Thoughts on the 2012 San Bernardino County Bar Association’s Annual Installation & Awards Banquet at the San Bernardino Hilton, San Bernardino County

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Last night, I had the good fortune of attending the San Bernardino County Bar Association’s Annual Installation & Awards Banquet.  The 2012-2013 Board of Directors was sworn in by San Bernardino Superior Court Presiding Judge Marsha G. Slough.  The 2012-2013 Board of Directors is President Kevin Bevins, President-Elect John Zitny, Vice President Bradley R. White, Secretary-Treasurer Jack Osborn, Immediate Past President Jennifer M. Guenther, and Directors-at-Large the Honorable Diane I. Anderson, the Honorable Khymberli S. Apaloo, Victor J. Herrera, Barbara A. Keough, Eugene Kim, John W. Short, Sandy L. Turner, and me, Michael Reiter.

I have been a member of the San Bernardino County Bar since around the time I was admitted as an attorney, and through the years I participated in many Bar-related activities, from Lawyer Referral Service to Law Day to the Resolutions Committee.

The Installation was brief, with the bulk of the night devoted to honoring three legal titans: Grover Porter, Paul Shimoff and Bruce Varner. Here is the night’s program:

When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, I prosecuted roughly half of the code enforcement cases, along with Jolena Grider, who is now Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino. During that time, we would spend a lot of time waiting for second call on our cases before bench warrants were issued to no-shows.  During that time, I would get to hear stories from and about the criminal bar, which included an institutional memory at least into the 1960s.  I had heard Grover Porter’s name when I worked at Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino, but it was not until I was a Deputy City Attorney that I had a chance to see how well Mr. Porter operated in the courtroom.

I have had many occasions to interact with Mr. Shimoff.  As he said in his speech last night, he has never had to advertise, because he gets a constant stream of referrals from other attorneys.  That is because his reputation, particularly in taxation, is unparalleled.   He has been very generous with his time with me, particularly when I was an attorney for Legal Aid Society in San Bernardino.  I asked him for tax advice on a transaction to convince a member of the community to donate  his building to Legal Aid Society.  If you have ever seen the beautiful potted plant in my office, it was a gift from Mr. Shimoff.

Bruce Varner is a legend of the Inland Empire, not just as an attorney, but as a community leader.  I worked for his firm, then Gresham, Varner, Savage, Nolan & Tilden in the summer between high school and college, and the first winter break of college.  Last night, he was a introduced by Jack Brown, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Stater Bros.  Jack Brown lauded the expert legal work of Bruce Varner during Stater Bros. 1986 proxy fight that almost destroyed Stater Bros. Since 2006, he has been a University of California Regent, which is very impressive.

We are lucky in the Inland Empire to have such fine attorneys, and to have such a close legal community.  It makes practicing law much more enjoyable.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Friday Aside: A History of In-N-Out Burger in San Bernardino and environs

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I’ve written about In-N-Out Burger a few times, particularly in relation to trade dress.  Someone reached my blog by asking “when did in n out open first in san bernardino ca.”  If the searcher was seeking when the Fifth Street location  (795 W. Fifth Street, San Bernardino) was built, that location was built in 2011, and opened at the end of 2011 (December 8, 2011).  It replaced the Second Street location (the address was technically 190 Bungalow Court), which closed on December 7, 2011.  The Second Street location was demolished after the State of California took possession on January 1, 2012.  The State of California acquired the parcel through eminent domain for the Interstate 215 widening project.  See Resolution CDC/2011-50 of the Community Development Commission of the City of San Bernardino.

The Bungalow Court location was there as long as I can remember,  and consisted of a double drive through and no inside eating area.  The location in south San Bernardino,was moved slightly to the north to 1065 E. Harriman Place during the creation of the HUB Project.  There was an Owner Participation Agreement between In-N-Out and the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Bernardino, acknowledged by Resolution 2001-317, approved by Mayor Valles on October 3, 2001. The old In-N-Out in North Loma Linda was also a double drive through.  According to a letter dated January 23, 1997 from then-attorney (and now Judge) Cynthia Ludvigsen, the old In-N-Out was on the northwest corner of Rosewood Drive  and Tippecanoe.  The Highland store  (28009 Greenspot Road, Highland, CA 92346) opened in 2012.
So, when did In-N-Out Burger open in San Bernardino?  The area near Central City Mall was redeveloped in the 1970s.  The Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Bernardino put out a photo survey of the downtown area before redevelopment, and if I recall correctly, the area on 2nd Street had houses in the early 1970s.

