Garage Sales and Yard Sales in the City of San Bernardino, California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, a frequent complaint to code enforcement by residents, city staff, and elected officials, was yard sales in violation of the San Bernardino Municipal Code.  Since I was Deputy City Attorney, the ordinance has been changed.

As of this post, the blurb on the City of San Bernardino’s website says: “GARAGE/YARD SALE You are allowed to have a yard sale on the 3rd weekend of every month (“weekend” means Friday, Saturday & Sunday).  No signs are allowed to be posted on public property (i.e. utility poles).  Citations may be issued if conducting yard sale on non-designated weekends.  For more information they can call our number [909]  384-5205.”
That’s much better than when I was a city prosecutor.   You could only have a garage sale every six months, and the big kicker was that you could not have a yard sale, unless it was in your back yard.  You could have a garage sale, and that meant that the merchandise had to be in your garage.  For many residents, this was impossible because their garage was full.  As of this writing, that ordinance is still listed on the online municipal code, Chapter 5.68.  It has been repealed, do not rely on it.

Unfortunately, the ordinance has not been codified online.   You can get the codified version in the official copy of the Municipal Code in the City Clerk’s Office.  I called the City Clerk’s Office to obtain a copy of MC-1344, the current ordinance.  The deputy city clerk I spoke to  said she could email me a copy of  MC-1344 .  She very promptly did.  The ordinance, current as of this post, can be found here.

The highlights of the ordinance are as follows:

“Yard Sale” means the offer of sale of personal property open to the public conducted from or on a premise in any residential or commercial zone.  The term “Yard Sale” includes, but is not limited to, all sales entitled advertised or called “garage sale,” “lawn sale,” “yard sale,” “porch sale'”, [sic] patio sale”, [sic]  “estate sale”, [sic] “moving sale”,[sic] “flea market,” or “rummage”[sic] sale.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.010(E).  [I typed it as found in the ordinance, including the unconventional switch from commas within the quotes, and the fact that rummage is quoted, but sale is not.]

Residents can’t have yard sales more than 12 times in a calendar year.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.020(A).  Yard sales can’t be longer than three consecutive days.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.020(B). Yard sales can only be held during daylight hours (which aren’t defined).  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.020(C).  Yard sales can only be conducted the third weekend of the month (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.020(D).

Only Personal Property (“property which is owned utilized or maintained by an individual or members of a residence or family and acquired in the normal course of living in or maintaining a residence. It does not include new merchandise or merchandise which was purchased for resale or obtained on consignment.”) can be sold at a yard sale.  No  Personal Property can be displayed in the public right-of way (Public right-of-way is undefined, but probably means sidewalk and parkway, on lots with sidewalks and/or parkways, and certainly in the street).  All “Personal Property
shall be arranged so that fire safety service and other officials may have access for inspection at all times during the sale.”  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.030.

Signage: Three unlighted signs not exceeding four square feet, only during the sale, only on the Yard Sale real property, they may be posted 24 hours before the sale and removed after the sale.  That last part contradicts the earlier sentence that “Such signs shall be displayed only during the period of the Yard Sale.”  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.040(A).  No more than four Directional signs, not larger than 2 square feet, may be placed on private property with the owner’s consent (but not in the public right-of-way).  San  Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.040(B) & (C).

Estate sales, as defined by the Code, are exempt from the limitations on frequency (12 times a month and the third weekend) and  require a permit.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.050.  Non-profits, as defined by the Code, are exempt from the limitations on frequency listed for estate sales if the sale is on property owned or leased by the non-profit, and do not require a permit.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.060.

The violation is a wobblette, an alternate misdemeanor or infraction. San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.070.  When I prosecuted Chapter 5.68, it was a straight misdemeanor.

