Deborah J. Fox


Deborah Fox is the Chair of the firm’s Trial and Litigation Practice Group and First Amendment Practice Group. She is one of California’s foremost experts on First Amendment issues affecting the public sector. Her practice includes trial and appellate work in both state and federal courts on First Amendment cases as well as cases that involve civil rights claims for violation of substantive and procedural due process, equal protection, environmental claims, land use, and inverse condemnation. Deborah’s complex litigation experience includes multi-party and multi-district cases, civil litigations that are intertwined with pending criminal actions, and matters requiring the management of and researching, reviewing and interpreting extensive electronic information.

Her cases have involved preemptive issues and have both clarified existing law and empowered public agencies in their decisions. Outside the courtroom, she provides day-to-day guidance to municipalities statewide as they address a myriad of legal issues, including complex land use and successor agency matters.

Deborah’s victories include a trial on behalf of the City of Chula Vista that resulted in the granting of a permanent injunction shutting down a strip club that had violated zoning codes and a complete validation of the constitutional sufficiency of the City’s regulations. The court also overruled objections and granted the City’s cost bill, which included a trial technician assisting with 350 exhibits, including maps, photos and videos, for a total recovery of $50,000. Deborah also successfully obtained an award of attorneys’ fees for both Culver City and Palmdale. She defended Culver City in a challenge to its sign ordinance, obtaining a motion to dismiss with prejudice. In an unusual ruling, the Ninth Circuit affirmed an attorneys’ fees award to Culver City totaling $140,000 for a frivolous case. And, in a state court civil rights/takings challenge based on a failed apartment project, Deborah obtained a judgment in the City’s favor by way of demurrer and motion for summary judgment. This culminated in the City obtaining an award in excess of $100,000.

Deborah is a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America and is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell for reaching the height of professional excellence and recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity. She is listed in Martindale-Hubbell’s “Register of Top Rated Lawyers in Land Use and Zoning” (2013, 2014, 2015), “Register of Top Rated Lawyers: Women Leaders in the Law” (2013, 2015), “Register of Preeminent Lawyers” (2004, 2005, 2006), and “Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers” (2011). She was named one of California’s “Top Women Litigators” by the Daily Journal in 2007 and 2009 for her career achievements and overall contributions to the profession. She was also named one of L.A.’s “Top 100 Lawyers” by the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2009.

Along with her legal representation, Deborah has lectured and written extensively for the Urban Lawyer, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the League of California Cities, the County Counsels’ Association of California, and the Public Law Journal, among other organizations and publications. 

Deborah belongs to the American Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association and served as an inaugural member of the League of California Cities Adult Use Task Force, where she participated in the preparation of the League’s pioneering Model Ordinance. In addition, she serves as a settlement officer for the North Central District Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court. She is admitted to practice in the courts of the State of California, United States Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and several U.S. District Courts.

