Daily Journal Names Olson Remcho one of California’s “Top Boutiques” for 2021

Olson Remcho has been named as one of the Daily Journal’s “Top Boutiques in California” for 2021.  The firm was selected based on its deep expertise in political and government law.  According to the article, “The creation of Olson Remcho 20 months ago out of California’s two top, Democrat-oriented political law firms went smoothly, partners say.  After all, the two firms’ attorneys had known and worked with each other for years.  And lawyers from both firms already were collaborating on a couple of matters prior to their merger.” 

The article closes with a quote from Managing Partner Karen Getman.  “It was a very intense year, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re very, very glad we merged because we each brought strengths to the table.”

It was a very intense year, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we're very glad we merged because we each brought strengths to the table.

A pdf of the full article is available here.

Enshrining the Right to Abortion and Contraception in the California Constitution

Proposition 1, which is on the California ballot in November, would enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the California Constitution.  Olson Remcho is serving as principal campaign counsel for the measure, which is officially known as the “Yes on Proposition 1, Supported by Health Care Organizations, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Senator Toni Atkins Ballot Measure Committee.”  As campaign counsel for the ballot measure committee, the firm handles all political reporting requirements, along with other campaign matters. 

“The firm has been advising lawmakers and advocacy groups on a possible constitutional amendment since word first leaked earlier this year about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” said Lead Partner Emily Andrews. “In addition to serving as campaign counsel, we’re proud to be representing Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California on the matter.”  The firm also represents Governor Gavin Newsom, who is a strong supporter of Prop. 1.

In addition to serving as campaign counsel, we’re proud to be representing Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California on the matter

The firm’s team on Prop. 1 includes Andrews, Karen Getman, Richard Rios, Rachael Rutkowski, and Aaron Silva.

Court Victories Clear the Way for Prop 26 in November

Olson Remcho is campaign counsel for California’s Proposition 26 – the initiative on the November ballot that will allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks.  The firm’s work on the initiative began in 2019 with the drafting of the measure and has continued through several court battles leading up to this year’s election.

“We’ve been in court five times over the last three years on behalf of the backers of Prop 26 and been successful in all five actions,” said Lance Olson, who has led the firm’s work on the matter.  “In the midst of the first wave of COVID in 2020, the court granted our request to extend the time to gather signatures and rejected challenges to that decision.”  Even though the initiative did not qualify for the ballot in 2020, the stage was set for 2022.

We’re pleased that we’ve been able to ensure that Prop. 26 made it to the finish line

“There were special interests lining up against the measure from the beginning, but we were able to defeat three suits in 2021 and 2022 brought by card rooms that challenged Prop 26 on single subject grounds,” added Olson. One of the card room actions, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, was dismissed after the court granted the firm’s anti SLAPP motion, agreeing that the case should have been filed in Sacramento Superior Court, not in Los Angeles. 

“We’re pleased that we’ve been able to ensure that Prop. 26 made it to the finish line,” concluded Olson.  “We’re hopeful that California voters will approve the measure and reject Prop 27 – the attempt by the online sports gaming industry to move into the state.”

Olson Remcho Representing Local Governments on Election Matters

With this year’s November election fast approaching, attorneys at Olson Remcho have been representing local governments on a wide range of election issues, including matters for Los Angeles County, the City of Redwood City, the City of Berkeley, and the City of Oakland. 

Partner Tom Willis, who advises a number of municipalities on redistricting, election law, conflicts of interest, and initiatives and referenda, notes that the gradual consolidation of what were previously off-year local elections into the every-two-year statewide cycle has led to a jam-packed ballot including numerous local and state races and initiatives. 

It’s a hectic, but interesting time for election lawyers

“It’s a hectic, but interesting time for election lawyers,” said Willis.  “The issues are all over the map from fairly straightforward issues like bringing city charters into compliance with current state law, such as California Voting Rights Act, to litigated matters like granting the vote in school board elections to non-citizens – a case we’re currently handling for the City of Oakland.”

In that case, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled on August 30, 2022 that a City of Oakland ballot measure that would allow the Oakland City Council to authorize non-citizens to vote in school board elections can be put before voters in November. 

