Constitutional Issues


Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC has a deep and experienced team of litigators and advisory lawyers with experience in a wide range of constitutional issues that arise for our public agency clients including:

  • Alcoholic Beverage Control and Licensing
  • Charter Cities, Home Rule, Preemption, Limits on State Legislation
  • Claiming Procedures, Liability Defense
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Criminal Justice Issues
  • Cruel & Unusual Punishments, Excessive Fines
  • Due Process & Fair Hearings
  • Elections, Initiative, Referendum and Recall
  • Eminent Domain & Inverse Condemnation
  • Equal Protection, Privileges & Immunities, Anti-Discrimination Laws
  • Freedom of Religion, Public Support of Religious Institutions
  • Freedom of Association
  • Freedom of Expression, Public Forum Analysis, Defamation Law
  • Freedom of Assembly; Regulation of Assemblies, Parades & Demonstrations
  • Interest on Judgments
  • Gambling
  • Gifts of Public Funds
  • Open Meetings & Public Records
  • Personnel, Pensions, Compensation
  • Privacy
  • Public Finance
    • Debt Limit
    • Gann Limit (Prop. 9)
    • Revenue Protection (Props. 1A, 22)
    • Limits on Local Revenues (Props. 13, 62, 218, 26)
      • General Taxes
      • Special Taxes
      • Assessments
      • Property Related Fees
      • Proposition 26’s Restrictions on Other Fees
    • Rate-making and Fee-Setting
    • Unfunded Mandates
  • Public Trust Doctrine, Tidelands Trust
  • Public Utilities
  • Redevelopment and Post-Redevelopment Issues
  • Water Conservation

We have advised public agencies on these matters, drafted and defended ordinances, and litigated in the trial and appellate courts, both state and federal.

Depth of experience. Our attorneys offer extensive background and experience in these complex issues as they affect California local governments under both the California Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. Our lawyers have argued in every appellate court in California, including six appearances in the California Supreme Court, litigation in the 9th Circuit, and arguments in all six District Courts of Appeal (including all three divisions of the 4th District). These cases span the almost four decades our lawyers have been in practice.

Sterling credentials. Our lawyers obtained their educations at such leading colleges and law schools as Columbia, Harvard, Lewis & Clark College, Princeton, Reed College, Stanford, UC Berkeley/Boalt Hall, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, the University of Texas at Austin, and George Washington University. Michael Colantuono is a former President of the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities, was named the 2010 Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year by the California Bar, and is a Trustee of the California State Bar. Holly Whatley represented the California Association of LAFCOs in rewriting the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research’s “LAFCO’s, General Plans, and City Annexations” (Feb. 7, 2012)

Recognized expertise. Michael and Holly were named among the Top 20 Municipal Lawyers in California by the Los Angeles Daily Journal in 2013 and Michael was named in the two previous years. Michael is a member of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers, a prestigious organization limited to the most reputable and well recognized appellate lawyers in California.

The quality of our practice on these complex, intellectually demanding and important issues has been recognized by a wide range of local government and other associations which have selected us to write amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs on their behalf in appeals in U.S. Supreme Court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the California Supreme Court, and each and every District Court of Appeal in our state.  These include:

  • American Lung Association of California
  • Association of California Water Agencies
  • California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions
  • California Association of Sanitary Agencies
  • California Fire Chiefs Association
  • California Mosquito & Vector Control Association
  • California Special Districts Association
  • California State Association of Counties
  • International Municipal Law Association
  • League of California Cities
  • Tobacco Control Legal Consortium

In short, Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC and its lawyers have deep experience in the full range of constitutional issues confronting California’s local governments, both in court and in the Council or Board meeting room.