There are some problems with this ordinance.  It was cut and pasted from the previous Chapter 8.14.  Estate sales require a permit, though no permit process appears in the ordinance.  The ordinance defines “Department” and “Residential Zone” and then neglects to use those terms in the revised Chapter 8.14.  The first sentence of section 8.14.030 uses the term yard sale instead of “Yard Sale,” creating ambiguity as to whether the definition of “Yard Sale” found in 8.14.010(E) applies.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

Why an In-House Public Lawyer Should Stay Out of Politics and Not Express Their Opinion if They Are Not Asked

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Some attorneys are very political.  They donate to local, state and federal candidates.  They hold fundraisers at their multi-million dollar houses (yes, even in the Inland Empire). Sometimes they are very associated with one political party or another.  Some become local officials.  I have no idea if this is beneficial or detrimental  for their practices, firms, well-being, or pocket book.

Public lawyers, and by public lawyers I mean in-house civil attorneys, typically in an in-house City Attorney’s Office or Office of County Counsel, may have opinions but it is usually best if they do not openly express them.  The entity, of course, is the client, but an entity is run by actual human beings.

As long time readers know, I was the Assistant City Attorney of the City of Redlands and a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, each for over four years, for a total of almost nine and a half years.   The environment in each office was different.  In Redlands, it was (then) a two person operation, which, for the size, workload and complexity of the organization, could have accommodated three attorneys.  The City Attorney was and is appointed by the City Council.  A majority of a Council quorum can remove the City Attorney, subject to the City Attorney’s agreement with the Council.  That is a different kind of political environment from the City of San Bernardino.

The City of San Bernardino, with an elected City Attorney, elections every two years, with charter fights, was a Politically-charged entity.  By “Politically,” with a capital P,  I mean municipal election politics.  While the employees of that office felt the secondary effects of the political winds, I was always allowed to do my job.  Certainly, when someone aims for the elected City Attorney, sometimes they hit a deputy.  But for the most part, the Mayor and Common Council, and the staff of the City viewed me, as a Deputy, as a non-c0mbatant.  Humorously, they sometimes treated me as if I were a victim of an evil regime.

People sometimes interpreted, when I was a prosecutor, that I was personally prosecuting people because I was a supporter of whatever ordinance I was prosecuting.   No, I was doing my duty to enforce the rules made by the policy makers.  If there was a problem with a particular rule, a political solution needed to be forged to change the rule.  That political solution was not one that I, as a Deputy City Attorney or the Assistant City Attorney, was going to be a part of, unless I was directed to draft an ordinance by the City Attorney.

Obviously, a wise public lawyer has to fit into the inter-office politics in the in-house environment.   That’s not what I am talking about, and that’s the same in any office with more than one person.  The public lawyer must be political in that sense.

Similarly, as an independent attorney, I do not hold any particular positions on the subjects that I write about.  Even if I am recounting my past actions, I did the things I did because it was my job to do them, because they benefited my public entity client, and it was at the direction of the political decision-makers of the entity.   I was never asked to do anything that was unethical, and even if I were asked to do something unethical, I would not do it.  However, very seldom does the public entity practitioner reach the bounds of the California Rules of Professional Conduct.

For example, someone thought I had a position on allowing Food Trucks in San Bernardino County.  I do not have a personal opinion on the subject.  If a small business retains me to represent them on the subject, my opinion is the same as the client.  I give advice in a neutral fashion, the pluses and minuses of any particular situation.  However, the best interest of the client must be kept in mind at all times.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374

T: (909) 708-6055




The San Bernardino City Attorney’s Office

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

This blog does not deal with politics.  My clients come from across the political spectrum, and even if I have an opinion, I don’t agree with it.  When you work directly for a public entity, it is best to keep your political opinions to yourself.  When you work in the private sector, that’s also good advice.

With yesterday’s announcement of a non-incumbent seeking the position of the City Attorney, I thought I would give some legal  perspective on the Office of the City Attorney in San Bernardino.  As long-time readers of this blog know, I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino for almost five years in the first half of the last decade.  I learned much of what I know about civil and criminal litigation and municipal law while a Deputy City Attorney, and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the people of San Bernardino and the entity for that time.

As I stated in my post about elected city attorneys in California, San Bernardino has an elected City Attorney.  San Bernardino has been a charter city since 1905, and the Charter has been amended from time to time since then.  The current Charter took effect on March 6, 2006.  An annotated version can be found at the City’s website.