The In-N-Out website’s history section gives clues, but no answers.  Obviously, the first one opened in 1948 in Baldwin Park, the same year that McDonald’s converted to a quick serve restaurant from a barbecue restaurant in San Bernardino.  By 1958, there were five locations in the San Gabriel Valley.  By 1973, In-N-Out had 13 locations, all in Los Angeles County, and all with two drive through lanes and no inside eating. In 1979, the first In-N-Out with a dining room opened in Ontario as restaurant number 21.  The website adds that only 13 more no dining room locations were built after that.  By 1988, In-N-Out had 50 stores in total, and in each of the core Southern California counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.I have In-N-Out Santa glasses from 1982 that I know we bought from the 190 Bungalow Court location, so that probably means that the original downtown San Bernardino In-N-Out Burger was built between 1973 and 1982. [Update: October 17, 2012.  I couldn’t stand it any longer.  According to In-N-Out’s customer service line, the store was opened on February 11, 1982].

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 2012 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law


Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517

Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708



Gophers Can Cause Trip and Falls

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I went out for another walk today, in the late afternoon.  I love to see California native wildlife, like a California Pocket Gopher

I am a big fan of California wildlife, particularly Pocket Gophers, though not as much as my late friend Emma.  I had never seen a living pocket gopher before, but this individual poked his head up a few times, and I was able to get a picture of his head.  Unfortunately, I only had an iPhone to take a picture, and it was from about six feet away.

Gophers can cause damage to lawns.  They can also damage parks.  When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, I defended a lawsuit involving an AYSO coach who allegedly tripped and fell in a field in Wildwood Park.  Because the case involved a public entity, the plaintiff had to plead and prove a dangerous condition of  public property cause of action, but with a private landowner, the standard is typically negligence.  The case also involved cross-complaints against the City’s pest controller contractor and the American Youth Soccer Organization.  If I recall correctly, the American Youth Soccer Organization, Inc. picked up the City’s defense under an express indemnification clause in a field use agreement.

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.

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708


Inspecting and Obtaining Copies of Building Permits and Building Plans in California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I have been to multiple City Halls lately inspecting permits and plans, and obtaining copies of permits from local public agencies.  Here is a primer on using the California Public Records Act to inspect building permits and plans, and to receive copies of permits.

As we have discussed before, the California Public Records Act is a way to inspect and obtain copies of documents.  This works for permits, as well.  Some forward-thinking cities have their permit systems online for anyone to inspect.  Others require you to take the trip to City Hall to look at the physical files, either because there is no online system, or because some cities are not as resident-friendly as others.

Every city I have ever dealt allows the public to inspect permits without any prior notice, and without the necessity of sending them to the City Attorney’s Office.  Likewise, getting copies of permits is easy, without the bureaucratic review process seen with many other Public Records Act Requests.

Health and Safety Code section19851 says that plans are open to inspection on premises of the building department as a public record.  No copy of the plans may be duplicated in whole or part except:

with the written permission, which permission shall not be unreasonably withheld as specified in subdivision (f), of the certified, licensed or registered professional or his or her successor, if any, who signed the original documents and the written permission of the original or current owner of the building, or, if the building is part of a common interest development, with the written permission of the board of directors or governing body of the association established to manage the common interest development, or (2) by order of a proper court or upon the request of any state agency.  California Health and Safety Code section 19851(a)(1).

There is also an argument that the plans are exempt from duplication pursuant to Government Code section 6254(k), the exemption part of the California Public Records Act that states: “(k) Records, the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege.”    The idea is that since federal law, 17 United States Code section 102(a)(8) protects architectural works, and “architectural works” is defined as “the design of a building as embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans, or drawings. The work includes the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design, but does not include individual standard features.”  17 U.S.C. section 101.  I think that argument fails (as to inspection, not copying) because I don’t think it is among the bundle of rights associated with copyright specifically 17 U.S.C. section 106.

