Public Law

Public Law

Churchwell White LLP assists cities, counties and special districts throughout California to successfully maneuver through an ever-changing and dynamic governmental landscape. Our legal team focuses its extensive and unparalleled experience to provide the highest quality representation, advocacy and service.

Churchwell White LLP provides dynamic legal advice and representation in nearly all matters affecting public entities, ranging from complex transactional and litigation matters to crisis management and highly sensitive political considerations. Serving as city attorney and general counsel to several public agency clients, the firm’s attorneys provide specialized legal services tailored to meet each client’s unique needs. Churchwell White partners are recognized as innovative leaders, negotiators and advocates within their respective areas of practice.

The firm provides a broad range of legal services to cities and special districts which include:

  • Ralph M. Brown Act
  • CEQA, NEPA, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and other environmental and natural resource laws
  • City prosecutor functions
  • Code enforcement
  • Conflicts of interest and government ethics
  • Elections, voting, referenda and initiatives
  • Eminent Domain
  • Finance and taxation issues
  • First Amendment issues
  • Franchise agreements
  • Historic preservation
  • Incorporation, annexations and changes of organization
  • Insurance / risk management
  • Joint powers authorities and joint power agreements
  • Labor and employment matters
  • Land use, planning and zoning
  • Litigation
  • Military base reuse
  • Municipal labor and employment
  • Municipal utilities and infrastructure
  • Property acquisition, disposition and leasing
  • Public contracting and bid issues
  • Public finance, assessment districts and community facilities districts
  • Public Records Act
  • Regulatory and administrative compliance
  • Successor agency and oversight board issues
Administrative and Regulatory Matters

Administrative and Regulatory Matters

Churchwell White LLP’s attorneys practice in all aspects of the federal and state Executive Branch environment, including but not limited to rulemaking, underground regulations, administrative adjudication and enforcement actions. Beyond the administrative process, its lawyers have aggressively challenged administrative decisions in the courts. The attorneys at Churchwell White LLP include individuals who have previously worked for the Office of Administrative Law, the Cal-OSHA Appeals Board, the Fair Political Practices Commission, the Governor’s Office and other state agencies.

This experience means that Churchwell White can offer clients guidance all the way through the administrative process, and where necessary, the following judicial appeals process. The attorneys at Churchwell White LLP are intimately acquainted with the regulatory environment through their previous experience at state agencies and continue to engage with those agencies, keeping the firm informed about all of the latest agency regulations. Clients at Churchwell White LLP can count on this combination of experience and ongoing expertise to help them navigate the regulatory process at both the state and federal level.

Churchwell White LLP’s lawyers have handled cases before:

Federal Agencies (partial listing)

  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Interior
  • EPA
  • Federal Election Commission
  • FEMA
  • US Forest Service

State Agencies (partial listing)

  • Administrative Law, Office of
  • Air Resources Board
  • Alcoholic Beverage Control, Department of
  • Board of Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists
  • Building Standards Commission
  • Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education
  • Business, Transportation and Housing Agency
  • California Massage Therapy Council
  • CalPERS
  • CalSTRS
  • Consumer Affairs, Department of
  • Contractor’s State License Bureau
  • Controller, State
  • Corporations, Department of
  • Corrections and Rehabilitation, Department of
  • Education, Department of
  • Energy Commission
  • CalEPA
  • Fair Employment and Housing, Department of
  • Fair Political Practices Commission
  • Finance, Department of
  • Franchise Tax Board
  • General Services, Department of
  • Governor’s Office
  • Health and Human Services Agency, California
  • Health Care Services, Department of
  • Housing and Community Development, Department of
  • Industrial Relations, Department of
  • Insurance, Department of
  • Justice, Department of
  • Labor and Workforce Development Agency, California
  • Managed Health Care, Department of
  • Natural Resources Agency
  • Pharmacy, Board of
  • Public Health, Department of
  • Public Utilities Commission, California
  • Real Estate, Department of
  • Resources Recycling and Recovery, Department of
  • Secretary of State
  • State and Consumer Services Agency
  • State Compensation Insurance Fund
  • Toxic Substances Control, Department of
  • Transportation, Department of
  • Treasurer, State
  • Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board
  • Water Resources Control Board


