AALRR Announces 2023 Equity and Non-Equity Partners


Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo (AALRR) is pleased to announce that three Partners have been named Equity Partners, and seven Senior Associates have been promoted to Non-Equity Partner.

Managing Partner James Baca congratulated all and said, “It is my pleasure to announce this year’s promotions to Equity and Non-Equity Partner. These attorneys represent six of our seven practice groups but bring value to our clients across a wide range of practice areas and industries. The skills and knowledge they bring to the table each and every day help to make AALRR one of California’s leading law firms. Please join me in congratulating them on this well-earned recognition.”

New Equity Partners

Sundee Johnson represents California school and community college districts in education law, including disability accommodation, special education, student discipline, and charter school matters. She also handles and/or litigates special education due process hearings, Section 504 complaints, CDE compliance complaints, and discrimination claims. In addition, Ms. Johnson conducts investigations into allegations of discrimination and misconduct.

Kathryn Meola provides legal representation and general counsel advice to community college districts, K-12 districts and county offices of education in all aspects of labor and employment matters, Board governance, open meeting laws, ethics and conflicts of interest, California public records act requests, contracts, policy development, charter schools, commission on professional competence, arbitration hearings, administrative hearings, certificated and classified layoffs, certificated dismissal hearings and civil litigation.

David Soldani advises public agencies in the areas of employment, public works and construction, environmental law, elections law, litigation, contracting and real property transactions. Mr. Soldani also represents private individuals and companies in litigation matters for labor and employment issues, construction claims and business disputes.

New Non-Equity Partners

Michele Collender represents private entities in complex litigation matters in federal and state courts. She has a unique background in defending independent contractor structured businesses against allegations of misclassification and enforcing arbitration agreements and class-action waivers. Ms. Collender regularly counsels employers on wage and hour related matters, employee and independent contractor agreements, and human resources policies. She has successfully defended employers in administrative hearings.

Peter Denno handles a wide array of labor and employment law and general counsel matters for public school districts. His areas of concentration in labor and employment matters include labor negotiations, grievance processing, personnel discipline and dismissal, disability accommodation/interactive process, discrimination and harassment claims, and layoffs. In addition, Mr. Denno regularly assists public school districts with student discipline cases, student rights issues, Public Records Act requests, Brown Act compliance, and conflict of interest laws.

Mellissa Gallegos represents and advises California school districts, community college districts, and county offices of education in all education and employment law matters, including employee evaluation, discipline and dismissal, reasonable accommodation, interactive meetings, and restraining orders. She also assists with Uniform Complaint investigations and responses; California Public Records Act responses; collective bargaining issues; and defending employers against allegations of discrimination with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Gallegos also has significant experience in conducting prompt, thorough, and effective investigations.

Joseph Lee is a member of the Commercial and Complex Litigation Practice Group and the firm’s Intellectual Property Team. Mr. Lee represents private companies in intellectual property matters, contract and business tort litigation, and employment disputes.

Gabrielle Ortiz represents California school districts and county offices of education in special education law and student disability matters. Ms. Ortiz provides interpretation and assessment of issues arising under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. She handles IEP team meetings, resolution sessions, Section 504 meetings and other matters.

Eric Riss represents public and private entities in a wide array of labor and employment matters. His areas of expertise include federal and state discrimination claims, PERB unfair practice charges, disciplinary arbitrations, and FLSA wage and hour actions. Mr. Riss also advises public sector employers in the area of compliance with the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act and the Public Records Act.

Sara Young represents school districts and other educational agencies as general counsel. Her focus is primarily in ensuring practices and procedures comply with legal guidance, and in investigating allegations of non-compliance. Dr. Young frequently conducts impartial and thorough investigations following student or staff complaints. She has experience in all aspects of school district operations including, but not limited to, instruction programs (e.g., independent study, special education programming), employment matters, and general governance.

About Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo
With more than 40 years of unwavering commitment to client service, AALRR is one of California’s leading law firms. Our diverse team brings a seasoned perspective to California’s complex legal landscape for public and private entities, with particular strength in the areas of education, labor and employment, construction, complex litigation, corporate, taxation, and water.  Our public sector clients include more than 450 K-12 school districts, community college districts and universities, as well as cities, counties, and special districts. We also represent diverse business entities from small, family-run businesses to publicly traded corporations. AALRR has more than 230 lawyers and nine offices in Cerritos, Fresno, Irvine, Marin, Pasadena, Pleasanton, Riverside, Sacramento, and San Diego to serve our clients throughout California. For more information about AALRR, visit our website at www.aalrr.com.

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