Charter Section 55 details the duties and function of the “office of City Attorney:”

San Bernardino City Attorney is a full-time position, and the incumbent cannot engage in private practice.  Charter, section 55(a).  The eligibility requirements is that the person elected or appointed must be a licensed California attorney, and be engaged in the practice of law for at least five years before his or her election or appointment, and must be a San Bernardino city resident and elector for thirty consecutive days before the appointment or filing of nomination papers for election or appointment.  Charter, section 55(b).  If the office becomes vacant, the vacancy is filled by the Mayor and Common Council.   The appointment is valid until the next general municipal election, and the City Attorney must be elected for the remainder of the term, or for a full term in accordance with Charter Article II.  Charter section 55(c).

The City Attorney is the City of San Bernardino’s chief legal advisor, the City Attorney “shall represent and advise the Mayor and Common Council and all City officers in all matters of law pertaining to their offices; he or she shall represent and appear for the City in all legal actions brought by or against the City, and prosecute violations of City ordinances, and may prosecute violations of State law which are misdemeanors or infractions and for which the City Attorney is specifically granted the power of enforcement by State law without approval of the District Attorney, or those violations which are drug or vice related; he or she shall also act and appear as attorney for any City officer or employee who is a party to any legal action in his
or her official capacity; he or she shall attend meetings of the City Council, draft proposed ordinances and resolutions, give his or her advice or opinion in writing when requested to do so in writing by the Mayor or Common Council or other City official upon any matter pertaining to Municipal affairs; and otherwise to do and perform all services incident to his or her position and required by statute, this Charter or general law.” Charter section 55(d). I have not paraphrased the majority of San Bernardino Charter section 55(d) because there are actual political disputes about the wording found in the Charter.  I will not recap those disputes, but the reader can see the black letter law of the Charter.   The ability to prosecute violations of State law are not currently being used.  Some larger cities use the City Attorney’s Office to prosecute misdemeanors.  While I never encountered it in San Bernardino, in Redlands, I would get calls from Los Angeles attorneys about DUIs.  In San Bernardino (city and county), those are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office.  To the extent that state law misdemeanors were ever prosecuted by the City Attorney’s Office in San Bernardino, my understanding is that duty was taken over by the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office in the early 1980s.

The City Attorney’s salary is fixed by the Mayor and Common Council, but it can’t be less than $7,500.00 a year.  The City Attorney shall be provided with office space and equipment, and clerical help by the City.  Charter section 55(e).

The City Attorney is mentioned elsewhere in the Charter, particularly the Article regarding the City Manager.  However, the core functions of the elected city attorney are found in the City Charter.

Section 55 of the Annotated San Bernardino City Charter has the following annotations:  “(Scott v. Common Council (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 684, 686, 696, regarding Section 55 (d).) (City
Attorney Opinion No. 96-3; City Attorney Opinion No.89-11; City Attorney Opinion No. 87-59; City Attorney Opinion No. 87-36).”   Scott v. Common Council can be found in the California Appellate Reports 4th, volume 44, page 684, which can be found in most California libraries and law libraries.  The City Attorney Opinions are available from the City Attorney’s Office.  I would accord them a weight equivalent to the California Attorney General’s Opinions.   I think they would lend some persuasive authority to any legal brief.  I have not seen any of them since I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino.

As the election season goes on, I may provide some more insights into the legal structure of the San Bernardino City Attorney’s Office.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

Front Yard Fruit Stands in Redlands, California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I am a native of the Inland Empire and some of my earliest memories are of Redlands, from the San Bernardino County Museum, to field trips to Kimberly Crest, and attending meetings in the Assembly Room of the A.K. Smiley Public Library.  I learned much more about Redlands as Assistant City Attorney from January 2006 to June 2010. My office as a private attorney is in Redlands.

You can’t really know a city until you have walked its streets, particularly its residential areas.  One of the perksof street level exploration of a city (other than noticing the infrastructure) is finding little gems.  One of the things that gives Redlands its character  is its history in agriculture, not just being the Washington Navel Orange capital of the world, but appreciating the still-large amount of active agriculture.  In addition to active agriculture, there are backyard remnants of groves and other fruit trees.  If you drive around Redlands, you can find many front yard fruit stands.  You can find a story on this phenomenon in the Press-Enterprise article published on March 5, 2010 titled “Citrus Sales are part of the tradition of Redlands, nothing beats fresh” by Jan Sears and Darrell R. Santschi.  As of the writing of this post, it is available online.  I am not going to link to it because newspaper links break very easily.