In January 2022 the Oakland City Council voted to place a measure on this November’s ballot that would amend the Oakland Charter to allow the Council, by ordinance, to authorize non-citizens, who make up 14% of Oakland’s population, to vote in school board elections, giving them “representation in key decisions that impact their education and their lives.”  The City was sued to keep the measure off the ballot, with opponents arguing that such a measure would conflict with the state Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”  A similar law in San Francisco was ruled unconstitutional by a state judge earlier this year; that decision is on appeal.

In his ruling, Judge Michael Markman stated, “There’s a strong presumption under California law that the constitutionality of ballot initiatives is determined after the election is over.” According to a San Francisco Chronicle article on the case,  Olson Remcho’s Karen Getman argued that “the right to speak on ballot measures is one of the most precious rights in our state.”  Getman told the Chronicle after the hearing, “We are very pleased that Judge Markman understood the importance of allowing the voters to decide on the measure in the first instance.”

Judge Rules for City of Oakland Allowing Ballot Measure re Non-Citizen Voting to Appear on November Ballot

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled on August 30, 2022 that a City of Oakland ballot measure that would allow the Oakland City Council to authorize non-citizens to vote in school board elections can be put before voters in November.  Olson Remcho represents longtime client City of Oakland on the matter.

In January 2022 the Oakland City Council voted to place a measure on this November’s ballot that would amend the Oakland Charter to allow the Council, by ordinance, to authorize non-citizens, who make up 14% of Oakland’s population, to vote in school board elections, giving them “representation in key decisions that impact their education and their lives.”  The City was sued to keep the measure off the ballot, with opponents arguing that such a measure would conflict with the state Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”  A similar law in San Francisco was ruled unconstitutional by a state judge earlier this year; that decision is on appeal.

The right to speak on ballot measures is one of the most precious rights in our state

In his ruling, Judge Michael Markman stated, “There’s a strong presumption under California law that the constitutionality of ballot initiatives is determined after the election is over.” According to a San Francisco Chronicle article on the case,  Olson Remcho’s Karen Getman argued that “the right to speak on ballot measures is one of the most precious rights in our state.”  Getman told the Chronicle after the hearing, “We are very pleased that Judge Markman understood the importance of allowing the voters to decide on the measure in the first instance.”

Karen Getman Named to Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 for 2022

Olson Remcho is very pleased and proud to report that Managing Partner Karen Getman has been named to Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 for 2022.  Olson Remcho’s Robin Johansen and Lance Olson were previously named to the Top 100 list.

According to Capitol Weekly, “Karen Getman is a political attorney whose clientele is a veritable Who’s Who of Democratic political power in California. She has deep knowledge of the arcane intricacies of political and campaign finance law, including the quagmire of regulations originating in the 1974 Political Reform Act, which created the state’s campaign finance “watchdog,” the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Named by Gov. Gray Davis as the first woman chair of the FPPC in 1999, she had been an attorney in the legendary Democratic political law firm founded by one of  her mentors, Joe Remcho, a prominent legal adviser to top Democratic politicians, who died tragically in a helicopter accident in 2003. She returned to the Remcho firm as a partner after a four-year term as FPPC chair – during which she toughened enforcement of campaign disclosure laws and worked to simplify some of the byzantine FPPC rules. In 2020, the Remcho firm merged with another powerhouse Democratic political law firm, with Getman as the first managing partner of Olson Remcho.”

Karen Getman is a political attorney whose clientele is a veritable Who’s Who of Democratic political power in California.

Olson Remcho Successfully Defends New District Lines

Every ten years following the U.S. Census, most California local jurisdictions are required to redraw district boundaries to reflect new population counts and ensure compliance with state and federal law.  The 2022 redistricting cycle has been uniquely fast-paced and challenging due to new substantive and procedural laws governing the California redistricting process and pandemic-related census delays, which required jurisdictions to redistrict under tight timelines to ensure that the new maps could be implemented for the 2022 elections.

Attorneys at Olson Remcho, including Robin Johansen, Tom Willis and Kristen Rogers, provide practical advice to California public officials and line-drawers about all aspects of the redistricting process, including the hiring of experts and line-drawers, the appropriate use of data, conducting public hearings and fact-gathering, applying redistricting criteria to line-drawing, drafting redistricting plans, working with public officials to pass legislation, and defending the plan in any subsequent challenges. 