Political and Referendum Law

Political and Referendum Law

Churchwell White LLP is one of only a handful of California law firms that handle cases in the following areas as a main emphasis of the firm:

  • Ballot Measures
  • Campaign Finance
  • Referenda
  • Lobbying and Placement Agents
  • Gifts and Public Official Travel
  • Election Law

Attorneys at Churchwell White LLP have previously served as General Counsel to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and one of our attorneys currently serves on the Executive Committee of the California Political Attorneys Association. In the past 15 years, Churchwell White LLP’s attorneys have acted as lead counsel on numerous statewide and local initiatives and referenda, including the largest independent expenditure campaign in California history. The firm’s attorneys routinely handle compliance issues for legislative candidates and officeholders. The firm has also litigated political law issues in state and federal court, including the California Supreme Court.

The firm’s attorneys provide strategic advice related to the initiative and referenda processes. The firm has comprehensive experience with California’s electoral process. Churchwell White LLP’s attorneys have guided clients through the drafting, filing, publication and circulation of initiatives and referenda, and numerous challenges involving spending limits, ballot arguments, campaign regulations, election contests, election timing, ballot security, voter registration issues, candidate qualification and nomination procedures, ballot pamphlet issues, recall procedures, ballot recounts, election result contests and other post-election matters. With this breadth of experience, the firm advises its clients on all matters pertaining to regular, special and consolidated elections. The firm’s attorneys have a thorough understanding of California’s Political Reform Act, the Voting Rights Act, Proposition 208 and local campaign finance regulations.

Chemical Management

Chemical Management

Churchwell White LLP is actively engaged in representing businesses and trade associations on chemical and waste management and public policy initiatives. Our practice includes legislative, regulatory and litigation assistance.

For years our attorneys have represented clients before the Department of Toxic Substance Control, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Department of Pesticide Regulations and CalRecycle. Our established relationships helps assures that our clients are in the best position to meet the ongoing changes in California’s in the Safer Consumer Products law, Proposition 65, pesticides regulations and changes to the state’s waste diversion goals.

With years of experience, our attorneys have been involved in representing clients through the legislative and regulatory implementation of the country’s first green chemistry program, ensuring that recent proposed reforms to Proposition 65 do not inhibit or subject our clients to frivolous lawsuit abuses, and ensure compliance with the California’s 75% recycling, composting or source reduction diversion goals by 2020.  Additionally, our attorneys have worked on protecting clients from onerous extended producer responsibility proposals (EPR), while assisting a client in complying with California’s EPR program (EPR) for carpet.

For more information regarding this practice group, please contact Randy Pollack.

Ethics and Internal Investigations

Ethics and Internal Investigations

Churchwell White LLP brings to its clients a one-of-a-kind perspective and approach to ethics-related matters that is unmatched by any other firm, large or small. One of our founding partners, Steven Churchwell, served as General Counsel to the Fair Political Practices Commission and personally established many of the policies and procedures that are currently in place today. This means our firm is uniquely qualified to provide counsel on issues related to the Political Reform Act, the Elections Code, conflicts of interest and disciplinary proceedings. Our attorneys can provide custom tailored training to municipalities, boards, corporations, and legislative staff in all areas related to ethics and compliance with AB 1234.

Churchwell White LLP has extensive experience defending individuals and entities under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission for claimed violations of the Political Reform Act and Government Code section 1090. A single complaint by a disgruntled employee or political opponent can result in a large disruption in your life. We help you address the matter head-on in order to quickly resolve the issue and reduce its impact.

