Colantuono Named Public Lawyer of the Year

The California State Bar’s Public Law Section will honor Michael G. Colantuono as the 2010 Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year Award at a reception during the State Bar’s Annual Meeting Sept. 24, 2010 in Monterey.  California’s Chief Justice Ronald M. George, the award’s namesake will present the award.

Michael is a shareholder with the firm of Colantuono & Levin in Los Angeles and Penn Valley, California.  He has specialized in municipal law since 1989 and serves as counsel to numerous cities and local government entities. In 2003-04 he served as President of the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities.  While President he appointed the Department’s first ethics committee, which developed a guidebook on professional ethics for public lawyers, as well as aspirational ethical guidelines for public lawyers.

Michael currently serves as City Attorney for the cities of Auburn and Calabasas, and as Agency or General Counsel for the Auburn Urban Development Agency, the North Yuba Water District, the Yuba County LAFCO and the Rough & Ready and Ophir Hill Fire Districts. He previously served as City Attorney of Barstow (1997-2004), Cudahy (1994-1999), La Habra Heights (1994-2004), Monrovia (1999-2002), and Sierra Madre (2004-2006), as General Counsel to the Barstow (1997-2004) and Sierra Madre (2004-2006) Redevelopment Agencies, and as General Counsel of the Big Bear City Community Services District (1994-2001).

Colantuono has taken a leadership role in advocating for local governments in the area of municipal revenues, leading the committee which drafted and negotiated the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act.  He also served on the committee which wrote the League of California Cities Proposition 218 Implementation Guide in 1997, as well as having edited and contributed to updates to the Guide. He has argued before the California Supreme Court on behalf of public entities frequently, including three appearances in the California Supreme Court Richmond v. Shasta Community Services District (2004) (water connection charges not subject to Prop. 218), Bonander v. Town of Tiburon (2009) (statute of limitations for challenge to 1915 Act assessment; counsel for amicus) and Greene v Marin County Flood Control & Water Conservation District (2010) (Prop. 218 fee elections not subject to ballot secrecy).

The annual Public Lawyer of the Year Award recognizes an exceptional lawyer who has dedicated a significant portion of his or her career to public service. Award recipients are lawyers who represent the highest level of professional and ethical standards and who are inspirational advocates for the public interest.

The award was renamed in 2009 after California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who traditionally speaks at the award ceremony and introduces the year’s winner, to recognize the Chief Justice’s exceptional contributions to the public and to further define and exemplify the caliber of the contributions provided to the public by the award recipients.

“Each year this award goes to an extraordinary individual for outstanding service to the public,” George said at the Sept. 11, 2009 awards ceremony:

“But, of course, with this tradition we do more than celebrate a single career. We commemorate the power of law in the public interest, and the deeply held values of our profession and of our nation that make this work possible. In presenting this award, we encourage all lawyers who choose public service over personal gain, and who join us in our cause, to make good on the promise of equal justice under law. And finally we remind ourselves of why we wanted to be lawyers in the first place, and of the common good that a committed public-interest lawyer can accomplish.”

When informed of his selection, Colantuono said:

“I am deeply honored by this recognition, both because it is the most significant award granted to a public lawyer in California and because it reflects a judgment of my professional peers, which is deeply gratifying.  I am grateful to the Public Law Section for this honor.”

The 2009 award was given to Patricia Tenoso Sturdevant, the assistant chief, senior and staff counsel in the Enforcement Division of the State Department of Managed Health Care in Sacramento, who is nationally recognized as a consumer advocate with expertise in health care law, managed health care issues, and predatory mortgage lending.

Other recent Public Lawyer of the Year Award honorees include:  Jeff Thom (’08), Ann Miller Ravel (’07), Clara Slifkin (’06), Manuela Albuquerque (’05), Roderick Walston (’04), Ariel Pierre Calonne (’03), Herschel Elkins (’02), and Jayne W. Williams (’01).