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.

Address : 300 E. State St. #517
Redlands, CA 92373
Telephone: (909) 296-6708

Excellent Legal Resource For Those Impacted By Recent Disasters

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

After the Old Fire, the Mayor and Common Council of the City of San Bernardino authorized the City Attorney’s Office to assist San Bernardino residents (and later, people in unincorporated areas adjacent to the City of San Bernardino).  Though this was highly unusual (having public attorneys directly assist the public), I was honored to do so, and I saw it as a continuation of my public service work that I had started as the staff attorney at Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino and continued with my nuisance abatement work as a city prosecutor.

While helping members of the public with their legal problems occasioned by their houses burning down and losing all their possessions, we  distributed a useful guide published by the mega-law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.  Though no doubt Morrison & Foerster LLP’s hardworking associates did the heavy lifting, it had the seal of a variety of voluntary bar associations (including the San Bernardino County Bar Association) and the State Bar of California on the back.  Here is a blurb from the Morrison & Foerster LLP website that explains why they created this guide:

In 2007, a series of wild fires broke out in Southern California, destroying at least 1,500 homes and burning over 500,000 acres of land from Santa Barbara County to the US–Mexico border. Nine people died as a direct result of the fire.

The Helping Handbook, which contained information about legal issues that people may face in an emergency, as well as contact information for organizations offering assistance, was originally created as a legal guide for individuals, victims’ families, and small businesses affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since then, MoFo has continued to work with state and local bars to create versions of the Helping Handbook for people displaced by natural disasters such as the Southern California wildfires of 2003, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the New York flooding in 2006.

With the 2007 wildfires leaving many people displaced in its wake, MoFo decided to create a version of the Helping Handbook to help victims manage in the aftermath. Many of the affected residents’ primary language was Spanish. During this critical time, when advice on how to manage this critical situation was needed most, MoFo and TransPerfect Legal Solutions decided to work together to provide Spanish-speakers with accessible, accurate information about the resources available to help them.


The most recent Morrison & Foerster Helping Handbook is from 2008.  As we begin another fire season, (and after the Hill Fire has been contained) hopefully this guide can help people who do not know where to turn after a disaster.
The most important valuable lessons I learned from the Old Fire and its aftermath are that public adjusters must have the best lobbyist in Sacramento.   I never met anyone who was satisfied with a public adjuster. Here is sage advice from the 2008  Helping Hands Fire Handbook:

What is a public insurance adjuster and what should I look for if I decide to hire one?
Public insurance adjusters claim that they can maximize your insurance benefits by finding damage
that an insurance company adjuster might not find. It is generally recommended that you try and settle
an insurance claim directly with your insurance company before you hire a public insurance adjuster.
Your insurance company provides an adjuster to you at no charge. If you use the insurance company’s
adjuster, you still have the right to separately hire a public adjuster to help you. Public adjusters are paid
a fee or a percentage of your claim. It is important that you understand what the fees are and how they
are calculated before you hire a public adjuster. It is always a good idea to rely on referrals from friends
and family to determine which public adjusters are legitimate. If you decide to hire a public adjuster, do
so in writing and make sure that they are licensed. Call the California Department of Insurance (CDI) at
(800) 967-9331 or access the CDI’s website at for licensing verification and other
information regarding public adjusters. You can also file a complaint at the website or by calling the CDI’s
consumer hotline at (800) 927-4357.

Morrison & Foerster LLP, Helping Handbook, For Individuals and Small Businesses Affected by the 2008 Southern California Wildfires, Pg. 65

If an insurance company is not honoring the policy after negotiations by the policyholder, it is much better to find an attorney who specializes in insurance bad faith who may charge the policyholder a lot less and do a lot more than a public adjuster.  I do not practice  insurance bad faith law, but I was impressed with some of the attorneys that handled bad faith claims after the Old Fire.

