Michael ColantuonoEMPLOYMENT

Managing Shareholder, Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC
420 Sierra College Drive, Suite 140, Grass Valley, California 95945-5091

(530) 432-7357

Certified Appellate Specialist, State Bar of California. Advice and litigation for local governments, with special expertise in appellate advocacy, municipal finance, elections, land use, CEQA, and the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act. City Attorney of Grass Valley; Special Counsel to cities, counties, and special districts throughout California. General Counsel to Calaveras LAFCO, and Peardale-Chicago Park, Higgins, North San Juan, Ophir Hill, and Penn Valley Fire Districts. Previously City Attorney of seven other cities, General Counsel of redevelopment agencies and special districts, Special Counsel to many LAFCOs.

Shareholder and Associate (1989–2001), Richards, Watson & Gershon, PC
Los Angeles, California

Adjunct Professor of Law (Spring 1995), University of California at Berkeley School of Law, Administrative Law

Law Clerk (1988–1989), Honorable James R. Browning
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit



UC Berkeley School of Law, J.D., May 1988. Member, Order of the Coif. Articles Editor, California Law Review. Thelen Marrin Award Recipient (Highest-Ranked Graduate). Moot Court Board Award. Recipient, American Jurisprudence and Prosser Awards for Excellence in Property, Land Use, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Evidence, Federal Courts, Corporations, International Law.

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, B.A. magna cum laude in Government, June 1983.



Elected Member, American Law Institute (2020 – ) The ALI is the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize and otherwise improve the law.

California Lawyer of the Year — Inverse Condemnation Law (2020). Michael was granted this prestigious award by the Daily Journal, California’ leading legal trade paper, for his win in the California Supreme Court in City of Oroville v. Superior Court (2019) 7 Cal.5th 1091, an important development in the law applicable to claims against government for property damage.

Chair of the Board of Trustees (2018), President (2017), Treasurer (2014–2015), Trustee (2012–2018), California State Bar. Two Speakers of the California Assembly appointed Mr. Colantuono to the governing board of the agency which regulates the practice of law in California. His fellow Trustees elected him Treasurer and President. The California Supreme Court appointed him Board Chair.

Member, Judicial Council Appellate Advisory Committee (2019 – ). The Judicial Council appointed Mr. Colantuono to two three-year terms on this body, which advises on the administration of appellate justice, rules of court, legislation, and training for appellate justices and their staff.

President, California Academy of Appellate Lawyers (2022–23), Member (2014 –). Mr. Colantuono was elected to membership in this prestigious association of about 125 of California’s most distinguished appellate advocates.

Member, American Academy of Appellate Lawyers (2022 – ), Mr. Colantuono was invited to membership in this prestigious associate of appellate counsel.

Member, Appellate Case Flow Working Group, Judicial Council of California. (2022) Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye appointed Mr. Colantuono to this committee which investigated the causes of, and proposed remedies for, delay in decisions in California’s six District Courts of Appeal.

Member, Review Committee, Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation (2013–2015). Appointee of State Bar President to committee which hears appeals from negative evaluations of the Governor’s potential judicial nominees.

Public Lawyer of the Year (2010). California’s Chief Justice Ronald M. George presented Mr. Colantuono with the 2010 Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year Award, which recognizes an exceptional lawyer who has dedicated a significant portion of his or her career to public service. Award recipients represent the highest professional and ethical standards and are inspirational advocates for the public interest in the view of the Executive Committee of the Public Law Section of the California State Bar.

Fellow, American Bar Association (2013—).  Invited to membership in honorary association of lawyers, judges, and legal scholars.

President, City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities (2003–04). Elected by his peers to lead the professional association of city attorneys. 

Director, League of California Cities (2021 – 2023). Elected by his fellow City Attorneys, Mr. Colantuono served as a director of the trade association for California’s cities.

Member, Commission on Local Governance for the 21st Century (1998–2000). Appointee of the Rules Committee of the California State Assembly. This Commission’s report led to 2000’s AB 2838, which comprehensively revised the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000, regarding the establishment, dissolution, expansion and merger of local governments in California. 

Chairman, Municipal Finance Committee of the League of California Cities (1996–2019). Presidents of the City Attorneys Department appointed Mr. Colantuono to this committee which drafted the League’s Proposition 218 Implementation Guide, its Proposition 26 Implementation Guide, a combined guide to both measures, and the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act, Chapter 38 of the Statutes of 1997.

Amicus Service Award (2017) International Municipal Lawyers Association.

Attorney of the Year (2010–11), Santa Barbara County Chapter of the California Special District Association for rate-making advice to the Goleta Water District. 

