Blog Category: Staff Updates


Welcome Senior Litigator Jenni Pancake

Colantuono & Levin welcomes Jenni Pancake as Senior Counsel in the firm’s Litigation Department, where she will focus on a broad range of public-sector disputes and will bring her deep expertise in eminent domain and inverse condemnation to the firm’s busy and diverse litigation practice.

Jenni’s eminent domain experience covers a wide variety of condemnation issues and includes representation of governmental agencies, property owners, tenants and business owners on all aspects of the condemnation process; including acquisition, real estate valuation, loss of business goodwill, severance damages, right-to-take challenges, pre-condemnation damages and relocation benefits. Her experience includes litigation and appeals as well as settlement and mediation. Two of her early cases resulted in published appellate decisions — Community Redevelopment Agency v. Force Electronics (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 622 and Los Angeles Unified School Dist. v. Trump Wilshire Assoc. (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 1682.

Her representation of governmental entities has included cities, redevelopment agencies, counties, irrigation districts, construction authorities, school districts, flood control districts and water districts. She has appeared before many and diverse government agencies, including City Councils, Transportation Advisory Commissions, Boards of Zoning Appeals, Planning Commissions, Planning and Land Use (PLUM) Committee, Redevelopment Agencies, Transportation Authority Boards, and the California Coastal Commission.

Jenni has litigated a wide variety of other municipal issues including public finance, land use, inverse condemnation, civil rights, Brown Act, dangerous condition, real property, torts, police excessive force, contracts, writs, and administrative hearings and appeals. She has also handled municipal claims administration, civil and criminal subpoenas and Pitchess motions, and served as counsel to a city personnel advisory board.

Some of her most recent agency work includes representation of the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority in eminent domain actions for the acquisition of property required for ACE’s recent grade separation projects and the Los Angeles Unified School District in several eminent domain actions for the construction of new schools.

Jenni has been rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell since 2000 and is admitted to the State Bar of California, the U.S. District Court for the Central District and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. She is has appeared in state trial and appellate courts throughout California.

Jenni is a graduate of the University of Redlands (B.A. Political Science, 1984) and Loyola Law School (J.D., 1988). At Loyola, she was a staff member and then Managing Editor of the Loyola Law Review, was on the Dean’s List and a member of the St. Thomas More Law and Honor Society, received an AmJur Award for Civil Procedure, and was a judicial extern to the Honorable W. Matthew Byrne, Jr. in the Los Angeles federal district court. Her interest in eminent domain law began in her real property class in her first year of law school, and thereafter she was a faculty research assistant to noted property rights advocate, Professor Gideon Kanner. Since then, Jenni has enjoyed her work in the fields of eminent domain and inverse condemnation.

Jenni served for over 20 years on the former Los Angeles County Bar Association Committee on Condemnation and Land Valuation Litigation and served as the Southern California Chair of the California State Bar Subsection on Inverse Condemnation and Eminent Domain in 1997–1999. She spoke on “Excluding Speculative Evidence” at the 1998 International Right of Way Association Valuation Conference. She has also served on the Board of Women Lawyers of Los Angeles and was an active member of the Women Lawyers Public Action Grant Foundation, serving as its President in 1998. She has served the Los Angeles Municipal Court as a Small Claims Temporary Judge from 1996–2001, and served on the Independent Cities Risk Management Association Liability and Claims Committee from 2002–2004. She was an alumni volunteer for the American Legion Auxiliary California Girl’s State program in 2000 and 2001 and a member of the University of Redlands Alumni Board of Directors from 1990–1993.

As a very young lawyer in the early nineties, Jenni was a cooperating attorney and co‑counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, in a federal civil rights/fair housing class action entitled Oliver v. City of Indio. She also volunteered with Public Counsel of Los Angeles, as a Supervisor in the Summer Homeless Project in 1990 and participated in the Public Counsel Legal Services Project from 1988–1993.

Jenni is a member of Women Lawyers of Los Angeles and the City Attorneys Association of Los Angeles County.

Outside her professional life, Jenni is mom to two daughters, spending many a weekend on the soccer field; a Girl Scout leader for her girls’ two troops; and serves as a member of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles Strategic Planning / Property Task Force. Her bio can be seen here.

Welcome Jenni!

  Filed under: Staff Updates
  Comments: Comments Off on Welcome Senior Litigator Jenni Pancake


Welcome Len Aslanian!

