Public Sector

Exceptional service doesn’t just happen

Public Sector

Haight has a unique multidimensional Public Sector law practice that represents counties, cities, school boards, county boards, special districts and law enforcement agencies. Haight’s public sector team blends diverse skill sets to deliver victories in the courtroom, Board room, Council chamber and Court of public opinion. Haight understands and appreciates that every public decision has far-reaching ramifications for the organization, community and citizens. Consequently, Haight tailors our legal services to the culture, finances and particular challenges facing each of our public sector clients.

  • Crisis Management
  • School Districts and Public Education
  • Workplace Investigations
  • Client Testimonials

In today’s fast-paced world of instant news and 24-hour news cycles, a lifetime of positive image building can be destroyed in seconds. The ability to quickly craft a strategic message and disseminate it to the appropriate outlets can help mitigate a potential disaster and ensure that your perspective is heard.

Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the event of a crisis, we will work with you to immediately assess any situation and develop a strategy that will protect your image and relationships with key stakeholders, as well as allow you the opportunity to move forward in a positive direction, as soon as possible.

Haight Brown and Bonesteel has a skilled set of attorneys with the extensive experience necessary to successfully navigate the rapidly changing landscape of education law. Now, more than ever, our team must formulate creative and efficient solutions to a myriad of complex problems. Every day our school districts face challenging issues such as cyber bullying, budget fluctuations, increasing state and federal mandates, labor disputes, transparency and increasing testing requirements. Such diverse issues cannot be addressed by a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Our attorneys use training, advice, and prevention when possible, and litigation where necessary to uphold the rights of California’s schools and children.

Our school attorneys have expertise in the following practice areas:

  • Charter Schools
  • Construction
  • Budget Facilities and Property
  • Board Governance and Compliance
  • Labor and Employment
  • Litigation
  • Student Services and Discipline
  • Special Education
  • Personnel Issues
  • Public Finance
  • Classified and Certificated Dismissal Proceedings
  • Organizational Efficiency

Representative Experience

Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in Sexual Orientation Harassment Case
Haight was retained to represent a large public school district in a high profile single plaintiff harassment action. A District teacher at a continuation high school sued the District under Government Code section 12940 of the Fair Employment and Housing Act based on homophobic comments made to the teacher by certain students. The District brought a summary judgment motion arguing an employer cannot be liable for harassment committed by third party non-employees outside of the sexual harassment context. After substantial further briefing regarding the distinction between harassment based on sexual orientation and “sexual harassment” under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the District. This victory by Haight represents a big win for employers in a hotly contested area of the law.

Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in First Amendment Case
A Haight partner litigated an important case for a large school district regarding the First Amendment right to gossip. A District teacher and instructional assistant sued the district under 42 U.S.C. §1983 because they were asked to stop spreading rumors about sexual activities of their coworkers. After multiple demurrers, motions for summary adjudication, and motions for summary judgment the district had the case dismissed successfully arguing that gossip was not a “matter of public concern.” This decision not only protected the rights of the employees, but also solidified the district’s right to engage in appropriate personnel action to maintain order on a school site. The District recovered all its fees and costs in the matter.

Successful Appellate Negotiation of Adverse Verdict against School District
Haight was retained to represent a district on appeal after a judgment of nearly $4 million against a school district. The judgment followed a jury trial involving a delayed construction project. The General Contractor sued the district for payment. The District countersued the General Contractor for damages based on failure to complete the project in a timely manner. Haight identified numerous procedural and evidentiary errors at the trial court level. The matter was fully briefed for oral argument. Based on the strength of the briefing Haight was able to resolve the case at a substantial reduction from the adjudicated amount.

Joint Use Agreement between School District and Park and Recreation District
Perhaps the most sensitive type of negotiation is between two public entities with differing interests in the same geographic location. Haight successfully drafted a joint use agreement between a school district and a park and recreation district which had grown into a community dispute. There was a long-standing agreement between the school district and the park and recreation district for the use of a pool and gymnasium. However, the agreement became so antiquated, and there was so much personnel turnover neither party was sure of its rights and responsibilities. Haight was able to draft an agreement that not only clarified each entities’ rights, but also maintained community harmony. The agreement was approved by the respective governing boards.

Successful Resolution of Complex Civil Rights Case Involving Special Education, Transgender Foster Youth
This case was based on a confluence of circumstances which created the perfect storm. The District placed two foster youth students in an alternative school environment. The students not only qualified for special education services, but also were African-American and transgender. On their first day of school they became involved in a disciplinary incident, which ultimately resulted in a physical altercation between the foster youth students and some parents. District personnel had to physically intervene and expulsion proceedings were initiated against all involved. The situation became more combustible when the disciplinary proceedings against one group of students were dismissed after the manifestation determination process. The students ultimately sued the district under multiple causes of action based on diverse allegations and the plaintiff’s’ multiple protected classifications. Plaintiffs were represented by Legal Services for Children as well as one of the most prestigious San Francisco litigation firms. A Haight partner was able to extricate the District from the litigation using a combination of training, policy revisions, compensatory education and apology memoranda. The District paid no more than $16,000 to settle the matter.

Haight attorneys have over 30 years of experience as attorney investigators. We have conducted hundreds of investigations throughout California including sensitive, high-stakes matters that involve allegations against employees and managers at all levels, as well as other workplace issues. Our expertise covers a wide variety of current and emerging workplace misconduct allegations, including Title IX, Equal Pay Act violations, bullying and abusive conduct, substance abuse, hostile work environment, harassment, discrimination, retaliation and matters involving fraud, financial misappropriation, conflicts of interest, ethics violations and social media policy compliance.

“Our county board has made unprecedented strides involving governance, autonomy, and advocacy related to significant educational decisions and issues largely due to the creative guidance from Haight’s Public Sector team. The Orange County Board of Education has become a nationally recognized leader in public charter schools, budget development and accountability, and highlighting critical issues in the public education space.

Haight stewarded the board through a public process whereby we enhanced our policies, procedures, and practices to completely redefine our local authority opening the door for us to be more responsive to the parents and students we serve.

Success does not just happen. It takes teamwork and commitment. Thank you—Haight!”

Dr. Lisa Sparks, PhD
President of the Orange County Board of Education

“In my role as a school superintendent for almost 12 years, working with legal counsel on complex and serious issues is one of my most important jobs. During the course of my tenure, I have worked with many lawyers, and Greg Rolen is among the very best. He is an astute and strategic thinker, as well as a highly skilled communicator. He works as a thought partner with his clients, using his exceptional listening skills, extensive knowledge, and sound judgment to come to smart solutions. What’s more, his loyalty to his clients is an example for all others.”

Dr. Candace Singh
Retired Superintendent
Fallbrook Union Elementary School District