We are very pleased we were able to defeat their TROs so that the lines drawn by the County Committee would be used for this year’s election instead.

The firm’s ongoing representation of the Orange County Committee on School District Organization (OCCSDO) is a case in point.  In the weeks leading up to the final redistricting deadlines for the June 2022 primary election, OR attorneys successfully defended the OCCSDO against repeated attempts by the Orange County Board of Education and an incumbent Board of Education Trustee to wrest control over the Board of Education’s trustee area boundaries redistricting from the OCCSDO. 

In the five weeks the case played out in Orange County Superior Court in January and February 2022, two different judges sided with OR’s clients and denied Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) sought by the Orange County Board of Education that would have replaced the OCCSDO’s adopted redistricting map with the Board’s own preferred redistricting map.  At this time, OCCSO’s redistricting plan remains in place for the June 2022 election. 

 “A majority of the members of the Orange County Board of Education went to extraordinary lengths to put their own redistricting lines in place despite the County Committee’s clear statutory authority to draw the lines,” according to Johansen. “We are very pleased we were able to defeat their TROs so that the lines drawn by the County Committee would be used for this year’s election instead.”

Top 5 Tips for Campaign Finance Reporting Compliance for 2022

With the June 7, 2022 California primary election fast-approaching, Olson Remcho’s Compliance Reporting Unit is hard at work filing numerous disclosure reports on behalf of the firm’s clients. Lead by our Director of Compliance Michelle Wixom, our Compliance Reporting Unit manages filings for over 400 filers, including PACs, major donors and lobby filers.

Below are our top five tips to ensure compliance during election season.

  1. Verify contributions limits before making a contribution. Contribution limits vary at the federal, state and local levels and are also periodically adjusted for inflation. In addition, certain jurisdictions place restrictions on the sources permitted to contribute, including a federal prohibition on contributions from corporations and labor organizations to federal candidates and certain types of federal PACs. Finally, many local jurisdictions in California that did not previously have a contribution limit are now subject to state contribution limits as of January 1, 2021.
  2. Ensure compliance with federal, state and local disclaimer requirements for all advertisements. Almost any type of political advertisement will require some kind of “paid for by” disclaimer. The language, font size, and other specifications vary depending on the type of advertisement and the jurisdiction. Under state law, the Fair Political Practices Commission is authorized to impose penalties up to three times the cost of an advertisement for an inaccurate disclaimer. Disclaimers are an area of risk and we recommend seeking legal review before disseminating political advertisements to ensure compliance with all disclaimer requirements.
  3. Calendar all reporting deadlines. Whether you are responsible for preparing your PAC’s filings or our firm is responsible for doing so, calendaring applicable reporting deadlines is important to ensure your availability to review, sign and file all required reports on time. Unlike tax returns, extensions are generally not available for campaign finance reports.
  4. Ensure treasurer availability and add an assistant treasurer as backup. Once you calendar the deadlines, ensure that the PAC treasurer or responsible officer for a Major Donor filer is available to sign the required reports. Adding an assistant PAC treasurer to your Statement of Organization can ensure that a backup signer is available if the treasurer is unavailable to sign.
  5. If you make contributions in another state, first verify the limits and any applicable reporting requirements. Different states impose different limits and restrictions on who can contribute, and how much. In addition, different states have different thresholds at which registration and disclosure is required by contributors.

If you have any questions regarding your filing obligations, we encourage you to contact your Olson Remcho attorney.

Public Retirement Law Practice at Olson Remcho

Attorneys in the public retirement law practice at Olson Remcho provide cutting edge legal advice, representation, and consulting services to California’s state and local public retirement systems. 

Chris Waddell, former General Counsel of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), established and heads the practice.  Chris, now senior attorney at Olson Remcho, joined Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, LLP in 2008.  He previously served as General Counsel for two California public retirement systems; first at CalSTRS, the second largest public pension fund in the country, and later at the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (SDCERS). 

California’s state and local public retirement systems have often led the way for retirement systems across the country.