Published Decisions

  • Hagopian v. County of Los Angeles, 214 Cal.App.4th 349 (2014)
  • Building a Better Redondo v. City of Redondo Beach, 203 Cal.App.4th 852 (2012) [initiative]
  • Hillside Memorial Park v. Golden State Water; Water Replenishment District (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 658 [water law/CEQA]
  • Rickley v. County of Los Angeles, 654 F.3d 960 (9th Cir. 2011). [Section 1983 attorneys fees]
  • Zubarau v. City of Palmdale (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 289. [regulation of ham radio antennae and federal preemption]
  • PR/JSM Rivara v. Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (2009) 180 Cal.App.4th 1475. [Redevelopment, density bonus, CEQA]
  • International Church of Foursquare Gospel v. City of San Leandro, 632 F.Supp.2d 925 (N.D. Cal. 2008), rev’d. 634 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2011); amended and rehearing denied, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 8505 (9th Cir. April 22, 2010); cert. denied 2011 U.S. LEXIS 5458 (Oct. 3. 2011). [RLUIPA]
  • Gammoh v. City of La Habra (9th Cir. 2005) 395 F.3d 1114, amended 402 F.3d 875, cert. denied 126 S.Ct. 374. [Adult use]
  • Lim v. City of Long Beach (9th Cir. 2000) 217 F.3d 1050, cert. denied (2001) 121 S.Ct. 1189. [Adult uses]
  • Tily B. v. City of Newport Beach (1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 1. [Adult uses]
  • Santa Fe Realty Corp. v. City of Westminster (C.D. Cal. 1995) 906 F.Supp. 1341. [Adult uses]
  • City of South El Monte v. Southern California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 1629, modified 38 Cal.App.4th 1810b. [JPA]
  • 3570 East Foothill Boulevard v. City of Pasadena (C.D. Cal. 1995) 912 F.Supp. 1257, aff’d. (9th Cir. 1996) 99 F.3d 1147. [Adult uses]
  • Eldorado Drive v. City of Mesquite (D. Nev. 1994) 863 F.Supp. 1252. [Immunity to city council]
  • Rogers v. Superior Court (City of Burbank) (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 469. [Public Records Act]
  • City of Glendale v. Superior Court (Giovanetto Enterprises) (1993) 18 Cal.App.4th 1768. [Condemnation]
  • Building Industry Association v. Superior Court (City of Oceanside) (1989) 211 Cal.App.3d 277. [Managed growth initiative]

Honors and Awards

  • Martindale-Hubbell's Register of Top Rated Lawyers: Women Leaders in the Law, 2013, 2015
  • Martindale-Hubbell's Register of Top Rated Lawyers: Land Use and Zoning, 2013, 2014, 2015
  • Martindale-Hubbell's Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers, 2011 Inaugural Edition
  • Martindale-Hubbell’s 2004, 2005 and 2006 Register of Preeminent Lawyers
  • Selected as a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, 2010
  • Named one of the Daily Journal’s Top Women Litigators in California, 2007, 2009
  • Named one of the top 100 Lawyers in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal, 2009