Churchwell White LLP attorneys can also assist both public agencies and private companies in conducting internal investigations. Our attorneys have experience navigating the various issues that arise during all types of investigations, including grand jury investigations, internal investigations, and related civil litigation and administrative enforcement actions. Our attorneys are adept at controlling discovery related to the investigation, managing all related privacy issues in the investigation and finding successful settlements for all parties involved.

The internal investigation practice at the firm includes:

  • Designing and conducting internal review processes.
  • Representing officers, directors, and employees in internal inquiries.
  • Investigating inquiries on behalf of companies, boards of directors, or public agencies into officer, director, or employee misconduct.
Real Estate

Real Estate

Churchwell White LLP’s real estate attorneys routinely handle a broad range of real estate transactions and litigation matters for clients throughout California. The firm’s managing partner, Douglas L. White, is recognized as one of the leading attorneys in the United States on real estate issues related to renewable energy and sustainability and was named by the California Real Estate Journal as one of California’s Green Leaders. Churchwell White LLP attorneys are experienced in every sector of real estate development and management, including:

  • Residential Subdivisions and Infill Development
  • Construction Matters
  • Retail Development and Leasing
  • Office and Industrial Development and Leasing
  • Commercial Lease Disputes
  • Ground Leasing
  • Sales and Acquisitions
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Workout Transactions
  • Complex Real Estate and Construction Litigation
Legislative Advocacy

Legislative Advocacy

Churchwell White LLP’s legislative and governmental affairs team has navigated the California political landscape, both inside and outside the Capitol, for more than 25 years. The firm’s deep roots in the state capital have solidified enduring relationships with members of the legislature on both sides of the aisle, the executive branch and other constitutional offices. Consequently, Churchwell White LLP is ideally positioned to provide exceptional governmental relations, lobbying, and political and public law representation to its clients.

The firm’s legislative efforts are centered on advancing clients’ legislative interests. Our legislative clients include national trade associations, Fortune 500 companies and local governments. Churchwell White LLP’s commitment to meeting its clients’ needs is exemplified by its extraordinary results in the passage, amendment or defeat of legislation. The firm’s attorneys and lobbyists focus on building coalitions with trade associations and companies in order to coordinate efforts towards a shared goal is widely recognized.

The foundation of Churchwell White LLP’s legislative advocacy approach is effective and strategic communication. The firm excels at all phases of legislative advocacy because of our ability to tackle all sides of an issue, conduct the necessary analysis from a legal and policy-based perspective and ultimately craft a viable strategy for the client. With these guiding principles in mind, Churchwell White LLP can ensure the highest quality service to our client base.

Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain

Churchwell White LLP is recognized as a leader in eminent domain and inverse condemnation proceedings on behalf of property owners, tenants, business owners, and government entities. Churchwell White LLP’s eminent domain attorneys have litigated more than 300 takings cases and have obtained multi-million dollar results. The firm’s attorneys have extensive experience in boundary disputes, disputes over easements, real estate purchase and sale issues, and other matters relating to real property.

Attorneys of Churchwell White LLP have represented private property owners and government entities throughout California to obtain verdicts or settlements for just compensation in matters involving vacant agricultural parcels of land to urban land developed with residential, commercial, or industrial uses. The firm has experience counseling and representing clients through every stage of condemnation, from preliminary negotiations for the acquisition of property, to the institution of condemnation proceedings, and to the ultimate determination of just compensation through litigation and the appellate process.

Churchwell White LLP’s team-oriented approach includes longstanding relationships with the finest forensic appraisers, engineering consultants and other experts in order to reach the best possible results for clients in each matter. Past clients have included the Sacramento Regional Transit District, the City of Rocklin, Washington Unified School District, Calpine Corporation and Shasta Factory Outlets.