For example pomegranates grow very well in Redlands.  And even though they are very expensive in supermarkets, you can pick them up at some front yard fruit stands.
I know of no guide to these fruit stands.  As I discover their exact location, I will post their block location and produce.  I do not want to give exact locations, because the people providing the service are doing a great the public a favor, and if the Press-Enterprise story is any indication, running the stands is a hassle.  If anyone with a stand wants to make a comment, or grant me permission to put an exact location, I will publish it below.  If anyone does not want to be included, let me know as well.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

Modern Technology in the Law Office – The Place of the Typewriter in Today’s Legal World

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Attorneys are often early adopters of technology, often to their detriment as technology advances, gets cheaper or goes obsolete.  However, there is one piece of old-fashioned technology that refuses to die – the typewriter.

I own two typewriters.  When I started law school in 1995  at Santa Clara University School of Law, notebooks and laptops were almost as fully-featured, if not as powerful, as they are today.  However, the California Bar Examination, in 1995, did not allow for the use of computers.  At the time, only typewriters with no more than one line of memory were allowed.  The idea was that you could put some valuable information into the device to gain an advantage in taking the bar exam.  I purchased a Smith Corona Memory Correct 400.

I typed all of my law school examinations on the Smith Corona. I learned to touch type in 1987 thanks to the Norman Feldhym Public Library and a host of Apple II GS computers (and some forgotten software).   In the summer of 1998 while studying for the July 1998 bar examination, I was able to procure a second, back-up typewriter just in case the Smith and Corona broke.

By the time I took the bar exam, laptops were allowed with the use of a special program designed to lock out the hard drive.  It was new technology, and though I had about a year’s notice, it was not time to switch horses in the middle of the race.

The Smith Corona still bears a sticker that says “July 1998 California Bar Examination” and my applicant number.  I didn’t have to use the back-up typewriter, and the convention center did not lose power.  I received my successful bar results in November 1998 and was sworn in the first week of December 1998.

When I arrived at Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino, at least one of the typists was still using an IBM typewriter to fill out Judicial Council forms.  Not some of the forms, or some of the information, but everything.  I always used a computer there, unless I had to type a form not included in Legal Solutions.

In the cities of San Bernardino and Redlands, the City Attorney’s Offices still have typewriters for forms that need to be typed, and envelopes and that sort of thing.  I would occasionally borrow the IBM Selectric at a secretary’s station.

When I started my own practice, I dragged out the Smith Corona for government claims provided by entities as non-fillable PDFs.  Sometimes, it is easier to use a typewriter on an address then to print it from the computer.

The Smith Corona is holding up pretty well.  It was manufactured in the United States, just before Smith Corona moved its typewriter manufacturing to Mexico.  I think it will survive for auxillary tasks in the law office for a long time, even if it is not state-of-the-art technology.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

When is a Government Claim (formerly Tort Claims) required in California?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I became an attorney in December 1998, government claims were referred to as “tort claims”.  That all changed with these words by the California Supreme Court  in late 2007:

We also adopt the practice of referring to the claims statutes as the “Government Claims Act,” to avoid the confusion engendered by the informal short title “Tort Claims Act.”   City of Stockton v. Superior Court (2007) 42 Cal.4th 730, 734.

The reason was the change is that the Act involves things other than torts, including contract actions.  When in doubt, file a timely claim with all the required information.

California Government Code section 900 et seq. governs the claim requirements against California public entities (the State of California and local public entities).  This is an overview of the requirement for a government claim, and is not an exhaustive look at the process. Seek appropriate legal assistance for your particular circumstance.  I will explore some areas in depth at later times.

