Marguerite Leoni is a senior litigation partner and heads the firm’s redistricting and voting rights practices, as well as its school district governance and organization practices.
Ms. Leoni counsels clients and litigates issues involving the voting rights and redistricting, specialized elections issues, and the legality of state and local initiatives and referenda at all levels of the state and federal courts including the United States and California Supreme Courts. She has extensive counseling, trial and appellate experience in redistricting, voting rights, elections, and initiative and referendum law.
Marguerite has been a guest lecturer at Stanford Law School and the University of San Francisco Law School on voting rights, she is a frequent speaker at forums concerning redistricting, voting rights, and initiative and referendum law.
She holds Martindale-Hubbell’s highest (AV) rating.
- Vandermost v. Bowen, 53 Cal. 4th 421 (2012): represented the Proponent of Proposition 20, which brought congressional districts under the auspices of the California Redistricting Commission, in litigation challenging the Commission’s redistricting plans.
- The State of Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2001): Represented consultant to the Commission concerning all aspects of the 2001 first ever citizen-commission redistricting of the state’s Congressional and legislative districts including United States Attorney General preclearance under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.
- The Senate of the State of Florida (2001): Represented the Florida State Senate concerning all aspects of the state’s 2001 Congressional and state Senatorial redistricting including United States Attorney General preclearance under the federal Voting Rights Act; special litigation counsel in state and federal courts defending against constitutional and Voting Rights Act challenges to the plans.
- California Administrative Office of the Courts (1998): Represented the AOC on voting rights aspects of the unification of California’s trial courts.
- Wilson v. Eu, 1 Cal. 4th 707 (1991): represented the California State Board of Equalization in connection with a court-drawn redistricting plan following the 1990 Census.
- Lopez v. Merced County, 473 F. Supp. 2d 1072 (E.D. Cal. 2007) (three-judge court) & later unpublished opinions: represented Merced County in successfully defeating multiple allegations that the County had violated the special provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act and ultimately obtained summary judgment in the County’s favor.
- Federal and California Voting Rights Act: represented numerous jurisdictions in suits under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights and under the California Voting Rights Act ("CVRA"), including, among others, the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, Tulare Local Healthcare District, the City of Anaheim, the City of Santa Clarita, the City of Hanford, the City of Compton, the City of Santa Clarita, the City of Whittier, the City of Bellflower, the Santa Clarita Community College District, the Cerritos Community College District, the City of Palmdale, the City of Glendale, and the City of Santa Barbara. Also advises public jurisdictions on the requirements of the CVRA, assessing exposure, and advising on strategies for addressing demands for compliance with its terms, including establishing electoral districts.
- Redistricting: represented numerous cities, counties, and other public entities in complying with the obligation to redistrict after the 1990 & 2000 federal Censuses.
- Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, 570 U.S. __, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 186 L. Ed. 2d 651 (2013): represented the County of Merced, California, as amicus curiae 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. The firm 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.
- League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Perry, 548 U.S. 399, 126 S. Ct. 2594, 165 L. Ed. 2d 609 (2006): represented amici curiae on a brief successfully urging the Supreme Court to reject proposed rule that would have held voluntary mid-decade redistricting to be unconstitutional exercise of legislative authority.
- Unique Elections Issues: for example, represented a California Charter city in designing and implementing charter provisions and ordinances that would permit the City to adjudicate its own election contests; assisted a general law city in adjudicating the qualification of a City Council member alleged not be to a resident of the City; advised a City desiring to establish a cumulative voting method of election for its City Council.
- Initiatives and Referenda: represented numerous clients in drafting, qualifying, defending, and challenging initiatives and referenda on matters that range from redistricting, to land use, to utility rates, including in judicial proceedings resulting in many reported cases.
- School District Organization: represented numerous citizen groups and public entities concerning the restructuring of school district boundaries, including in judicial proceedings and proceedings before local regulatory agencies and the State Board of Education. One matter resulted in an appellate decision, San Rafael Elementary School District v. State Board of Education, 73 Cal. App. 4th 1018 (1999), in which Ms. Leoni successfully represented local parents seeking to transfer their homes from one school district to another, in a case establishing the principle that the State Board of Education need not defer to a local educational agency in determining whether the criteria for such a transfer were met.
- Leoni & Skinnell, Presentation, The California Voting Rights Act: Developing Jurisprudence, CALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION: ANNUAL 2009 EDUCATION CONFERENCE & TRADE SHOW (December 4, 2009).
- Leoni & Skinnell, Presentation, "The California Voting Rights Act: Developing Jurisprudence," LEAGUE OF CALIFORNIA CITIES: 2009 CITY CLERKS NEW LAW & LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE (December 3, 2009).
- Leoni, Presentation, Trends in Redistricting for 2011, CALIFORNIA POLITICAL ATTORNEYS ASSOCIATION (Sept. 12, 2009).
- Leoni, Presentation, Redistricting Law 2011, ROSE INSTITUTE: REDISTRICTING, THE 2000 CENSUS, AND YOUR BUDGET (October 15, 2009).
- Leoni & Skinnell, The California Voting Rights Act, (CAL. STATE BAR) PUB. L. J. 15 (Spring 2009).
- Leoni & Skinnell, "School Districts and the California Voting Rights Act," CAL. SCH. MAGAZINE 9 (Spring 2009).
- Leoni & Skinnell, "Voting Rights: Claims, Redistricting & More" (NAT’L BUS. INST. 2008) (online seminar).
- Leoni & Skinnell, Congress Considers Renewal of Two Key Sections of the Federal Voting Rights Act: California Elections Could See Dramatic Impacts, CA COUNTY MAGAZINE 41 (Mar/Apr 2006).
- Leoni & Skinnell, "The California Voting Rights Act," CITY ATTORNEYS ANNUAL CONFERENCE PAPERS 295 (League of Cal. Cities Sept. 2003).
- Leoni, Presentation, Line Drawing, Minorites and the Law, ROSE INSTITUTE: TIME TO DRAW THE LINE (March 23, 2001).
- Leoni, 1990s Redistricting Under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act: Beyond Thornburg v. Gingles, (CAL. STATE BAR) Public Law News (Fall 1990)
- Leoni & Skinnell, The California Voting Rights Act, chapter 12 in AMERICA VOTES! A GUIDE TO MODERN ELECTION LAW AND VOTING RIGHTS (ABA 2d. ed. 2012)