Path-Making Litigation in the Public Interest


A large part of the firm's practice currently consists of representing and advising the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest school system, on a broad array of legal and legislative matters — from issues of constitutional law, to implementation of sweeping changes in charter school law, to issues arising out of the financing and execution of the District's multi-billion-dollar school construction program.

School Funding

Strumwasser & Woocher prevailed in path‑making litigation to ensure that school districts across the state will receive the billions of dollars of revenues to which they are entitled under the Community Redevelopment Law. Los Angeles Unified School District v. County of Los Angeles, et al., 181 Cal. App. 4th 414 (2010); Los Angeles Unified School District v. County of Los Angeles, et al., 217 Cal. App. 4th 597 (2013). During this litigation, the firm also led the legislative advocacy efforts of LAUSD to ensure that the financial interests of schools throughout California are preserved as redevelopment agencies are dissolved over the coming decades. The firm also defended the financial interests of schools in the litigation upholding the laws governing dissolution of redevelopment, representing LAUSD and the California School Boards Association as amici curiae before the California Supreme Court. California Redevelopment Assn. v. Matosantos, 53 Cal. 4th 231 (2011). Relatedly, the firm recently negotiated numerous discrete settlements on behalf of schools securing millions of dollars of pass‑through funding from former redevelopment agencies under the terms of longstanding pass‑through agreements.

As counsel to the Los Angeles Unified School District, Strumwasser & Woocher drafted three bond propositions—Measure K, Measure R, and Measure Y—and advised most recently on Measure RR, all of which were approved by the voters, providing LAUSD with nearly $26.2 billion for the largest school-construction program in the nation.

The firm has also advised the District for several years on the development of its annual Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and defended the District's plans before the California Department of Education and the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The firm previously drafted an initiative for the November 2014 California statewide ballot on behalf of Educate Our State, under which the state of California would be prevented from diverting local property tax revenues away from schools.

The firm successfully challenged the State Allocation Board's rules for distributing state-bond funds, resulting in the establishment of new rules for the allocation of bond funds and an additional $650 million in Proposition 1A proceeds for the Los Angeles Unified School District. The court's order in this litigation also led to the passage and voter-approval of state Propositions 47 and 55, the historic $25.4 billion state bond measures, including provisions that the firm negotiated to ensure funds for critically overcrowded districts such as LAUSD. Godinez v. State of California (LASC Docket No. BC227352).

In related work, the firm advises school and community college districts around the state regarding their rights and responsibilities under the Education Code, Revenue and Taxation Code, and Government Code. The firm also advises school districts regarding the ever-changing landscape of laws regarding school financing.

School Governance

Strumwasser & Woocher served as lead outside counsel to the Los Angeles Unified School District in its challenge to the constitutionality of state legislation that would have removed the authority of the elected Board of Education and handed over control of a significant portion of the school district to a private entity headed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Mendoza v. State of California, 149 Cal. App. 4th 1034 (2007).

Weapon Searches in Schools

Strumwasser & Woocher successfully defended Los Angeles Unified School District at trial and on appeal against a damages claim filed by an untenured teacher whose contract was not renewed after she twice obstructed searches of her classroom pursuant to the District's weapon search policy (crafted in consultation with the ACLU and law enforcement officials). Motevalli v. Los Angeles Unified School District, 122 Cal. App. 4th 97 (2004).

Charter Schools

Since 2000, Strumwasser & Woocher has advised the Los Angeles Unified School District in its development of its charter school policy, working with the district to satisfy the mandate of Proposition 39 (that public school facilities be fairly shared among all in-district and charter students), even during periods of endemic overcrowding. The firm successfully defended that policy in a series of actions brought by charter schools dissatisfied with the facilities they were offered by the district. Renaissance Academy Charter School v. LAUSD (LASC Docket No. BS101969; SDSC Docket No. GIC841140); New West Charter High School v. LAUSD, 187 Cal. App. 4th 831 (2010); Los Angeles International Charter High School v. LAUSD, 209 Cal. App. 4th 1348 (2012).

Strumwasser & Woocher also represents the Los Angeles Unified School District in disputes regarding charter school funding.

Land Use

In a church's challenge to Los Angeles Unified School District's eminent domain action, the firm defeated a challenge filed by the church that had purchased land being condemned to build a school to alleviate student‑overcrowding when the church claimed the First Amendment and federal statute precluded the taking of church property.