Nielsen-backup_0001_cskinnell

Chris Skinnell

Office: Bay Area
2350 Kerner Boulevard
Suite 250
San Rafael, CA 94901

Chris Skinnell is a partner practicing law and civil litigation relating to elections, state and local initiative and referenda, redistricting and voting rights, campaign finance, tribal gaming, and general constitutional and government law issues.  He advises clients and litigates on a broad range of election, government, and political law related matters.

Mr. Skinnell has considerable expertise in redistricting and voting rights. He has advised scores of counties, cities, school districts and special districts on compliance with state and federal laws governing redistricting; has counseled many additional public entity clients regarding the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act and the California Voting Rights Act; and has represented public entity defendants in several leading CVRA cases.

He has also served as counsel to a number of ballot measure committees, independent expenditure committees, and political action committees.

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Skinnell worked as a political consultant to several California legislative and initiative campaigns, a research associate at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government, and chairman of a successful initiative campaign in Southern California.

In 2013 and 2014, Mr. Skinnell was selected for inclusion in Northern California Super Lawyers – Rising Stars, which recognizes no more than the top 2.5 percent of lawyers. The Rising Star category recognizes attorneys who are age 40 or less, or in the practice of law 10 years or less.

  • Served as counsel to the campaign for Proposition 14—the Top Two Candidate Open Primary Act—and since its adoption by the voters in June 2010, has successfully defended the measure against five separate lawsuits seeking to block implementation of the measure, including Rubin v. Padilla, 233 Cal. App. 4th 1128 (1st Dist. 2015), rev. denied, 2015 Cal. LEXIS 2395 (Cal., Apr. 29, 2015); Chamness v. Bowen, 722 F.3d 1110 (9th Cir. 2013); and Field v. Bowen, 196 Cal. App. 4th 346 (1st Dist. 2011).
  • Advised several dozen counties, cities, school districts and special districts on state and federal law governing redistricting following the release of 2010 Census.
  • Represented defendant jurisdictions in nearly half of the suits brought under the California Voting Rights Act.
  • League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Perry, 548 U.S. 399 (2006): filed an amicus curiae brief successfully urging the Court to reject proposed rule that would have held voluntary mid-decade redistricting to be unconstitutional exercise of legislative authority.
  • Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, 570 U.S. __, 133 S. Ct. 2612 (2013): filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the County of Merced, California, in support of no party, preemptively defending the County’s recent bailout from Section 5 coverage against anticipated attack on the basis that the Department of Justice permitted the bailout to save Section 5. Marguerite had previously represented the County is the first-ever successful "bailout" from Section 5 coverage in the State of California. Merced County was, by far, the largest jurisdiction ever to obtain bailout, covering the County itself, six cities, and nearly 100 school districts and special districts.
  • Vargas v. City of Salinas, 46 Cal. 4th 1 (2009): Represented the California Chamber of Commerce, California Taxpayers’ Association, California Business Roundtable and California Business Properties Association as amici curiae in successfully urging the Supreme Court to reject the appeals court’s holding that the test for illegal expenditure of public funds in connection with ballot measures under Stanson v. Mott, 17 Cal. 3d 206 (1976), is express advocacy rather than a contextual analysis.
  • Larson v. City & County of San Francisco, 192 Cal. App. 4th 1263 (2011): a successful constitutional challenge to enforcement of numerous provisions of Proposition M (malicious eviction) in San Francisco, and defense of cross-appeal of a judgment enjoining enforcement of one-sided attorneys’ fee provision.
  • Citizens to Save Cal. v. Fair Pol. Pract. Comm’n, 145 Cal. App. 4th 736 (3d Dist. 2006): unanimously enjoined an FPPC Regulation seeking to apply campaign contribution limits to ballot measure committees.
  • Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes v. City of Richmond, Case No. 3:12-cv-04545-CRB (N.D. Cal. filed Aug. 3, 2012): obtained a preliminary injunction against enforcement of burdensome disclaimer requirements on campaign mailings. The City’s ordinance was then amended to remove the offending provisions.
  • Lopez v. Merced County, 473 F. Supp. 2d 1072 (E.D. Cal. 2007) (three-judge court) & later unpublished opinions: represented County in defeating multiple allegations that Merced County violated the special provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act and ultimately obtained summary judgment in the County’s favor.
  • Johnson v. Numainville, Case No. RG14736763 (Alameda Super. Ct. 2014): Successfully challenged, as illegally biased, ballot label adopted by Berkeley City Council and “impartial” analysis by Berkeley City Attorney)