Environmental and Natural Resources

Environmental and Natural Resources

Churchwell White LLP understands the dual responsibility of protecting our unique and valuable natural resources while continuing to progress as a society. As such, the attorneys at Churchwell White LLP have worked consciously to develop a deep expertise in all aspects of environmental law and natural resource issues, with a particular emphasis on California’s unique regulations and requirements.  The firm routinely assists its clients in successfully navigating the complexities of state and federal environmental and natural resources laws.

Churchwell White LLP’s environmental and natural resources practice includes a wide spectrum of representation on the federal, state and local level.  The attorneys at Churchwell White LLP represent clients in environmental permitting, regulatory compliance, enforcement and litigation, business transactions and legislative advocacy that involve environmental problems or risks.  Whether the project involves water rights, water quality compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or the California Coastal Act, as well as matters involving air quality, hazardous waste, asbestos, and the California and Federal Endangered Species Acts, the Firm has led private and public clients to a successful outcome. Churchwell White LLP assists clients with due diligence requirements, site audits, site remediation, and cost recovery. The environmental and natural resources practice at Churchwell White LLP includes working with the California Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Toxic Substances Control, California Air Resources Board, and California State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Boards.

Churchwell White LLP assists both private and public clients through all aspects of CEQA and NEPA compliance. The attorneys  at Churchwell White LLP assist with pre-project planning and strategy before the CEQA/NEPA review process even begins, to minimize costs and maximize environmental protection. Churchwell White LLP has the expertise to guide its clients through the entire process of writing, editing and approving Environmental Impact Reports and Environmental Impact Statements to fully comply with CEQA and NEPA requirements. If a legal challenge should arise, Churchwell White LLP’s CEQA lawyers are skilled in the procedural and substantive intricacies of litigating CEQA and NEPA cases, including the short statutes of limitations, administrative record requirements, and unique briefing and oral argument issues.

The firm advises clients on acquisitions, sales and exchanges of various natural resources such as timber, minerals, water and other natural resources.  We advise clients on the development of renewable energy projects such as hydroelectric, solar, wind and biomass from site acquisition to resource management and local, state and federal approvals. The attorneys at Churchwell White LLP have expertise in water resource planning, endangered species regulations, and wetlands conversion and use.  The firm’s expertise in environmental and natural resources includes administrative hearings, appeals and state and federal litigation.


Water Quality

Water Quality

Churchwell White LLP understands the benefit of developing long-term solutions that can successfully adapt to new and proposed state and federal laws and regulations related to water quality. Our water quality practice includes permit proceedings, regulatory compliance, legislative assistance and state and federal litigation.

Attorneys at Churchwell White LLP have represented clients before the State Water Board, Regional Water Quality Control Boards, and other state and federal agencies. Our attorneys assist private and public agency clients to meet constantly changing requirements for the treatment, storage and distribution of water resources, including compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act.

Our expertise includes industrial pre-treatment compliance, regional storm drain permits, point source and non-point source permitting and compliance, Clean Water Act section 404 dredge and fill permits, Total Maximum Daily Load issues, Water Quality Control Plan Review, Basin Plan updates and revision of water quality standards, watershed-based programs, Best Management Practices, and construction water quality compliance. We are committed to working with regulatory agencies to avoid litigation and excessive penalties whenever possible. However, when necessary, we have defended clients in penalty actions, administrative enforcement proceedings and citizen suits under the Clean Water Act.

This regulatory expertise has also been applied to matters regarding the treatment, disposal and use of recycled water. We assist both private and public clients in meeting requirements for operation of wastewater systems, including compliance with rules promulgated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).



Churchwell White LLP attorneys have litigated hundreds of complex cases in state and federal court, including trial courts, appellate courts and the California Supreme Court. Our attorneys are highly regarded for trying complex cases, often under severe time constraints, and winning cases through creative dispositive motions, well-crafted trial strategies, and focused and effective appeals. We understand that our clients count on us to choose the right winning strategy. Sometimes that strategy includes alternative dispute resolution. In others, the solution may involve other branches of government. For example, one of our lawyers drafted retroactive legislation that effectuated a favorable settlement in a class-action lawsuit involving the inadvertent release of medical records.

