Carmen is Of Counsel to Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley’s litigation practice group. Carmen has over 30 years of public law experience, most recently serving for 13 years as senior Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Diego’s civil land use and public finance litigation unit. Her land use litigation experience includes cases involving the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Subdivision Map Act, eminent domain, land use entitlements, community planning, zoning, and real property disputes. During her tenure in San Diego, she successfully defended the City in dozens of land use cases, at trial and on appeal. Her published appellate land use decisions include Torrey Hills Community Coalition v. City of San Diego (2010)86 Cal.App.4th 429 (CEQA); Linda Vista Village San Diego Homeowners Assoc. v. City of San Diego (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 166 (Real Property); and Bottini v. City of San Diego (2018) 27 Cal.App.5th 281, review granted (CEQA and Inverse Condemnation).
Additionally,Carmen has extensive experience in financing districts, including formation of Mello Roos districts, business improvement districts, and maintenance assessment districts, as well as related revenue litigation arising under Proposition 218 and Proposition 26. Her published appellate decisions in this area include Golden Hill Neighborhood Association, Inc. v. City of San Diego (2011) 99 Cal.App.4th 416 and Reid v. City of San Diego (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 343.
Before her service to San Diego, Carmen practiced land use litigation and facilities financing law for eight years representing school districts and water districts across California. She successfully pursued eminent domain proceedings to acquire property for new school sites, assisted school districts in acquiring school site financing and other State funding, and successfully litigated public contracts, Disposition and Development Agreements (DDAs), and challenges involving the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). She was a member of the construction contract dispute resolution panel for Pasadena Unified School District, and participated as a committee member for Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH), drafting a model school district project labor agreement. She also participated in the initial draft legislation for the Leroy F. Green School Facilities Act of 1998.
Early in her career, Carmen served as Deputy City Attorney for the City of Costa Mesa, and advised that city’s Redevelopment Agency, its administrative hearing officer, and police department, as well as acting as the city’s Code Enforcement Prosecutor.
Carmen holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Logic from the University of California, Irvine, with a minor in biological sciences. She received her J.D. from Western State College of Law, where she was on the distinguished honor roll and won American Jurisprudence awards in three subjects.
Carmen volunteers at the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, Civil Appellate Self-Help Clinic, and has participates as a judge for the UC Irvine Law School’s Moot Court Program, and for the University of San Diego Law School Legal Writing and Research Moot Court Program.