On September 24, 2010 California Chief Justice Ronald M. George presented attorney Michael G. Colantuono of Penn Valley with the California State Bar’s Public Law Section’s 2010 Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year Award at a reception during the State Bar’s Annual Meeting in Monterey, Calif. Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court Carlos Moreno and incoming State Bar President Bill Hebert were also present to honor Colantuono.
The Chief Justice introduced Mr. Colantuono and recounted his 20 years of public service to local governments around California, noting his service as City Attorney of Auburn and Calabasas and general counsel to other cities and special districts and special counsel to other local governments. He noted Mr. Colantuono’s service as President of the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities in 2003-04 and his establishment of that Department’s first ethics committee which produced Practicing Ethics: A Handbook for Municipal Lawyers, published in 2004. The Chief Justice also noted that Mr. Colantuono has been quoted by the Los Angeles Times in recent articles about the scandal in the City of Bell, California, explaining plainly how far that city has strayed from the legal standards other cities observe.
Colantuono presented acceptance remarks which will be published in the Public Law Section’s October newsletter. Among his comments, Colantuono stated: “Good lawyers help clients attain their own goals and, of course, the goal of the agencies we serve is not profit or market advantage but effective, efficient public service and, indeed, democracy itself.”
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. He has argued before the California Supreme Court on behalf of public entities on three occasions since 2004, most recently in Greene v Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District in which the Supreme Court upheld a disputed flood control fee earlier this year. Colantuono’s firm will appear before that Court in Ardon v. City of Los Angeles again later this year.
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. Typically a local government lawyer is recognized in even-numbered years and state attorneys are honored in odd-numbered years, so this award recognizes Colantuono as the most outstanding local government lawyer in California over the past two years.
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.”