Churchwell White LLP’s philosophy is focused on pursuing good faith negotiations before either party decides to go to court. We pride ourselves on advising clients in how to avoid litigation, or how to resolve disputes without resorting to litigation. Where there is an opportunity to negotiate, mediate, or arbitrate a resolution that favors our client without sacrificing important rights and opportunities to the client, we are well prepared to do so. Our litigators combine experience working as government regulators with courtroom experience, industry knowledge, and sound business judgment to know when to settle and when to move the case forward. Our litigation teams strive to keep the client involved in every stage of the process.

Our litigation attorneys have worked on a variety of matters, including cases involving water resources and quality, CEQA compliance, fee and rate challenges (including Proposition 218), hazardous materials and toxic clean-up, eminent domain, real estate, labor and employment disputes, public contracting and bidding, equal protection claims, open meetings and sunshine laws, and more.

Examples of our litigation successes are as follows:

  • In Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center v. County of Siskiyou (2012) 210 Cal. App. 4th 184, the County’s CEQA findings were successfully defended and costs on appeal were awarded against the opposing party.
  • In another CEQA litigation matter, the court awarded a $4,000,000 judgment to the City of Riverbank. This case was featured in the California Journal’s Top Plaintiff Settlement and Verdicts.


Churchwell White LLP attorneys have broad expertise in the energy sector. The firm’s experience includes various phases of combustion and renewable generation development, such as siting and permitting, as well as power purchase agreements and financing. Churchwell White LLP’s siting experience includes solar, wind, and biomass projects requiring approvals from local, state and federal agencies. Some examples of projects the firm has done are as follows:

  • Assisted a global telecom company convert their cell tower backups from battery to fuel cells.
  • Obtained sales tax exclusions for a solar panel manufacturer.
  • Drafted various agreements for energy companies related to the sale and installation of renewable energy systems.
  • Obtained permits to repower peaking power plants.
  • Obtained grants and government contracts for biofuel companies.
  • Obtained securities permits for green energy companies raising funds on the internet.
  • Represented three IOUs in court in a dispute over the early release of their proprietary cost forecasts by a government agency.

Churchwell White LLP advises clients on the development of renewable energy projects such as hydroelectric, solar, wind and biomass from site acquisition to resource management and local, state and federal approvals.

The firm practices before the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Independent System Operator and California Energy Resources Scheduling (CERS).



Churchwell White LLP attorneys can provide a broad scope of services to healthcare organizations. Our team has represented a variety of healthcare businesses, such as providers, health plans, physician groups, pharmacy benefit managers, manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, clearinghouses, and wholesalers and public healthcare districts.

We can provide assistance in regulatory issues, legislation, litigation, government contracts and grants, state budget issues and related matters. We bring an interdisciplinary approach to our clients’ matters by assigning our teams with the best combination of skills and experience to achieve the desired result.

Healthcare providers, like other businesses, sometimes become involved in business litigation with suppliers, tenants, contractors, governmental agencies, third party payers, business associates, physicians, competitors and other parties. Churchwell White LLP’s litigation practice group is well positioned to litigate and defend healthcare disputes.

In our healthcare lobbying practice, we represented a large coalition among the business community that was opposed to a government healthcare mandate on employers of 20 or more employees. One of our partners served as lead counsel to the coalition in a successful statewide referendum campaign against the law.

Land Use

Land Use

The Churchwell White LLP land use group specializes in the acquisition of project entitlements, while providing a full range of services in land use planning, infrastructure finance and land conservation. The firm represents public agencies and private entities in all aspects of the entitlement process, from the application process to administrative proceedings and legislative approvals.

The firm takes pride in successfully obtaining land use and legislative approvals in numerous areas, such as the adoption and amendment of general plans and specific plans, development agreements, zoning amendments and variances, and Subdivision Map Act and Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) proceedings.

