
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Risk management and insurance recovery
  • Solid waste franchising
  • Special district act interpretation
  • Subdivision Map Act
  • Taxes, assessments and fees
  • The Telecommunications Act of 1996
  • Tort claims
  • Transactional advice
  • Water rights and public trust