Presentations and Publications

  • “Sign Regulation in the Wake of Reed,” League of California Cities webinar, 2016
  • “California Public Records Act: Recent Case Law and Topical Application,” in-house client CLE presentation, 2015
  • “How the Supreme Court has Shaped First Amendment Issues for Local Governments from Signs to Legislative Prayer,” International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA), 80th Annual Conference, 2015
  • “First Amendment - Solicitation / Panhandling,” IMLA webinar, September, 2015
  • “Regulation of Adult Business – Traps for the Unwary,” Greater Inland Empire Municipal Law Association (GIEMLA), May, 2014
  • "Sign Regulations and the First Amendment: Navigating Recent Developments in the Law,” IMLA Webinar, March, 2014
  • “First Amendment Cases – Invocations, Panhandling and Adult Uses,” The Seminar Group, Government Law, January, 2014
  • “The Role of Legislative Findings,” League of California Cities Annual Conference, September, 2013
  • "Recent Developments in First Amendment Law: Exploring Panhandling and Invocations,” IMLA Annual Conference, September, 2013
  • “The ‘Occupy’ Movement and Recent Emerging First Amendment Issues,” International Municipal Lawyers Association Teleconference, February 2013
  • “The ‘Occupy’ Movement and What Cities Can Do to Regulate or Avoid the Impacts of Such Events,” League of California Cities, 2012 City Attorneys Fall Conference, September 2012
  • “Understanding RLUIPA – Important Developments and Case Updates,” presented at International Municipal Lawyers Association, Chicago, Illinois, September 2011
  • “Understanding the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”),” County Counsels’ Association of California 2011 Annual Meeting, Berkeley, California, September 2011
  • "New Legal Developments in Siting Religious Centers: RLUIPA and Beyond," UCLA School of Law, 2011
  • "The Hard Question of The Establishment Clause Coupled with a RLUIPA Update," presented at International Municipal Lawyers Association, New Orleans, Louisiana, October 2010
  • "Play Now, Pray Later: Regulating Sex and Religious Facilities," presented at International Municipal Lawyers Association, Miami, Florida, October 2009
  • "Adult Uses and Other Code Enforcement Issues," presented to City of Oceanside, October 2009
  • "Signs of the Time: Play Now, Pray Later," presented at League of California Cities, City Attorneys Spring Conference 2009, Squaw Valley, California, May 2009
  • "Eye Sore or Eye Candy? Regulating Billboards, Supergraphics and LCDs," presented at New Mexico Municipal Attorneys’ Association, Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 2008
  • "Not In My Front Yard: Regulating Political Signs," presented at International Municipal Lawyers Association 2008 Annual Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, September 2008
  • “The Deliberative Process Privilege and the Public Records Act: Balancing Open Government with Effective Government Decision Making,” published in the Public Law Journal, 2008
  • "Temporary Takings and Perplexing Valuation Issues," presented at CLE International’s Regulatory Takings Conference, San Francisco, California, 2007
  • "First Amendment Update: Permitting in Public Places, Billboards and More," presented at joint meeting of City Attorneys’ Association of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Anaheim, California, 2007
  • "Sex and other Signs of First Amendment Life," presented at City Attorneys’ Association of Los Angeles County retreat, Oxnard, California, 2006
  • "Sex (and God) in the City: Adult Businesses and the Religious Land Use Institutionalized Persons Act," presented at the League of California Cities, City Attorney’s Continuing Education, 2005
  • "Adult Use Zoning: Sex and the Cities," presented at the Orange County City Attorney’s Association, 2003; at the City Attorney’s Association of Los Angeles County, 2003; and at the Los Angeles Prosecutors Association, 2003
  • "Defending a Regulatory Takings Case: The Public Entity’s Perspective," presented at CLE International, 2003
  • "The Latest Legal Edicts on General Plans (Yes, More Legal Hurdles)," presented to the American Planning Association, Orange County Section, 2003
  • “Adult Zoning,” published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Forum, May 2002
  • Adult Use Breakout Session, League of California Cities, City Attorneys Spring Conference, 2002
  • "Adult Zoning: Sex and the Supremes," presented at the 17th Annual UCLA Land Use Law and Planning Conference, “Quick Hits” Panel, 2002
  • "Sex and Secondary Effects: The First Amendment Revisited," presented at the League of California Cities, City Attorneys Spring Conference, 2001
  • "Sex, Smut & Other Land Use Challenges," presented at the State and Local Government Law Section, Los Angeles County Bar Association, 2001
  • "Adult Zoning: Sex and the Cities," presented at the 16th Annual UCLA Land Use Law and Planning Conference, 2001
  • "First Amendment and Land Use Issues: Selected Topics," presented at City Attorneys Association Los Angeles County, 2001
  • "Regulation of Adult Businesses," presented at the County Counsel Land Use Conference, 2000
  • "Regulation of Adult Businesses - Traps for the Unwary," presented at League of California Cities, City Attorney Conference, 2000
  • "Smut, Smokes & Spirits: The First Amendment Re-Examined," presented at The Southwestern Legal Foundation 1999 Institute On Planning and Eminent Domain, October 28, 1999; published in the Southwestern Legal Foundation Proceedings of the Institute on Planning, Zoning, and Eminent Domain, Rel. 30-10/00 Pub. 631 (2000); published in The Urban Lawyer, Vol. 32, No. 3, Summer 2000
  • “Adult Use Zoning in the 90s,” published in CEB Land Use & Environment Forum, Spring 1994, Vol. 3, No. 2.

Professional and Community Affiliations

  • Member, American Bar Association
  • Member, State Bar of California
  • Member, Los Angeles County Bar Association
  • League of California Cities Adult Use Task Force
  • Life Member, National Registry of Who’s Who, 2001 Edition
  • Condemnation and Land Valuation Litigation Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar
  • Judge Pro Tem, Los Angeles Superior Court, Glendale Division


  • University of San Diego, JD, 1983
  • University of Michigan, BA, Political Science and Cultural Anthropology, 1980