Land Use Litigation

In California, ambitious projects often involve public controversy. Although the firm’s approach is to defuse disputes before litigation arises, the land use team includes practitioners who are highly skilled at initiating and defending lawsuits challenging project approvals and other land use determinations. The land use team has successfully litigated cases involving CEQA and NEPA approvals, development agreements, multi-million dollar infrastructure obligations, inverse condemnation and eminent domain proceedings.

General and Specific Plans

The firm has assisted numerous city clients with general plan and housing element updates. For specific plans and master developments, the firm’s experience representing both the public and private sector provides strategic insight to our clients throughout the application and approval process.

Development Agreements

In today’s economy, developers and public agencies must pay close attention to the phasing of residential, commercial and industrial development, and the infrastructure required for cities to sustainably grow. The land use group specializes in finding creative solutions tailored to the specific characteristics of each jurisdiction. Recent development agreements involve negotiations over a multi-million square foot industrial and commercial business park, revisions to vested approvals for a residential community, and development of a 475-acre residential and commercial mixed-use project that will ultimately seek certification as a LEED Gold neighborhood.

CEQA, NEPA and Federal Permitting

Churchwell White LLP provides cost-effective advice to ensure that environmental considerations are properly analyzed and mitigated under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and during federal permitting under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act. The firm maintains this approach working with consultants in the production of technical reports such as water supply assessments, wetlands delineations, species and habitat surveys, traffic analyses, and storm water pollution prevention plans.

LAFCO Proceedings

Churchwell White LLP’s attorneys have successfully appeared before LAFCO boards in annexations and sphere of influence modifications ranging between 90 and 1,100 acres. The firm’s attorneys provide strategic advice for cities to consider the long-term effects of municipal service reviews and extra-territorial service agreements on future development.


The land use group specializes in the development and financing of technologies that maximize the economic potential of backbone infrastructure. Churchwell White LLP embraces “green” principles, such as tertiary water treatment, not only for their environmental benefits, but for improving the bottom line of municipalities and developers that operate those systems.


Attorneys at Churchwell White LLP understand the importance of balancing urban development with environmental preservation. The firm’s attorneys routinely advise public and private entities in Williamson Act compliance, biological and agricultural mitigation, and mitigation banks. Several of Churchwell White LLP’s attorneys serve as directors of local land trusts and other conservation organizations.

Water Rights

Water Rights

In California, issues related to water rights continue to evolve and become more and more important to every aspect of life. Churchwell White LLP’s water rights team assists in difficult matters involving water rights, supply, use, distribution and policy. Our attorneys represent clients of all ranges, from small homestead owners, to cities and water districts and large companies, in matters involving riparian, appropriative and overlying water rights.

Our attorneys have represented clients before state and federal water resources agencies, state and federal environmental regulators, and other governmental agencies. We have a strong reputation and bring excellent working relationships with state and federal agencies to the table. Although we emphasize communication and negotiation in resolving conflicts, litigation and water rights adjudications are sometimes the only practical means of protecting our clients’ interests.

We have represented clients in proceedings before the State Water Board and Regional Water Quality Control Boards, in matters involving conflicts between junior and senior water users, conversion of minimum stream flows to in-stream water rights, transfers and sales of existing water rights, and conflicts between hydroelectric power use and municipal water use.

The long-term viability of the clients we serve is paramount to us. Accordingly, we help clients develop long-range management plans to ensure that they have the water needed to remain viable and that they meet obligations under state and federal laws, including the California Water Code, the Clean Water Act, state and federal endangered species laws and the Warren Act. Such efforts include water transfers, acquiring and protecting water rights, and regional planning. In addition, water users in California face challenges beyond the acquisition of water rights, such as meeting the demands of constantly changing environmental regulations. Churchwell White LLP is ready to assist small and large water users and landowners in order to meet these permitting and regulatory challenges.