Ryan Thomas Dunn


Ryan Dunn(213) 542-5717
rdunn@chwlaw.us

Ryan is senior counsel in Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley’s litigation practice group. His practice covers a full range of litigation matters for public entities, including disputes over public revenues, election disputes, land use issues, general commercial litigation, and related appeals. He uses his deep knowledge of California civil procedure to efficiently defend public entities in litigation and to resolve disputes cost-effectively.

Ryan’s trial court experience includes:

  • defense of Proposition 26 challenges to utility rates and general fund transfers on behalf of multiple public entities throughout the state;
  • successful defense of a southern California tourism marketing district assessment in two Proposition 26 challenges, one a class action, both affirmed on appeal;
  • representation of a Central Coast county in two challenges to the county’s annexation fees, leading to a successful motion for new trial and judgment for the county at the new trial in the first trial, and judgment for the county on the merits in the second;
  • representation of a southern California charter city in a Proposition 26 case against the city’s business improvement district assessments, leading to a dismissal;
  • defense of two charter cities in putative class action Proposition 218 challenges to utility franchise fees passed through to utility customers;
  • defense of a county’s enforcement of its ridgeline protection ordinance against an inverse condemnation challenge, leading to a defense verdict after a five-day court trial;
  • defense of a business improvement district in a Public Records Act case involving a challenge to the district’s document retention policy;
  • defense of a geologic hazard abatement district (GHAD) assessment against Proposition 218 challenges and pursuit of a validation judgment to protect it from future challenges;
  • defense of a city council’s interpretation of its charter in refusing to honor mayoral veto from challenges by the mayor and private citizen;
  • successful representation of a Fortune 500 company in a federal Superfund case; and
  • successful defense of a southern California charter city’s interpretation of a parcel tax against a Proposition 218 challenge claiming the city’s application of the tax amount to a “change of methodology” and therefore a tax increase requiring voter approval.

Ryan is also general counsel for the Burbank Hospitality Association.

Ryan’s appellate experience includes:

  • Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara (2017) 3 Cal.5th 248 — a successful petition for review of a Proposition 218 challenge to Santa Barbara’s electricity franchise fee and representation of the City at the Supreme Court, where the court reversed the Court of Appeal, and which is now pending in the trial court on remand;
  • Reid v. City of San Diego (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 343 — defense of a tourism marketing district in putative class action Proposition 26 challenge to assessment, dismissed on demurrer at trial court and affirmed on appeal;
  • California Taxpayers Action Network v. City of San Diego (2018, unpublished) — defense of a tourism marketing district in reverse validation Proposition 26 challenge to assessment, dismissed on demurrer at trial court and affirmed on appeal;
  • Webb v. City of Riverside (2018) 23 Cal.App.5th 244 — defense of a Proposition 26/218 challenge to Riverside’s general fund transfer from its municipal electric utility, dismissed on demurrer at the trial court and affirmed on appeal;
  • Jurupa Valley Limited Partnership v. City of Vernon (2016, unpublished) — defense of city in Proposition 218 challenge to parcel tax, affirmed on appeal;
  • defense of senior county officials in appeal to the Ninth Circuit of federal substantive due process challenge to land use decisions (pending);
  • drafting and opposing petitions for appellate writ relief, publication of appellate decisions, and Supreme Court review; and
  • drafting several amicus briefs on public law matters on behalf of the League of California Cities and other municipal entities, including in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland (2017) 3 Cal.5th 924; and In re Transient Occupancy Tax Cases (2016) 2 Cal.5th 131.

Ryan is a member of the League of California Cities Municipal Finance Committee and helped draft the League’s Proposition 218/26 Implementation Guide.

Prior to joining Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, Ryan litigated environmental and product liability matters at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP in Minneapolis. Ryan’s work at Faegre included significant involvement in advising a corporate client on the potential for environmental enforcement actions under state and federal law arising out of groundwater contamination caused by an oil refinery in Alaska, as well as representation of that client in litigation with a former owner of that refinery.

After law school, Ryan worked as a law clerk to two judges with civil case assignments at Los Angeles Superior Court. In this role, Ryan analyzed and drafted bench memoranda for dozens of motions for summary judgment on cases ranging from employment matters to real estate disputes to government tort claims. Ryan also analyzed motions from every stage of the civil trial process, from demurrers to discovery disputes to requests for entry of default judgments.

Ryan was named a Southern California Rising Star by Super Lawyers in 2016, 2017, and 2018. He received his law degree from the UCLA School of Law in 2009 and an M.A. in urban planning from the UCLA School of Public Affairs that year, where he focused his studies on transportation issues. Ryan assisted two law professors in their research efforts while at UCLA and was named a Distinguished Advocate by the UCLA Moot Court Honors Program. He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.B.A. in Finance and Real Estate and worked for an affordable housing developer in the Minneapolis area after college. When not at work, you might find him running the trails in Griffith Park, rooting for the Chicago Cubs or Wisconsin Badgers, or exploring Los Angeles by foot or bike.

Practice Areas:

Public Revenues

Appellate Law

Election Law

Land Use Litigation

Public Records Act Litigation

Redevelopment & Affordable Housing

Utilities Law

Ryan’s Significant Appellate Representations