Certain causes of action do not require a government claim to be presented   The following do not require a government claim to be presented to the public entity as a prerequisite to a civil action.  False Claims Act (qui tam) do not require a Government Claim.  Wells v. One2One Learning Foundation (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1164, 1213 (as modified on denial of rehearing).  Federal civil rights actions under the Civil Rights Act do not require a government claim.  Williams v. Horvath (1976) 16 Cal.3d 834, 842.   Government Code section 905 exempts claims under the Revenue and Taxation Code (subsection a); claims related to a “filing of a lien, statement of claim, or stop notice is required under law relating to liens of mechanics, laborers , or charges related thereto” (subsection b); claims  “by public employees for fees, salaries, wages, mileage or other expenses and allowances” (subsection c); workers’ compensation (subsection d); public assistance (subsection e); public retirement or pensions (subsection f); principal or interest on warrants, bonds, notes, or other indebtedness (subsection g); claims related to special assessments as a result of a lien (subsection h); claims by the state or by a state department or by a local public agency or judicial branch entity (though the public entity can require a claim) (subsection i); unemployment insurance (subsection j);  recovery of penalties and forfeitures under Labor Code section 1720 et seq. (subsection k); claims regarding the Pedestrian Mall Law of 1960 (subsection l); claims for the recovery of Civil Code section 340.1 damages regarding childhood sexual abuse regarding conduct occurring on or after January 1, 2009 (subsection m); claims for the recovery of money pursuant to Government Code section 26680 pursuant to Civil Code section 701.820 (subsection n).  Government Code section 905.1 specifically exempts inverse condemnation cases from the presentment requirement of Government Code section 905, except that the entity should process the claim if presented.

A big warning:  local agencies are allowed to adopt their own claims requirements pursuant to Government Code 935 with certain preemption by state law.   For example, the City of San Bernardino’s claim ordinance is found at Chapter 3.16 of the San Bernardino Municipal Code. The City of Highland’s procedures are found at Chapter 3.08 of the Highland Municipal Code.  The City of Riverside’s claim ordinance is found at Chapter 1.05 of the Riverside Municipal Code.  Ontario’s is found at Title 3, Chapter 2 of the Ontario Municipal Code.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

Use of the California Public Records Act for Opposition Research

The California Public Records Act (as well as the disclosures required by the Political Reform Act, adjudicative court records)  provides an important tool for gathering information about political rivals.   Below is a brief overview of the kinds of records that are available to the public, and what can be learned from the types of information.

1. Permit and Property Records.  An opponent may be able to find administrative citations, notices of violation, building permits (or no building permits) by making a California Public Records Act request by a parcel number or street address.  Some cities will take the view that code enforcement records are criminal investigatory files and refuse to disclose.  However, I have found that most cities will disclose this information, with some redactions with the name of reporting parties.  Building permits themselves are relatively non-controversial, and will be inspected.

2. Contracts with government entities, particularly entities that are not

3.  Litigation with a public entity.  This can be a treasure trove of information about the inner workings of government.  Depositions are a good source because they are largely unfiltered.  Also ask for any government claims, as they may not show up if no lawsuit is filed.

4.  Minutes.  Opponents can use these to establish a record of voting or non-voting.

5. Electronic mail.  Though many public entities have policies of deleting email within a certain amount of time, electronic mail is often very candid and can provide powerful ammunition.

6. Constituent correspondence.   You can find specific complaints about public officials and contact the complainants.

7. Correspondence with staff, including electronic mail.  Is the political rival abusing staff?  Find out by requesting correspondence on matters of importance to the elected official, particularly on matters that have dragged on for a long period of time because of red tape or the involvement of other government agencies.

8. Campaign disclosures.  These often have little nuggets of  information.  For example, sometimes candidates keep committees open long after the election.  One reason is because they made a loan of personal funds to themselves, and they hope to some day get paid back when they run a successful campaign in the future.  Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests, whether for a candidate or an elected or appointed public official, have valuable information about potential campaign opponents.

9. Web browsing information.  This may be subject to some exemptions, the agency may claim that these are not records, and they may be deleted fairly regularly.  Request these records early and often.

