Dennis Herrera

  • May 24, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece is part of the ACSblog Symposium: 2017 ACS National Convention. The symposium will consider topics featured at the three day convention, scheduled for June 8-10, 2017. Learn more about the Convention here

    by Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City Attorney

    When Ronald Reagan used his 1983 State of the Union Address to foreshadow a sweeping proposal to devolve vast powers from the federal government back to states and localities, he described his New Federalism initiative as an effort “to restore to states and local governments their roles as dynamic laboratories of change in a creative society.”

    Liberal critics at the time regarded the New Federalism as a thin veiling for a full-scale federal retreat from progressive social policy — which, of course, it was. In subsequent years, as successive Congresses grappled with mounting budget deficits and as the federal bench grew increasingly conservative, Reagan’s efforts to return power to local governments would indeed take hold among his presidency’s most enduring legacies.

    Today, progressive state and local governments should embrace the principles behind New Federalism as a way to push back against a federal administration that threatens constitutional protections and many of the values these localities hold. In the few months that President Donald Trump has been in office, state and local governments have successfully thwarted his attempts to carry out some of his most misguided initiatives.

    When President Trump issued an executive order that sought to strip federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions, San Francisco and other local governments acted swiftly to fight back. My office filed the first lawsuit in the nation to challenge the Executive Order, and the County of Santa Clara and other local jurisdictions soon followed us. In April, Federal Judge William Orrick issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that temporarily halted enforcement of the president’s executive order, recognizing the Executive Order likely violates the Separation of Powers, the Spending Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and other constitutional provisions.

  • June 18, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue opinions in two cases involving questions of marriage equality, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera talked with me about his office’s role in challenging discriminatory laws in California that resulted in the federal constitutional challenge to the state’s Proposition 8.

    In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the high court is considering constitutional challenges to Proposition 8, which bars California from recognizing same-sex marriages. The justices could avoid the constitutional questions if it were to dismiss the case on procedural grounds.

    Herrera (pictured) during the 2013 ACS National Convention discussed why the San Francisco Attorney’s Office so aggressively challenged the state’s laws discriminating against lesbians and gay men and why he does not favor an incremental approach to securing marriage equality.

    In the interview Herrera explains how his office helped spark the legal battle that eventually put Proposition 8 before the high court.

    “It has been an honor and privilege for our office to have been involved in what is the civil rights issue of our time,” Herrera said. “And we like to think that our involvement at least played some role in really moving the debate and contributing to the tremendous progress that we have seen, with incredible rapidity over the course of the last several years on the issue of marriage equality.”

    When asked whether the Supreme Court should avoid an opinion that would make all state bans on same-sex marriage constitutionally suspect, Herrera strongly supported an approach that would more quickly lead to marriage equality from coast to coast.

    “I do not think we should be in the position of abiding discrimination,” he said. “And I think we’ve been quite clear that we think everybody is entitled to equal protection under the law irrespective of sexual orientation.”  

    Herrera continued, “It’s about being on the right side of history, it’s about making sure that everybody is entitled to equal protection under the law. And I think that while there’s a political process going on it was a direct result of strong legal arguments and views that were made known. So I’m not one who, at least at this point, thinks that an incremental approach is something we need to follow. I think it’s time we deal with this issue once and for all.”

    Watch entire interview below or visit this link.

  • October 5, 2009
    The U.S. Supreme Court today invited the Obama administration to weigh in on a case involving San Francisco's universal health care program. The case, Golden Gate Restaurant Association v. San Francisco, involves a challenge to a key provision of San Francisco's "Healthy San Francisco" law, which requires employers to provide minimum spending on their workers' healthcare insurance. The San Francisco law was challenged by the restaurant association in federal court, arguing that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) preempts San Francisco from requiring employers to invest in their employee healthcare benefits. The Bush administration got involved in the case lodging briefs supporting the restaurant association's position. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the San Francisco law concluding that it was not preempted by ERISA. The restaurant association has asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.

    San Francisco City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera issued a statement (above, right) on the high court's action today, urging the Obama administration to take different approach to the case.

    "The Bush Labor Department's position was not simply wrong as a matter of law, it was wrong for fundamentally ignoring the urgent need for health care reform," said Herrera, a member of the ACS Board of Directors. "I am hopeful that the new administration will not take such a knee-jerk position, but will instead thoroughly review the legal and policy implications of the case."