Ashley Dunning is a nationally recognized public pension attorney who serves as Fiduciary Counsel to, and litigator on behalf of, over 20 public retirement systems and their boards. Those retirement systems collectively hold over $1 billion in trust assets. She has argued on behalf of retirement systems three times before the California Supreme Court resulting in unanimous decisions endorsing her key arguments on all three occasions, and she has been lead counsel for public retirement systems and their boards in numerous cases that have led to California court of appeal published decisions. Ashley served as the President of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys (NAPPA) from 2019-2020 and remains on the NAPPA Executive Board, she serves as the Co-Chair of Nossaman’s Public Pensions and Investments Group, and she is on the firm’s Executive Committee. She was selected as a “Top 100 Lawyer” for 2020 in California by the Daily Journal.

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 Assn., et al. (2020) __ P.3d __ (WL 4360051) (S247095) (“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 before the California Supreme Court, Third District Court of Appeal, San Francisco and Sacramento 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.

Ashley is Fiduciary Counsel and outside litigation counsel to CalPERS, Fiduciary Counsel to the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS), and she represents and advises sixteen of the twenty retirement systems governed by the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 in California. She is also outside general counsel and litigation counsel to the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association.



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 Assoc. et al., v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Assn., et al. (2020) __ P.3d.__ (WL 4360051) (S247095);
  • 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, 702, Cal. Supreme Court review granted Nov. 22, 2016 (S237460);
  • 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.


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;
  • 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. 



Speaking Engagements


Community & Professional

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

State Association of County Retirement Systems, Program Committee


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




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