Ashley Dunning is co-chair of the Pensions, Benefits & Investments Group at Nossaman, a member of the firm’s Litigation department and serves on the Firm’s Executive Committee. She has provided fiduciary, governance and litigation counsel services to retirement systems and their boards since 1998.

Ashley currently serves as fiduciary counsel to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS), as well as fiduciary, litigation, governance and/or special projects counsel to the majority of the twenty California retirement systems governed by the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (CERL) and to the city retirement systems in Fresno, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. She also is general counsel to the county retirement system in Marin. She has provided fiduciary governance training, consultation, and advice to the Fire and Police Pension Association of Colorado Board and Staff, Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association’s Board and staff, the Howard County Maryland Retirement Plans’ Committees and to the Board of the Government Employees’ Retirement System of the Virgin Islands. She provided special project counsel to the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2018. She also has provided fiduciary expert witness testimony in proceedings on behalf of the University of California Board of Regents. Collectively, the retirement systems she serves hold more than $1 trillion in trust assets.

Ashley has represented public retirement systems in litigation in numerous cases resulting in published decisions. Ashley’s most recent argument on behalf of retirement systems before the California Supreme Court resulted in a unanimous decision in Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Association, et al. v. Alameda County Employees' Retirement Association, et al. (State of California) (Alameda). Alameda is a landmark decision of the Court, which decided the narrow issues presented to it determining that statutory amendments it considered were constitutional, while preserving the strength of the “vested rights doctrine” based on the California Constitution’s Contract Clause, known in public pension law as the “California Rule.”

Ashley also is currently lead counsel for public retirement systems in three cases pending in California before the First, Second and Third District Court of Appeals. These and other cases Ashley has led have involved disputes over all aspects of the administration and governance of public pension systems, including disputes over the extent to which benefits are contractually “vested” under the Federal and California constitutions, alleged conflicts of interest, retirement system funding, disability retirement and public transparency rules.



Ashley advises on issues involving fiduciary obligations, governance and public retirement, conflict of interest, open meetings and public records laws. She appears regularly before boards of trustees and in court proceedings on these issues. She also regularly provides training on these topics to clients and at conferences throughout the country. In addition, Ashley has taught "Ethics for Public Officials" annually for 15 years at the Principles of Pension Management for Trustees conference and all at General Assemblies sponsored by the California Association of Public Retirement Systems (CalAPRS), as well as for over a decade the Fall and Spring Conferences of the State Association of County Retirement Systems (SACRS).

Published California Supreme Court decisions in Ashley's public pension cases include:

  • Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Ass’n v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n, 9 Cal. 5th 1032 (2020);
  • Flethez v. San Bernardino County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n, 2 Cal. 5th 630 (2017); and
  • Lexin v. Superior Court, 47 Cal. 4th 1050 (2010).

Published and unpublished California Court of Appeal and Federal decisions in her public pension cases include:

  • Alameda Health System v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n,___Cal. App. 5th___ [2024 Cal. App. LEXIS 208] (2024);
  • Ventura County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n v. Criminal Justice Attorneys Ass’n of Ventura County, 98 Cal. App. 5th 1119 (2024);
  • San Joaquin County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, No. 20-15053, 843 Fed. Appx. 919 (9th Cir. Apr. 8, 2021);
  • Allum v. San Joaquin County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n, No. C090833, 2021 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3984 (2021);
  • Scott v. Ventura County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n, No. CV-20-08166-PCT-DLR, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177136 (D. Ariz. Sept. 25, 2020);
  • Luke v. Sonoma County, 43 Cal. App. 5th 301 (2019);
  • City & County of San Francisco v. Retirement Board of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System, No. A151518, 2019 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3273 (2019);
  • Marin Ass’n of Public Employees v. Marin County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n, 2 Cal. App. 5th 674 (2016);
  • Shelden v. Marin County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n, 189 Cal. App. 4th 458 (2010);
  • Block v. Orange County Employees’ Retirement System, 161 Cal. App. 4th 1297 (2008);
  • San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District v. Contra Costa County Employees’ Retirement Ass’n, 125 Cal. App. 4th 343 (2004); and
  • In re Retirement Cases, 110 Cal. App. 4th 426 (2003).

Ashley regularly presents to national public pension organizations on fiduciary issues applicable to public pension boards and systems, as described under Select Presentations below.


Ashley currently provides fiduciary and/or litigation, governance or special projects counsel for the following retirement systems (in alphabetical order):

  • Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • California Public Employees’ Retirement System;
  • Fire and Police Pension Association of Colorado;
  • Fresno City Retirement Systems;
  • Kern County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System;
  • Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions;
  • Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • Mendocino County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • Merced County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • New Mexico State Investment Counsel;
  • New York State Teachers' Retirement System;
  • Orange County Employees Retirement System;
  • Sacramento County Employees’ Retirement System;
  • San Bernardino County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System;
  • San Diego County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • San Francisco Employees' Retirement System;
  • San Joaquin County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • Sonoma County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • Tulare County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • Ventura County Employees’ Retirement Association; and
  • Water and Power Employees' Retirement Plan.



Speaking Engagements



Community & Professional

Equal Rights Advocates, Honorary Steering Committee

National Council on Teacher Retirement Corporate Advisory Committee, Representative, 2023-2026

National Association of Public Pension Attorneys, Emeritus Board Member

National Association of Public Pension Attorneys, Past President 2020, Executive Board Member, 2015-2021

State Association of County Retirement Systems, Program Committee


Honors & Recognitions

Named a "Top 100 Lawyer," Daily Journal, 2020, 2022, 2023

Recognized as one of the “Top Women Lawyers,” Daily Journal, 2016

McFetridge Inn of Court, San Francisco, 2000-2003

Urban Fellow, City of New York, 1991-1992




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