Appellate Representation

Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC has a deep and experienced team of appellate litigators with experience in every appellate court in California. Michael G. Colantuono is a member of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers, a prestigious organization of fewer than 100 of California’s most accomplished appellate advocates. Our firm has argued 14 cases in the California Supreme Court since 2004.

We are well known as leading advocates for California’s local governments on municipal revenue issues arising under such public finance provisions of our State Constitution as Propositions 13, 218, and 26. However, we have substantial experience and great strength in litigation in general, and writs and appeals in particular.

Depth of experience

Michael G. Colantuono and Holly Whatley lead our appellate practice and offer extensive background and experience in a wide range of civil litigation matters pertinent to local governments. Set forth below are links to lists of our significant appellate cases. As you can see from those lists, we have argued in every appellate court in California, including 14 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 nearly four decades our lawyers have been in practice and involve such non-public finance topics as land use, election disputes, LAFCO issues, labor and employment, due process, tobacco regulation, nuisance law, incorporations, commercial law, and intellectual property.

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 Law, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, and the University of Texas at Austin. 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 the California Supreme Court appointed him Chair of the Board of Trustees 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). She argued Ardon v. City of Los Angeles to the California Supreme Court, a 2016 decision protecting public agencies’ attorney-client privilege when privileged materials are inadvertently disclosed on a Public Records Act request.


Before forming Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, Michael and Holly practiced at large, well regarded firms. Terri was the in-house City Attorney of a large, complex City. We formed CHW to escape the economics of large firms, which make it hard to provide cost-effective service to government agencies and other cost-conscious clients. As a result, we can combine the efficiency of a small firm that works hard to keep its overhead low with the top-notch lawyers and first-rate legal advocacy that is equal to or better than that our more expensive rivals provide. We rarely staff our cases with more than two or three lawyers to be efficient and to save costs, but we can — and do — staff up for larger matters when we and our clients agree this approach is needed. In this time of very thin budgets for legal services, local governments — like private entities — have moved litigation from large, high-profile, expensive firms to high-quality, smaller firms like Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley.

Quality of Appellate Practice

The quality of our appellate practice 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 Academy of Appellate Lawyers
  • 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 appellate issues confronting California’s cities and counties in every appellate court in our state.