C&L welcomes its 15th attorney—Len Aslanian. Len has joined our litigation and municipal advisory practice groups. His work covers a broad spectrum of public law issues, including land use, rate-making, charter cities, litigation involving public revenues, and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

Prior to joining Colantuono & Levin, Len served as a Reserve Deputy City Attorney in the Criminal Branch of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office. Len staffed arraignment and trial courtrooms at the San Fernando Courthouse on a day-to-day basis. He prosecuted misdemeanor jury and bench trials as they arose and, as the sole prosecutor, had full responsibility for every aspect of his cases. In just a year Len brought seven criminal cases to trial and argued numerous bail reviews and motions to suppress. He also researched land use and CEQA issues for the City Attorney’s Executive Office.

Previously, Len served as a Legal Fellow at the California Energy Commission. There, he was assigned a broad research and writing agenda on matters including the Commission’s renewable energy financial incentive programs, energy efficiency regulations, California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, the federal Endangered Species Act, and other state and federal environmental statutes. Len also researched a series of complex agency and administrative law issues, with a particular focus on good governance practices at the Commission.

While a law student at UCLA, Len interned at two other government agencies. At the Office of the California Attorney General, where he provided research and writing support on a diverse group of state waste law and nuisance matters for the Department of Toxic Substances Control. At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC, Len also worked on waste-related enforcement matters. Len also contributed to an environmental justice initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council and assisted with employment and disability litigation at the HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance of Los Angeles. Len participated in UCLA’s Public Policy Advocacy Clinic; the University of California in Washington, DC Program; and served as a Senior Editor on the UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy. He graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2005 with a degree in Film & TV Production.

In his spare time, Len enjoys playing blues and jazz guitar, and hiking and backpacking throughout California.

Welcome, Len!

  Filed under: Staff Updates
  Comments: Comments Off on Welcome Len Aslanian!


Welcome, Ryan Dunn!

Ryan Dunn is the newest associate in Colantuono & Levin’s litigation and municipal advisory practice groups. His practice covers a full range of litigation matters, including post-redevelopment disputes, CEQA matters, labor and employment cases, disputes over public revenues, and general commercial litigation. He serves as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Barstow and for the City of Sierra Madre and is a member of the firm’s labor and employment practice group.

Prior to joining Colantuono & Levin, Ryan litigated environmental and product liability matters in Minneapolis at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. 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. Ryan also obtained valuable experience by helping settle a national multidistrict class action involving product liability claims and by assisting a foreign client in vacating an eight-figure judgment in a product liability matter on due process grounds.

Ryan also worked as a law clerk for 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 tort claims against public entities. Ryan also analyzed motions from every stage of the civil trial process, from demurrers to discovery disputes to requests for entry of default judgment. Ryan’s experience working side-by-side with judges on civil matters in the downtown Los Angeles court will no doubt be of assistance to the firm’s clients.

Ryan received his law degree from the UCLA School of Law in 2009 and a master’s degree in urban planning from the UCLA School of Public Affairs that same year, where he focused his studies on transportation issues. While in law school, Ryan was named a Distinguished Advocate by the UCLA Moot Court Honors Program and now frequently serves as a volunteer judge for moot court competitions at UCLA. He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003 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.

Ryan’s experience in many areas relevant to the firm’s clients will contribute to the firm’s litigation and municipal advisory teams. His full profile is available here. Welcome Ryan!

  Filed under: Staff Updates
  Comments: Comments Off on Welcome, Ryan Dunn!


Welcome Back, Amy!

Welcome Back, Amy!

Amy Sparrow has returned to Colantuono & Levin as Senior Counsel in the firm’s litigation and municipal advisory practices, following a 4-year stint at the Office of the Arizona Attorney General. She has 15 years of experience in international, domestic, federal, state and local public finance issues, in both litigation and advisory capacities.

Amy’s state and local litigation background includes public finance, equal protection, due process, commerce clause and contract disputes, and she has represented public agencies before administrative tribunals, trial courts, and courts of appeal. Amy drafted a winning appellate brief in Ardon v. City of Los Angeles, a class action challenge to the taxation of charges for telecommunication services in a case where class certification is currently at issue following remand by the California Supreme Court.  She has substantial background applying Proposition 218 and other laws that limit local government revenues. That experience includes defense of a writ challenge to the taxation of charges for cellular service in AB Cellular LA v. City of Los Angeles, in addition to Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. City of Fresno, a utility user fee controversy, and Beutz v. County of Riverside, an assessment controversy.  She represented the Arizona Department of Revenue in a dispute involving the appropriate tax treatment of emerging VoIP telecommunications technology in Cable One v. Arizona Department of Revenue, and in property tax litigation involving the valuation of airline property, a major electric generation facility, and environmental technology at an Arizona copper mine.