Top 25 Municipal Lawyers in California (2011—2013). The San Francisco and Los Angeles Daily Journal named 25 leading California Municipal Lawyers and has recognized Mr. Colantuono for his leading role in appellate litigation involving municipal revenues in all three issues of this publication.

Award of Recognition, ChangeLab Solutions (2008) for Contributions to its Technical Assistance Legal Center in its first decade of work advising California local governments on their authority to regulate tobacco. 

Award of Excellence — Planning Implementation (2002) presented by the Northern Section of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association for the City of Belmont’s Lot Merger Program. 

Achievement Award — Associate Member of the Year (2015 & 2023) presented by the California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. 

AV Preeminent® Top Rated, Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings. This rating reflects a Very High General Ethical Standards rating and a Preeminent Legal Ability rating in a survey of lawyers who know Mr. Colantuono’s work. 

Recognition — Super Lawyers of Northern California (2006–2020) – Super Lawyers of Southern California (2004–2005). Super Lawyers rates outstanding lawyers who have attained high peer recognition and professional achievement. 

Recognition — Best Lawyers in America: Municipal Law (2013—); Municipal Lawyer of the Year – Los Angeles (2016); Municipal Lawyer of the Year – Sacramento (2018 & 2022).

Recognition — Top Ranked Law Firms in California (2015–present). This recognition reflects that 20% of CHW’s lawyers hold a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating. The recognized firms number just 410 in a state with some 187,000 practicing attorneys.

Recognition — Sacramento Magazine’s Top Lawyers (2016)

Recognition — Marquis Who’s Who in the World (2017–). This recognition is limited to the top 3% of professionals in the world.

Superb-Rated Attorney — Avvo.com. Calculated using a mathematical model, Avvo’s rating considers years in practice, disciplinary history, professional achievements, and industry recognition to assess a lawyer’s qualifications, trust, and credibility.



Director, Northern California Lawyer Access, Inc. (President 2008–2009, Secretary 2011–2012; Director, 2007–2012). Non-profit operator of a lawyer referral service in 21 northern California Counties.

President, Board of Trustees of the Nevada County Law Library (President, 2008–09; Trustee, 2005–09); President, Nevada County Bar Association (2006). Vice President (2005). Fee Arbitration panel member (2005 –).



Update Author, Chapter 12 (Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions), Manaster & Selmi, California Environmental Law and Land Use Practice. Lexis-Nexis (Spring 2024 update, forthcoming)

“A legal win for city finance — Supreme Court holds utility rates not subject to referendum,” Western City (Feb. 1, 2021)

“What You Need to Know About Municipal Finance,” Western City (Oct. 2020)

“Recent Important Changes in Municipal Finance Law,” Western City (Oct. 2019)

“High Court to Clarify Standing to Enforce Conflict of Interest Law,” Daily Journal (Oct. 1, 2019) [Analysis of San Diegans for Open Government v. Public Facilities Financing Authority of the City of San Diego, CA S Ct Case No. S245996]

“Plotting the boundary between state and local authority,” Daily Journal (June 21, 2019) [Analysis of City and County of San Francisco v. Regents of University of California (2019) 7 Cal.App.5th 536]

Propositions 218 & 26 Implementation Guide (League of California Cities, 2019, Editor & Contributor).

 “Hot Topics in California Municipal Finance,” Western City (Nov. 2018) (co-authored with Michael Coleman).

 “Community Services Districts Can Provide Internet Access,” www.csda.net (Oct. 2018)

“Legal Implications of Local Government Use of Social Media,” California Special Districts (Sept.-Oct. 2018).

Sample Policy Handbook (California Special Districts Association, 2017, Contributor).

“State Constitutional Prohibition on Promises Not to Tax,” 36 California Real Property Journal 39 (2018).

Uproar Over Upland — The Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Local Special Taxes,” Cal Tax Reports (Mar. 23, 2017).

“Overview of California Open Meetings Law,” CEB California Business Law Practitioner (Fall 2016).

 “Whose Money is It Anyway?: Policy Considerations for General Fund Transfers from Enterprise Funds,” CSMFO Magazine (Nov. 2016).

Special Financing Districts: An Introduction to Special Assessments and Special Taxes. (NBS, 2006, Contributor).

 “Forward,” Practicing Ethics:  A Handbook for Municipal Lawyers (League of California Cities, 2004).

Practice Under the California Environmental Quality Act. (Continuing Education of the Bar, California, 1993, Consultant).

“Finance and Economic Development,” The California Municipal Law Handbook, Chapter V (California Continuing Education of the Bar, Contributor, 2004; Reviewer, 2005–present).

Providing Conflict of Interest Advice. (League of California Cities, 2004 edition, Reviewer).