9. There are many, many more areas which might be helpful.   These requests need to be made regularly and not during election season.  Records can be destroyed in compliance with California law, so the record you most want may not be there when you need it.  Also, the California Public Records Act’s time provisions can be a disadvantage to obtaining records in a timely fashion.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

City Counsel versus City Council

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As a follow-up to my How to Become a California Municipal Lawyer post, the first thing you have to always remember is to use counsel and council correctly.  Never write “outside council” or  in a memo, “today at city counsel . . .”

Counsel, in this context, means an attorney.  Council means the entity’s deliberative body.  Being homonyms, it is easy to mix them up as you are typing.   Even WordPress flagged counsel and said “do you mean council?”  It’s a common mistake.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A:300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373
T: (909) 296-6708

How to Become a California Municipal Lawyer

How does one become a municipal attorney in California?  There are a variety of paths to doing so.  Municipal Law has its niches, but it also has one of the broadest practices possible.  As the City Attorney of a City, you are expected to be a generalist.  You have to know a little of everything.  As a subordinate to the City Attorney, you can also be a generalist, but typically, you focus on one or a few areas of the law.
Municipal lawyers can be employed in-house in a City Attorney’s Office, or work for a municipal law firm or be a sole practitioner.
You do not necessarily have to work for a City Attorney’s Office or a municipal law firm as a law student.  However, from personal experience, it helps you see what a City does on a day-to-day basis.  I worked as a clerk in the City of Santa Clara’s City Attorney’s Office in the summer after my first year at Santa Clara University School of Law.  I filed papers in Santa Clara Superior Court and did other office tasks.  At the City Attorney’s Office in Redlands, I supervised a few interns from La Verne.  I helped supervise an intern as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino.  She was a certified law student and she tried one of my infraction cases as a 3rd year law student.  I would recommend that program to anyone interested in trial work.
That program is formally called the Practical Training of Law Students.  I did not do it when I was a law student as I was preparing to become a transactional intellectual property attorney.  Instead, I interned at an educational software company in the Silicon Valley.  That served me well with both my current small business clients and with my municipal law clients.   Cities have large appetites for contracts.  Certain clauses work for any client: attorneys’ fees clauses, choice of law and venue, indemnification clauses, insurance requirements and other similar clauses.  A city in California is a municipal corporation.  It has many of the same needs as any large business.
Is there a particular course of study required to become a municipal lawyer?  Not that I have ever seen.  I know of no municipal law certificate or other such program, and a very cursory search found no such certificate in California.  However, the traditional first year courses are very helpful year after year: Real Property, Criminal Law, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Torts, and Legal Research and Writing.    Constitutional Law is very useful.
You never know what kind of law you might be doing for a City, particularly if you are a Deputy City Attorney for a medium or large city.  As a Deputy City Attorney and an Assistant City Attorney, I dealt with the following diverse set of circumstances: set and try a Vickers hearing; fight a pro se attorney in Federal court spouting constitutionalist nonsense; attempt to get a deputy public defender disqualified because their spouse once prosecuted their client; get a Superior Court clerk to file an answer and a demurrer at the same time (the Code of Civil Procedure allows it, but it is not seen in nature often), convince a municipal client to get a blanket performance license; write a state assembly bill that united both the disabled and slumlords in opposition; attempt to get a restraining order against a man threatening a code enforcement officer; obtain orders to destroy firearms, defend Pitchess Motions, write agreements to transfer property purchased with Federal funds to a non-profit, help lobbyists organize public meetings in Washington D.C., brief the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, create a process to protest County tax sales, and more than I can possibly remember.  That’s not even the bread-and-butter of municipal law.
The bread-and-butter is advising commissions, boards, and the council, municipal code prosecutions, defending cities in civil cases, advising departments and staff.  Some of it can be exciting; some is very, very dry.  As I said, some people specialize, especially in very large offices or firms.  You can be municipal bond counsel, a public works attorney, a redevelopment attorney, land use attorney, or a city prosecutor.
So how do you become a California Municipal Lawyer?  Some start out of law school, some come in after long careers elsewhere.  A good municipal attorney is a good attorney.  A good attorney can pick up the specifics on the job.  There are many paths, but to me, public law gives an attorney so many options.  If you are interested in municipal law, feel free to contact me.
The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055