Amy’s pre-trial experience includes amicus briefing on behalf of the League of California Cities in support of a successful motion to quash a third-party subpoena, based upon novel issues of work product privilege in the context of list-serve communications among hundreds of attorneys representing public agencies throughout California.

Amy’s advisory experience includes the drafting of local utility users tax and public smoking ordinances, utility rate-making analysis, and advice regarding the fiscal impact of state legislation on local California agencies and jurisdictions.  She has worked with public agency staff, assessment engineers and utility rate-setting consultants to ensure compliance with Propositions 13, 218, and 26. While serving as an Assistant Attorney General in Arizona, she drafted the Arizona Attorney General’s opinion on the taxation of medical marijuana sales and advised the Arizona Department of Revenue on the impact of school tax credit legislation.

Amy received her J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law at U.C. Berkeley in 1997, where she received two American Jurisprudence awards and three Prosser Prizes in addition to a Moot Court award for Best Brief.  She received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from U.C.L.A. in 1987, where she received a faculty-nominated Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Honorary Mention in a National Science Foundation Scholarship Competition.

Amy is a member of the bar in California and Arizona.  She is also the proud mother of two nearly-adult sons, aka “the skalleywags.” Her favorite days are spent with her husband and children 80 feet beneath the surface of the Caribbean, exploring shipwrecks, playing hide-and-seek with sharks and sea turtles, and photographing the dramatic but rapidly disappearing coral reefs.

Her bio can be seen here.

  Filed under: Staff Updates
  Comments: Comments Off on Welcome Back, Amy!


Welcome Jon di Cristina!

Jon di Cristina has joined Colantuono & Levin as an associate in our litigation and municipal revenue practice groups in our Penn Valley office.

Jon is currently working on a number of public law issues, including advice to clients on the procedures required for the adoption or increase of taxes, assessments and fees of various kinds; assistance to a special district to ensure it receives all the property tax revenue to which it is entitled; defense of a City’s water rates; a contested unfair labor practices charge before the Public Employment Relations Board; defense of a City’s transfer of funds from a water utility to its general fund; renewal of a charter city’s travel marketing assessment district; and defense of a County against a Reclamation District’s effort to impose an assessment on County roads.

Jon graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University in 2008 with an A.B. in history. He received his J.D. in 2011 from UC Davis School of Law, where he was a member of UC Davis Law Review, a voting member of the Admissions Committee, and a Legal Research & Writing teaching assistant. While at Davis, Jon served as an intern law clerk for the Hon. Michael A. Telesca, a federal district judge in the Western District of New York. He also worked as a summer associate at one of California’s leading law firms practicing under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Jon graduated in the top ten percent of his law school class, and he subsequently became a member of the Order of the Coif.

Prior to finishing college, Jon served as a Spanish translator in the Air Force. After several years in uniform, he received an honorable discharge at the rank of Staff Sergeant. Jon is also a former Presidential Management Fellow, as well as a recipient of the John L. Levitow Award (given to the top one percent of rising non-commissioned officers in the Air Force) and the C.O. Joline Prize (given by Princeton University’s history department for outstanding scholarship in American history).

Jon married the girl he had a crush on in first grade, and the two of them now have a beautiful baby girl.

Welcome, Jon!

  Filed under: Staff Updates
  Comments: None


Former La Habra Heights City Attorney Appointed Trustee of State Bar

August 23, 2012

Sacramento, California – Speaker of the California Assembly John A. Pérez has appointed Michael G. Colantuono to a three-year term on the Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California, the state agency which regulates the practice of law in California. Colantuono was previously the La Habra Heights City Attorney and was succeeded by City Attorney Sandra Levin, also employed by Colantuono & Levin. Colantuono will join the Board at the Bar’s Annual Conference in Monterey in October.