The second thing I learned is that you have to analyze your insurance company and your policy, including exclusions, before a disaster.  The way a company treated policyholders poorly made me switch to another company.  I  requested a larger policy limit with my new insurance company which covered the rebuilding of my house.  Of course, after a fire is not the time to change the policy.

The last thing I learned is that it is difficult to inventory your belongings after a disaster.  For one, there is the grief associated with losing your possessions, and there are too many details that you cannot remember.   If you can, inventory your personal property before a disaster, and keep a copy of the list (and pictures and video) off-site.

The three biggest problems the Old Fire victims I assisted had were with their insurance company, then with their contractors or public adjusters,  then with their mortgage companies.  Some were underinsured, some were uninsured.

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.

Address: 300 E. State St. #517
Redlands, CA 92373
Telephone: (909) 296-6708

Bad Check Restitution Program of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office

From time to time, small businesses come across bounced checks.  The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has a Bad Check Restitution Program.  The program requires that the check be payed back and the check writer complete an educational course.  Details of the program can be found by following the link.

Here are the eligibility guidelines from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Bad Check Restitution Program website, which is run by a third-party:

A check is Eligible if…

  • The amount is no more than $2,500 (or multiple checks do not exceed this limit). There are no minimum dollar restrictions.
  • It was received in San Bernardino County, deposited in a bank in exchange for goods or services and was presumed “good” at the time of acceptance.
  • A “Courtesy Notice” was sent to check writer allowing 10 days to make the check good.
  • A photo I.D. (driver’s license, military I.D., state identification card) was recorded at the time of transaction.

A check is Ineligible if…

  • It is post-dated.
  • Both parties knew there were insufficient funds at the time of transaction.
  • It is a two-party, government, rent, or payroll check.
  • The identity of the check writer is unknown.
  • There is no amount, date or signature on the check.
  • The check has not been processed by a bank.
  • The check involves an “extension of credit” or was payment on an account.

There are other legal options to recover money owed by customers, depending on the situation.

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 2012 Michael Reiter Attorney at Law

Friday Aside: How The Competition Between Apple, Google, Amazon, And Facebook Is Good For Everyone

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Three of the companies listed above are California businesses (regardless of their actual incorporation).

I enjoy Apple’s mobile products to a degree, though I use a PC for work.  I switched from Yahoo, which I began using in 1995 to Google in 1999 after a friends’ fiancee told me about it during dinner at the Venetian.  I cannot remember my first use of Amazon, but probably in the late 1990s.  I only sparingly use Facebook, but I probably would have been on it non-stop if it had been formed fifteen years earlier.

Though I am still not convinced Facebook belongs in the category of the four companies, these four West Coast companies have the ability to dominate American life for decades.  That is ultimately good for the consumer, and I hope no one company will ever emerge victorious.

These companies are not directly competing with each other in every market segment.  Federal antitrust law will keep them from being vertically and horizontally integrated behemoths.  However, when they compete with each other, it is ultimately good for consumers, and their competition has influenced other industries as well.

Google’s key concept is organizing information.  Information is Google’s product.  Of course, their actual product is advertising, but you can go a great ways without having to give Google money.  That alone is a victory for consumers.  Google amuses and delights me in new ways.  Of course, I’ve never tried to get a hold of human being at Google (though one once contacted me to see if I was a satisfied customer).  I can imagine that could be difficult if you have a problem.

Apple’s key concept is “it just works.”   I have had some technical problems with Apple products over the years, but they have been problems with networking (which has been the bane of my existence since the early 1990s), restrictions on music created by the rights holders, and the fact that iTunes for Windows has become bloatware.   Otherwise, I haven’t had any major problems with Apple products.

Amazon’s key concept is excellent customer service, and low prices.  Yes, electronic retailing is an unfair advantage against brick and mortar, but the automobile was unfair to the carriage industry.  Why is Amazon’s customer service excellent?  Because I have never had to use it.  Even when I had a return, I read the website, and I returned it.

Facebook.  Other people like Facebook, and I’ll leave it at that.  I think they have major challenges in the year’s ahead.  The internet is laden with casualties: Myspace, Napster, and other that could not compete.  I am hoping Facebook survives, not as a hegemon, but as a legitimate contender to keep the others in check.