  • Chris has served as counsel to a number of local ballot measure committees, independent expenditure committees, and political action committees, and he advises a number of corporate and individual donors on compliance with campaign finance laws.
  • Marguerite Mary Leoni and Chris Skinnell, “Chapter 12: The California Voting Rights Act,” America Votes! A Guide to Modern Election Law and Voting Rights (Am. Bar Assn., 2d ed. 2012).
  • Chip Nielsen, Jason Kaune and Chris Skinnell, “Overview of Federal Campaign Finance Rules,” Corp. Pol. Activities: Complying With Campaign Finance, Lobbying & Ethics Laws (Practising Law Institute, Gross, Nielsen & Baran, eds., 2005).
  • Chip Nielsen, Jason Kaune and Chris Skinnell, “Overview of Federal Campaign Finance Rules,” Corp. Pol. Activities: Complying With Campaign Finance, Lobbying & Ethics Laws (Practising Law Institute, Gross, Nielsen & Baran, eds., 2006).
  • Chip Nielsen, Jason Kaune and Chris Skinnell, “Membership Organization: Corporations Without Capital Stock,” Corp. Pol. Activities: Complying With Campaign Finance, Lobbying & Ethics Laws (Practising Law Institute, Gross, Nielsen & Baran, eds. 2005).
  • Chris Skinnell and Elli Abdoli, Campaign Finance Post-Citizens United, Corporate Counsel (April 5, 2013) (reprinted from The Recorder).
  • Chris Skinnell and Elli Abdoli, Campaign Finance Post-Citizens United, The Recorder (Mar. 26, 2013).
  • Chris Skinnell and Marguerite Mary Leoni, Guest Post: Response by Merced County’s Section 5 Lawyers to J. Christian Adams’s Article, Election Law Blog, electionlawblog.org (Dec. 3, 2013).
  • Marguerite Mary Leoni and Chris Skinnell, The California Voting Rights Act, Public Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Spring 2009).
  • Marguerite Mary Leoni and Chris Skinnell, As I See It: School Districts and the California Voting Rights Act, California Schools Magazine (Spring 2009).
  • Marguerite Mary Leoni and Chris Skinnell, Congress Considers Renewal of Two Key Sections of the Federal Voting Rights Act: California Elections Could See Dramatic Impacts, CA Counties Magazine (Mar/Apr 2006).
  • Marguerite Mary Leoni and Chris Skinnell, The California Voting Rights Act, City Attorneys Annual Conference Papers (League of Cal. Cities Sept. 2003).
  • Presentation, "Who Draws the Lines? Will the Supreme Court Strike Down Independent Redistricting Commissions?", Rose Institute of State & Local Government (Apr. 6, 2015) (Moderator)
  • Presentation, Campaign Finance I - Litigation, Council on Governmental Ethics Laws Annual Conference (Dec. 8, 2014) (Moderator).
  • Presentation (Online Seminar), The Supreme Court’s Shelby County and the Future of Voting Rights Enforcement, Practising Law Institute (July 12, 2013).
  • Presentation (Online Seminar), Voting Rights In California, Nielsen Merksamer (Feb. 22, 2013) (Speakers: Marguerite Leoni and Chris Skinnell).
  • Presentation, Pay-to-Play: Here to Stay? A Discussion of a Recent Litigation Concerning Play-to-Play Rules and Related Issues, California Political Attorneys Association Annual Conference (Sept. 22, 2012).
  • Presentation, Redistricting – Court Challenges & Legal Issues, Council on Governmental Ethics Laws Annual Conference (Dec. 5, 2011).
  • Presentation, Section 203 of the Federal Voting Rights Act, California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials Annual Conference: Redistricting Seminar (July 19, 2011).
  • Presentation, Redistricting Litigation: State and Local, California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials Annual Conference: Redistricting Seminar (July 19, 2011).
  • Presentation, Commuter Flight: Participating in Local Redistricting Northern California RedistrictingCA Conference (Mar. 31, 2011).
  • Presentation, Redistricting Essentials: 2011 Redistricting & Local/Special Districts, Presentation for Cities & Special Districts, hosted by Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (Jan. 20, 2011).
  • Presentation, Redistricting Law 2011: The same . . . but different, National Conference of State Legislatures Fall Forum (Dec. 11, 2009).
  • Presentation, The California Voting Rights Act: Developing Jurisprudence California School Boards Association: Annual 2009 Education Conference & Trade Show (Speakers: Marguerite Leoni & Chris Skinnell).
  • Presentation, The California Voting Rights Act: Developing Jurisprudence, League of California Cities: 2009 City Clerks New Law & Leadership Conference (Dec. 3, 2009) (Speakers: Marguerite Leoni & Chris Skinnell).
  • Presentation, The California Voting Rights Act: Developing Jurisprudence, Rose Institute of State & Local Government: Redistricting, the 2000 Census, and Your Budget (Oct. 15, 2009).
  • Presentation, The Effect of Vargas v. City of Salinas on the Use of Public Funds in Ballot Measure Campaigns, California Political Attorneys Association Annual Conference (Sept. 12, 2009).
  • Presentation (Online Seminar), Voting Rights: Claims, Redistricting & More, National Business Institute (June 19, 2008) (Speakers: Marguerite Leoni & Chris Skinnell).
  • Presentation, Citizens to Save California & Regulation of Candidate-Controlled Committees California Political Attorneys Association Annual Conference (Sept. 5, 2007).