The Office is overseen by the County Counsel. Legal operations are supervised by four Assistant County Counsel. There are approximately 60 full-time staff attorney positions, distributed among the major practice areas below. Some attorneys are assigned to work in more than one practice area.
The Child Dependency Unit represents the Social Services Agency’s Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) in Juvenile Court dependency cases involving allegations of child abuse and neglect. The attorneys in this section appear in statutorily-required hearings, special interim reviews, mediations, settlement conferences, and specialty court hearings. They also handle dependency trials in the Juvenile Court and long-cause dependency trials in civil court. In addition, the attorneys provide legal support to DFCS’s Court Services Bureau and Dependency Investigation Unit, for which they review cases for legal sufficiency, and review and approve juvenile dependency petitions. Child Dependency Unit attorneys also analyze legislation affecting DFCS and conduct legal research for, and provide legal advice to, the Social Services Agency.
The General Government Section provides legal advice to the Board of Supervisors, the County Executive, and County departments and agencies such as the Registrar of Voters, the Facilities and Fleet Department, the County Finance Agency, Parks and Recreation Department, Department of Environmental Health, Procurement Department, the Assessor, the Office of Sustainability, and Roads and Airports Department. The attorneys in this section work on a variety of issues with respect to public agency law, including the Brown Act; California Public Records Act; Political Reform Act and other conflicts laws; land use; real estate; finance issues; public works and construction; environmental issues (e.g., CEQA, hazardous waste, climate change); contract solicitation, negotiations, and drafting; statutory interpretation; legislative matters; and drafting of policies, ordinances and resolutions. The attorneys in this section also work on Redevelopment matters, including counseling the County Auditor-Controller on his duties regarding the unwinding of Redevelopment Agencies and by bringing and defending litigation regarding the distribution of property tax revenue to all local taxing entities, including school districts.
The Health and Hospital Section provides legal research and advice to the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System. The System – which includes Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Valley Health Plan, Department of Alcohol and Drug Services, and the Custody Health, Mental Health and Public Health Departments – provides high-quality health and mental health care and specialized treatment for emergency medical care, trauma, burns and rehabilitation from severe injuries. The attorneys in this section advise the Health & Hospital System on all legal issues, including policy initiatives adopted by the Board of Supervisors, contracts, compliance with statutes and regulations, and legislative matters and assist in the drafting of policies, ordinances and resolutions.
The Impact Litigation and Social Justice Section focuses on finding solutions to the many problems that plague the residents of the County, the State of California, and the United States. These solutions may include litigation, legislation, or policy initiatives. To this end, the attorneys in this section conduct affirmative litigation, draft ordinances and resolutions, develop policies and programs, and assist in legal research and implementation of policy initiatives that advance the County’s goal of securing justice for all its residents. The Section also works to advance local, state, and national public policy reform through progressive local government action.
The Law and Justice Section provides legal advice to the County’s criminal justice agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, Probation Department, Department of Correction, District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, and Pretrial Services. The attorneys in this section assist the County’s law and justice departments by drafting and reviewing contracts; interpreting statutes; evaluating legislation; and drafting policies, ordinances and resolutions.
The Labor and Employment Section advises County departments regarding legal aspects of day-to-day labor and employment matters, including employee discipline, labor-agreement interpretations, and compliance with state and federal laws. The attorneys work with the County’s Equal Opportunity Division to review and respond to Department of Fair Employment and Housing and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims. They also represent the County and its departments regarding all termination cases before the County’s Personnel Board, and regarding union grievances before labor arbitrators. The attorneys also respond to the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) regarding unfair practice charges filed by the County’s labor unions, and they appear before PERB and other administrative agencies as needed.
The Litigation Section represents the County when lawsuits or claims are filed against the County, its officials or its employees. Representative matters include tort, employment, civil rights actions, premises liability, dangerous condition of public property, and property damage. Our litigators handle all phases of litigation in state and federal courts, including appellate courts: preparing and responding to discovery, taking and defending depositions, writing dispositive motions, assessing trial risks and preparing complex cases for trial.
The Probate Section represents and advises the Public Administrator/Guardian in almost 1,000 conservatorship, decedent estate, and trust proceedings each year. As legal counsel for the Public Administrator/Guardian, the attorneys in the section handle trust, estate, and probate litigation and appeals, trust and estate administration, and probate and LPS conservatorship administration and assist in the drafting of legislation. The attorneys are also members of the County’s Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), a multi-disciplinary team that identifies, investigates and prevents financial abuse of elders and dependent adults. FAST has recovered or prevented the loss of almost $195 million in assets and received the 2009 Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers Award.
The Workers' Compensation Section provides legal services to the Workers' Compensation Division of the Employee Services Agency in proceedings related to workers' compensation claims filed by County employees. The attorneys appear before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board and also litigate Industrial Disability Retirement appeals and third-party subrogation claims.