I enjoy music, though perhaps not to the degree I did when I could walk between Amoeba Records and Rasputin Records on a daily basis on Telegraph Avenue.   Here, I see a three-way competition between Apple, Google and Amazon.  I have shied away from physical media in the past few years, because of the ease of legal digital downloads.  Even though Apple has made a mostly-closed ecosystem with iTunes/iDevice integration, Amazon has gotten my attention with its low prices.  Five dollar albums and .69 single tracks blows iTunes’ now-standard (though with some exception) $1.29 single track prices.   I no longer have the equipment or time to care about the quality difference between the formats.  This is good for music (because it encourages legitimate music buying), and good for the consumer.  Google has the ability, especially if it can leverage Youtube, to become a player in music.

The competition for social networking seems to be Facebook dominating, with others taking shots.  Apple can’t seem to get a coherent social networking strategy together, and Google has the best shot because of their bags of cash.  To me, it reminds me of how Microsoft bought its way into consoles with the Xbox.   Facebook is already in the search business, and they will use their market power in social networking to compete in the core markets of the other three giants.

The competition for information is between Apple, Amazon, and Google.   Apple has iBooks, Amazon has Kindle (and soon, a tablet running Google’s Android), and Google has Android.  I hope no one wins this one.  On one hand, you have Google scanning whole libraries, and making public domain materials available for free.  Their gambit for, effectively, compulsory licensing of all works would have done wonders for the spread of information.  Amazon’s model is paid content, but often, paid content is king.   Apple has superior, human-based design and functionality.   I just hope we get to the point where we can have the best of all worlds.  Right now, you can have your Kindle content on your iPad and iPhone, and your Google content on your iPad and iPhone.  It would be nice to be able to have an Amazon device that played your Apple Store content, but for legal reasons, that probably isn’t going to happen without more pressure from the Department of Justice.
Video competition is nowhere near where it should be for a variety of reasons, and I hope that the market power of Apple, Amazon and Google can slowly change that.  In a future perfect for consumers, you can have unbundled multichannel video for one price, no matter where or how you view it.  You’ll be able to buy or rent, all-you-can eat, or a la carte, and buy a movie once and own it once and for all.  Of course, that’s not the model of the content companies.

There is sometimes some consumer benefit to monopoly power.  With pre-breakup AT&T, you didn’t have to fret about what kind of phone to get.  Ultimately, I think the lack of simplicity is outweighed by the telecommunication, media, and information technology options we have today.

Blind Operators of Vending Facilities in California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I was a file clerk/runner for Milligan and Beswick in San Bernardino over twenty years ago.  Part of my job was to file pleadings with the court.  I became fairly intimate with the building at 351 North Arrowhead Avenue.  In the early 1990s, there were no metal detectors at the court.  You could easily run into the court and then back out.

I would sometimes get lunch for people in the office from the courthouse cafeteria.   It was run by a blind operator.   I would also sometimes buy snacks from the other blind operator (his sight was only somewhat impaired).  I remember buying popcorn, peanut M&Ms and six ounce Pepsi Colas in bottles (which by the early 1990s were not easy to come by) from the operator located next to the main stairway in the old courthouse.  I recall that he also sold hot dogs of the sort you could find in a movie theater.

For Federal facilities, there is the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Stand Act.  Its purpose is for “providing blind persons with remunerative employment, enlarging the economic opportunities of the blind, and stimulating the blind to greater efforts in striving to make themselves self-supporting, blind persons licensed under the provisions of this chapter shall be authorized to operate vending facilities on any Federal property.”  20 United States Code section 107.

For California state property, the Legislature adopted a similar program for “the purpose of providing blind persons with remunerative employment, enlarging the economic opportunities of the blind, and stimulating the blind to greater efforts in striving to make themselves self-supporting, blind persons licensed under this article shall be authorized to operate vending facilities on any property within this state as provided in this article. In order to administer this article, the director shall establish and promote the Business Enterprises Program for the Blind.”  California Welfare and Institutions Code section 19625.

The Business Enterprises Program for the Blind is run by the California Department of Rehabilitation.   Program information can be found at the Business Enterprise Program Website.

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




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.
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