“California’s state and local public retirement systems, charged with protecting the retirement savings of millions of Californians, have often led the way for retirement systems across the country,” said Chris.  “I enjoy working with my clients on the day-to-day challenges of administering their systems and assisting them with resolving complex fiduciary law and governance issues.  It’s been exciting and satisfying to me to have been able to play a role in their continuing development and strengthening over the last 24 years.” 

The public retirement law team at Olson Remcho also includes partner Kristen Rogers, as  well as other senior firm attorneys with exceptional expertise in government law issues and litigation.  Several firm attorneys, including Chris, serve as outside general or special counsel to state and local public agencies.

Chris currently serves as the outside General Counsel to the San Luis Obispo County Pension Trust, the Imperial County Employees’ Retirement System, and the San Joaquin Regional Transit District Retirement Board.  He also serves  as the outside counsel for the CalSTRS Appeals Committee, and as fiduciary counsel the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association and  two City of Los Angeles retirement systems.  He has also worked with SDCERS, the San Diego County Employees’ Retirement Association and the City of Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System.  In addition, he has provided advice on fiduciary law issues to the state public retirement systems in Pennsylvania and Maine.  Working with Funston Advisory Services, he has assisted with comprehensive governance reviews for the City of New York’s retirement systems and the Texas Teachers’ Retirement System.

While at CalSTRS, Chris worked with Olson, Hagel and Fishburn’s litigation team led by Deborah Caplan and oversaw the strategy that recovered $700 million in unpaid pension contributions plus interest from the State of California in the Teachers Retirement Board v. Genest case.  He also developed and administered an innovative securities litigation policy that recouped approximately $200 million in CalSTRS investment losses and worked with the CalSTRS Board in its adoption of significant enhancements to its governance and conflicts of interest policies, including “pay to play” policies and regulations that received national attention.

 

Beyersdorf and Martinez Join O|R as Associates

Olson Remcho is pleased to announce that Brian Beyersdorf and Angelica Martincz have joined the firm as associates.  Angelica is located in the Sacramento office and Brian is based in Long Beach.

Prior to joining the firm, Angelica was the lead attorney for the humanitarian department at the Matian Firm in San Jose, where she focused on assisting clients in obtaining their visas and lawful permanent status based on their perspective categories as victims of violence or human trafficking.  Angelica is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (B.A.), and Santa Clara University School of Law (J.D.).   During law school, she interned at the San Francisco City Attorney’s office and the Office of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, was a teaching assistant, and volunteered at the Katharine and George Alexander Community law Center.

Brian was formerly a regional attorney at the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) in Los Angeles. In that position, he investigated unfair practice charges, mediated labor law disputes, and drafted briefs for appellate litigation. Before PERB, he clerked for the Honorable Steven B. Berlin of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges in San Francisco.  Brian received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame. Before law school, he was a union organizer for SEIU-UHW in Los Angeles, a field representative for a state legislator in San Diego, and a community organizer for the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation in Los Angeles and Houston.

 

Russian Refugee Persecuted as a Lesbian Granted Asylum with Help from O|R’s Rutkowski

With the help of a legal team including Olson Remcho associate Rachael Rutkowski, a lesbian woman, who fled from Russia with her partner because she feared for her life after being subjected to multiple instances of violent persecution because of her sexual orientation, was granted asylum in the United States in December 2021.  The couple, who married in San Francisco after coming to the U.S., now have a young child and with the December ruling are assured of being able to remain in the U.S. and pursue a path to citizenship.

The legal team, including Rachael, OR partner Margaret Prinzing and Rachael’s former colleagues at Perkins Coie LLP, successfully had their client placed on a short list after five years of waiting for a credibility interview and, in November 2021, persuaded to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicating officer that the woman should obtain asylum. 

The couple . . . now have a young child and with the December ruling are assured of being able to remain in the U.S. and pursue a path to citizenship.

Rachael and her co-counsel were able to show that it was likely that the woman would be subject to further persecution if forced to return to Russia where her government employer had joined in persecuting her and the police were unwilling to protect her against the increasingly violent physical attacks to which she was being subjected.  Russia continues to be a dangerous place for the LGBTQ+ community.