Path-Making Litigation in the Public Interest


Strumwasser & Woocher has developed a statewide and national reputation for its active elections law and ethics‑in‑government practice, representing candidates, political committees, corporations, citizen groups, and public agencies in compliance matters and in litigation on initiative and referendum law, ballot access issues, campaign finance and ethics regulations, and contested elections. Over the years, the firm has represented numerous political committees and citizens groups in both drafting state and local ballot measures and in litigation over the qualification of initiative and referendum petitions for the ballot.

Candidates and Committees

Strumwasser & Woocher was California State Counsel for Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, representing the campaign in litigation and working with its California staff on voter protection matters. The firm has also defended President Obama and Vice President Biden in litigation challenging the President's citizenship.

The firm represented the Democratic National Committee in a suit challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates' exclusion of a minor third party candidate from the 2012 presidential debates.

Strumwasser & Woocher successfully represented the winner of the Compton mayoral election in an appeal that overturned the trial court's decision to remove him from office on the mistaken theory that the runner‑up would have won the election had his name been listed first, rather than second, on the ballot. Bradley v. Perrodin, 106 Cal. App. 4th 1153 (2003).

Ballot Initiatives

The firm helped draft Proposition 62 of 2004 — a citizen sponsored open‑primary initiative that appeared on California's November 2004 ballot. The firm challenged the California Legislature's effort to undermine Proposition 62 by placing a competing measure on the ballot that unconstitutionally combined two unrelated proposed amendments to the California Constitution in violation of the California Constitution's separate vote requirement. Both the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Proposition 62 and held that the Legislature improperly conjoined issues in its competing measure. The Supreme Court also held that the Court of Appeal erred in allowing the Legislature's measure to appear on the ballot as two separate proposed constitutional amendments. Californians for an Open Primary v. McPherson, 38 Cal. 4th 735 (2006).

The firm represented LandWatch Monterey and the Rancho San Juan Opposition Coalition in a successful three‑year effort to qualify a County General Plan Amendment Initiative for the ballot and to overcome the Monterey County Board of Supervisors' repeated attempts to prevent a citizen vote on the initiative and on a related referendum measure. After helping to draft the initiative and qualify it for the ballot, Strumwasser & Woocher sued the Board of Supervisors over its refusal to place the initiative and a subsequently drafted referendum petition on the ballot, ultimately prevailing in federal district court and on appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In Re County of Monterey Initiative Matter (N.D. Ca. Nos. C 06 01407 JW, C 06 01730 JW).

Strumwasser & Woocher also represented the community organization Save Loma Linda in defending the validity of referendum measures challenging the approvals of two massive land development projects in the City of Loma Linda. The developer had sought to invalidate those referenda on a variety of technical grounds, but the firm successfully argued on appeal that the measures fully complied with the provisions of the Elections Code. Friends of Loma Linda v. Verjil, No. E040974, 2008 WL 3845407 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 19, 2008).

Strumwasser & Woocher represented the proponents of a local ballot initiative to preserve open space at the former Fort Ord in Monterey County, defeating two separate lawsuits attempting to remove the measure from the ballot prior to the November 2013 election.

The firm represents a community group supporting an initiative to institute a minimum wage and earned paid sick leave for San Diegans.

Election Procedures

The firm generated an important precedent protecting public control over elections through multi‑year litigation on behalf of clients seeking a recount of an election conducted on electronic voting machines. Americans for Safe Access v. County of Alameda, 174 Cal. App. 4th 1287 (2009). This case, an antecedent litigation brought by the firm in Riverside County, represented the country's first post-election litigation demanding a "recount" on first-generation DRE voting machines. The firm organized non‑partisan, public interest suit to vindicate statutory guarantee of a meaningful recount when local elections officials denied access to voting machine data. The case generated the first judicial interpretation of Elections Code section 15630, which affirmed the rights of California voters to review all data generated by voting systems in recounts and rejected the position adopted by local elections officials seeking to exempt new voting technologies from statutes that guarantee transparency in elections.

Strumwasser & Woocher won a landmark appellate ruling striking down California's requirement that circulators of city and county initiative and referendum petitions must be residents of the local jurisdiction. On behalf of the proponents of a land use referendum measure seeking to protect property rights in the City of San Clemente, the firm successfully argued that the restriction violated the First Amendment rights of ballot measure supporters by limiting their opportunity to petition their government and soliciting political support for their position. Preserve Shorecliff Homeowners v. City of San Clemente, 158 Cal. App. 4th 1427 (2008).

The firm represented voters challenging the constitutionality of San Diego County expending public funds to subsidize the electioneering activities of statewide political parties in local, non-partisan elections. Kunde v. Seiler, 97 Cal. App. 4th 518, 128 Cal. Rptr. 3d 369 (2011).

Election-Related Advice and Expertise

In every election cycle, Strumwasser & Woocher advises and represents candidates and campaign committees in election law matters. Issues typically involve ballot designations and official voter‑pamphlet arguments, candidate qualifications, recounts and election contests. Jeffrey v. Superior Court, 102 Cal. App. 4th 1 (2002); Nicolopulos v. City of Lawndale, 91 Cal. App. 4th 1221 (2001); Woo v. Superior Court, 83 Cal. App. 4th 967 (2000); Schweisinger v. Jones, 68 Cal. App. 4th 1320 (1998); Dornan v. Sanchez 978 F. Supp. 1315 (C.D. Cal. 1997).

Strumwasser & Woocher served as special counsel to the San Gabriel City Council in an election contest challenging the residency of one of the Council's members‑elect. The firm advised and assisted the Council in presiding over a three‑day hearing on that contest. In connection with this representation, the firm also successfully defended the Council in a superior court action challenging its authority to conduct the election contest.

The firm has represented and advised the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians on electoral and constitutional issues, including the negotiation of its 1999 Gaming Compact with the Governor of California. The firm drafted for the Tribe Proposition 70 on the November 2004 California ballot, and has handled election‑law litigation in connection with that and other subsequent ballot measures related to Indian gaming.

The firm represents a group of concerned citizens from Moreno Valley in a challenge to an unlawful appointment to fill a vacancy on the City Council, on the grounds that the officeholder does not live in the district he has been appointed to represent and that the appointment was tainted by multiple violations of the state's open meeting laws.