The State Bar is comprised of some 237,000 attorneys licensed to practice in California and is a public corporation formed under state law. It is within the judicial branch and serves as an arm of the California Supreme Court. The Bar’s missions include:

  • To protect the public by ensuring that lawyers and other legal services providers meet the highest standards of competence and ethics.
  • To provide services and benefits to meet lawyers’ professional development, business and personal needs.
  • To promote access to justice for all Californians regardless of financial means.

Colantuono said: “I am deeply honored by this appointment. I look forward to working with the Bar’s other Trustees to protect the public, serve the profession, and seek adequate funding for our judicial system. I am grateful to the Speaker for this opportunity to continue my public service in a new setting.”

Colantuono and his firm, Colantuono & Levin, P.C., serve seven California cities as City Attorney and many other counties, cities and special districts as special counsel. Colantuono is a past president of the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities and the State Bar named him the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year in 2010.

More information about the California State Bar may be found at http://www.calbar.ca.gov/AboutUs/StateBarOverview.aspx. More information about Colantuono and his firm may be found at www.chwlaw.us.

####

  Filed under: Staff Updates
  Comments: None


Welcome Scott Howard!

Scott H. Howard has joined Colantuono & Levin in an Of Counsel relationship in our municipal advisory practice, working in our Los Angeles office. Scott brings to the firm over 34 years of broad experience in the Glendale City Attorney’s Office, the last 22 as City Attorney.

Scott advised the Glendale City Council, various commissions, and management staff on as broad range of issues as faces any California City. Glendale is a complex, full-service city, with police , fire and other City services, but water, sewer, and power utilities as well. Scott’s focus has been on Open Meetings Laws, Political Reform Act, Conflicts of Interest, Election Law and First Amendment issues. While in Glendale, Scott handled and managed litigation, wrote briefs for both trial and appellate court matters and a number of his cases resulted in published opinions which serve as precedent for all California governments. He drafted ordinances and resolutions, negotiated land acquisitions, reviewed and drafted contracts and performed just about every task as a public agency attorney. Scott’s experience as a City Attorney will be helpful to Colantuono & Levin’s municipal clients who require advisory assistance at all levels of the organization.

Scott’s initial assignments will include service as Assistant City Attorney and Planning Commission Counsel for the City of Calabasas and he is serving as lead author of an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties in a challenge to Redondo Beach’s day-laborer ordinance. We also look forward to Scott providing another experienced hand in the training and support of our more junior lawyers.

Scott is a product of the Culver City school system and graduated in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. Scott attended and graduated from Southwestern University School of Law in 1976 and while there interned at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Scott has published a number of Municipal Law articles, and has provided training for numerous organizations both in and outside California.

Scott is a Municipal Law Fellow and is the 2011 recipient of the William I. Thornton Jr. IMLA Faculty Award.

Scott’s experience will contribute to the firm’s municipal advisory team. His full profile is available here. Welcome Scott!

  Filed under: Staff Updates
  Comments: None


Welcome David Ruderman!

David J. Ruderman has joined Colantuono & Levin as an associate in our litigation practice, working from our Penn Valley office in the Sierra Foothills. David brings broad litigation experience, great skills and integrity to our firm.

David currently works on a number of litigation matters relating to a city or special district’s power to raise taxes, fees or charges under Propositions 13, 218, 62 and 26. He is handling appeals concerning the island annexation rules under the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act which govern Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs), and grievances of a public employee’s union under its operative memorandum of understanding. David is also litigating cases related to land use, utility user taxes and transient occupancy taxes.

David previously worked as an associate at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in San Francisco. There David handled a wide range of cases representing both corporate and individual clients in state and federal courts. His practiced ranged from securities and structured finance litigation to white collar criminal investigations; from trade secret matters to copyright and trademark litigation; and from employment litigation (California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII discrimination matters) to general contract disputes. David also gained experience trying cases and handling appeals on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants.

David received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 2006, where he was a member of the UCLA Law Review and a judicial extern for the Honorable Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. David was active in the school’s clinics, including representing Los Angeles County in a juvenile dependency proceeding before the California Court of Appeal. Before law school, David worked at a San Francisco non-profit agency providing immigration legal services and spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English near Vladivostok, Russia. David graduated with honors from Lewis & Clark College in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in History.

When not working, David enjoys spending time with his family, telling tales to his four-year old son, exploring the historical richness of the Sierra Foothills and playing guitar. David is proficient in Russian.

David’s experience adds depth to our growing litigation team. His full profile is available here. Welcome, David!

  Filed under: Staff Updates
  Comments: None