Ashley Dunning and Patrick Harder Named "Top 100" Lawyers

Daily Journal

Ashley Dunning and Patrick Harder were recognized as two of the "Top 100" lawyers in California for 2020 by the Daily Journal, California’s leading legal newspaper. The "Top 100" list annually recognizes California lawyers whose work had a profound impact at both the state and national level.

The Daily Journal noted Ashley's work as lead outside counsel for the Merced County Employees’ Retirement Association, where she helped persuade the "state Supreme Court not to reexamine the 'California Rule,' a July 30 decision that stopped legislative attempts to strip public employees of accrued pension benefits without providing something of 'equal value' in return." The article added that the state Supreme Court decision allows the legislature and public retirement boards "to plug loopholes and forestall abuse while preserving the strength of the 'California Rule,' a judicial doctrine which allows public employees to continue accruing benefits on the same terms as when they were hired."

Discussing the case, Ashley said with respect to legislative changes in benefit terms, "For those alterations that disadvantage [future] pensioners, courts will now closely examine the stated purposes of such modifications to determine whether they are justified and thus are permissible under the contracts clause of the California Constitution."

The Daily Journal also highlighted her work leading a "Nossaman team to victory last December for the Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association, [where] the 1st District Court of Appeal unanimously declined review of the lower court in Luke v. County of Sonoma, Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association." The ruling "affirms the accrual of actions challenging once-in-time acts of public agencies as they apply to public retirement benefits," Ashley said.

Ashley closed by saying, "I am gratified that both Nossaman and our public pension clients have provided me with these extraordinary professional opportunities."

Patrick was lauded by the Daily Journal for leading the Firm in "multi-billion dollar construction projects across the country." Speaking about the projects, Patrick noted that the Nossaman team is "involved in getting big infrastructure projects realized and built using innovative techniques and by finding private sector funding for these projects…It’s satisfying work. We can see the benefits our work has on society at large."

The article noted his leadership on "modernization projects for Los Angeles World Airports and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, including an ongoing project at LAX designed to offer a direct train link from the city to the airport." It also stated that the pandemic "hasn’t stopped [Patrick] and his team from continuing work on the project."

The Daily Journal also highlighted Patrick's work on the UC Merced 2020 expansion project and the L.A. Convention Center. For UC Merced, Patrick was instrumental "even with the onset of the coronavirus outbreak…in helping UC Merced complete a 1.2 million square foot campus extension by its June 1 deadline." The campus will serve "lots of first-in-the-family to go to college, lots of first generation students," Patrick added.

On the L.A. Convention Center project, Patrick is leading the charge on a major expansion in preparation for the 2028 Olympics. "It’ll span a much greater area and we’re adding a hotel. It’ll be much more competitive in the convention center market so L.A. can compete with San Diego and Las Vegas." 

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