Overview

Ashley Dunning is Co-Chair of the Public Pension & Investments Group at Nossaman, a member of the firm’s Litigation Department and serves on the firm’s Executive Committee. She has provided fiduciary and governance counsel services to public retirement systems 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 is also general counsel to the county retirement system in Marin. She has provided fiduciary training and advice to the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association’s Board and staff and to the Board of the Government Employees’ Retirement System of the Virgin Islands. Collectively, the retirement systems she serves hold over $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 is also currently lead counsel for public retirement systems in cases pending in California before the Third District Court of Appeal, several superior courts and one that is before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. 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, among others.

Experience

Experience

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" for over a decade at the Principles of Pension Management for Trustees conference sponsored by the California Association of Public Retirement Systems (CalAPRS).

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

  • Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Association, et al. v. Alameda County Employees' Retirement Association, et al. (State Of California) (2020) 9 Cal.5th 1032;
  • Flethez v. San Bernardino County Employees’ Retirement Assn. (2017) 2 Cal. 5th 630; and 
  • Lexin v. Superior Court (2010) 47 Cal. 4th 1050.

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

  • Luke v. Sonoma County (2019) 43 Cal. App. 5th 301;
  • Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Assn., et al. v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Assn. et al (2018) 19 Cal.App. 5th 61, Cal. Supreme Court review granted March 29, 2018 (S247095);
  • Marin Assn. of Public Employees v. Marin County Employees’ Retirement Assn. (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 674;
  • Shelden v. Marin County Employees' Retirement Assn. (2010) 189 Cal. App. 4th 458;
  • Block v. Orange County Employees’ Retirement System (2008) 161 Cal. App. 4th 1297;
  • San Ramon Valley Fire Protection Distr. v. CCCERA (2004) 125 Cal.App.4th 343; and
  • In re Retirement Cases (2003) 110 Cal. App. 4th 426.

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

REPRESENTATIVE CLIENTS

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

  • Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association;
  • California Public Employees’ Retirement System;
  • Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association;
  • 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 York State Teachers' Retirement System;
  • Pension Reserves Investment Management Board of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts;
  • 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. 

Additionally, she is part of Nossaman’s public pension team that serves the following additional public retirement systems (in alphabetical order):

  • Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System;
  • Maryland State Retirement and Pension System;
  • New York State Teachers’ Retirement System;
  • State of Connecticut Office of the Treasurer; and
  • Texas Municipal Retirement System. 

Insights

Publications

Speaking Engagements

Organizations

Community & Professional

National Association of Public Pension Attorneys, Immediate Past President, Executive Board Member

State Association of County Retirement Systems, Program Committee

Honors

Honors & Recognitions

Named a Top 100 Lawyer by the Daily Journal, 2020

Named to California’s Top Women Attorneys list by the Daily Journal, 2016

McFetridge Inn of Court, San Francisco, 2000-2003

Urban Fellow, City of New York, 1991-1992

Education

Admissions

Languages

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