Sean Welch is a partner specializing in law and civil litigation in the areas of election, campaign, initiative and referenda, government law, and complex litigation involving highly regulated industries. He is also a member of the firm’s management committee.
Mr. Welch has extensive experience guiding clients through the complexities of the initiative and referendum process, from initiative drafting and the formation of ballot measure committees to mounting and defending legal challenges to ballot measures and ballot argument litigation at the state and local level. In addition to successfully litigating multiple cases in this area of law, including the removal of unlawful petitions from the ballot, Mr. Welch serves as legal counsel and Treasurer to numerous political committees in favor of or against ballot measures, providing guidance on a wide variety of state and local campaign reporting and disclosure requirements. He is also a trusted resource regarding voter registration issues, balloting, recounts, and election contests, and was a leader of ground teams and litigation strategy for the winning side during the first ever recount of a statewide ballot measure.
Mr. Welch also counsels non-profit organizations, corporations, political action committees and individuals on compliance with various federal, state and local election, campaign and government ethics laws, including conflicts of interest. In addition, he represents clients in the private and public sectors regarding redistricting, voting rights, and constitutional and government law litigation.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Welch practiced in the San Francisco office of a national law firm where he represented public and corporate clients in matters ranging from public contracts and regulatory issues to antitrust and unfair competition disputes. He also served as an extern clerk to the Hon. Phyllis Hamilton, United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
- Agenbroad v. Padilla, Case No. 34-2020-80003542 (Sacramento County Super. Ct. 2020): on behalf of referendum proponents and small business owners, obtained relief confirming that filing a statewide referendum petition with sufficient signatures prima facie immediately triggers suspension of the challenged statute unless and until it fails to qualify or is approved by the voters at a statewide election.
- Arata v. Cooper, Case No. A159487 (Cal. Ct. App., 1st Dist., Nov. 2020): successfully defended a ballot question adopted by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority for Measure J, which appeared on the ballot at the March 3, 2020 election.
- Sanchez v. City of Martinez, Case No. MSC-18-02219 (Contra Costa County Super. Ct. 2020): successful defense of city council districting map against claims that it violated California Elections Code requirements.
- Molloy v. Vu, 42 Cal. App. 5th 746 (2019): represented referendum proponents as real parties in interest to successfully defend proponents referendum petition’s compliance with the Election Code’s full text requirement.
- Measure B, San Diego County: general counsel and treasurer to successful campaign to qualify a countywide referendum measure for the ballot with 117,000 voter signatures in 21 days, and win at election.
- Measure F, Town of Ross: initiative author and counsel to successful campaign to increase enrollment cap for private schools operating under conditional use permits.
- Measure Y, Town of Danville (Magee Ranch): general counsel and treasurer to successful campaign to approve housing/open space referendum measure.
- Nunn v. Wimberly, Case No. N19-1733 (Contra Costa County Super. Ct. 2019): judgment and writ of mandate requiring revisions to ballot arguments on the basis that they were false and misleading.
- Wilson v. County of Napa, 9 Cal. App. 5th 178 (2017), rev. denied, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 4112 (Cal., May 24, 2017): represented Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Winegrowers of Napa County, and Napa County Farm Bureau as amicus curiae in support of the County of Napa in successful defense of the County Registrar of Voters’ rejection of initiative petition that failed to comply with the California Election Code’s “full text” rule.
- Briskman v. Pope, Case No. BS163782 (Los Angeles Super. Ct. 2016): successful challenge to the ballot question prepared for Measure HH in Beverly Hills, resulting in modifications to the ballot question printed on the ballots.
- James v. Schmidt, Case No. 16-CV-299134 (Santa Clara Super. Ct. 2016): successfully challenged statements in ballot arguments supporting Measure C in Cupertino as false and misleading; statements ordered stricken from ballot pamphlet.
- Ordaz v. Pope, Case No. BS164364 (Los Angeles Super. Ct. 2016): successful defense of challenged statements in ballot arguments supporting Measure HH in Beverly Hills, including successful anti-SLAPP motion and award of attorneys’ fees.
- Chargers/Raiders Stadium Initiative: initiative co-author and general counsel and treasurer to successful effort to approve the development of an NFL stadium in the City of Carson, California.
- Save Olympic Valley (Squaw Valley, CA): general counsel and treasurer to successful effort to oppose the proposed incorporation, through Placer County LAFCO, of the Town of Olympic Valley.
- Garrett v. Halverson, Case No. 37-2014-00029221 (San Diego Super. Ct. 2014): successfully challenged statements in ballot arguments against Measure H in Escondido as false and misleading.
- Measure B, Redding (Turtle Bay Hotel): general counsel and treasurer to winning campaign opposing referendum against hotel development project to benefit the nonprofit Turtle Bay Exploration Park in the City of Redding.
- Camacho Title, et al. v. Concolino, et al., Case No. 34-2014-80001748 (Super. Ct. Sacramento County): representing the Sacramento Kings as the real party in interest, invalidated an initiative aimed at blocking the financing and construction of the Kings’ new downtown arena.
- Measure A, Los Gatos (Netflix HQ): initiative co-author, and general counsel and treasurer to successful campaign to allow voters to directly approve the development of a new office and research and development park previously approved by the town, resolving pending and threatened litigation.
- Measure H, Beverly Hills (Beverly Hilton): general counsel and treasurer to winning campaign opposing referendum against hotel redevelopment project; Kano v. Pope, et. al., Case No. 396173 (Super. Ct. Los Angeles County), successful lawsuit to strike false and misleading language from ballot arguments against project.
- Oak to Ninth Referendum Committee v. City of Oakland, Case No. RG06290487 (Super. Ct. Alameda County): successful removal from the ballot of referendum against Oakland development project due to legal defects identified in the petition.
- Measure U, Napa County: general counsel and treasurer to successful campaign to defeat land use measure with negative countywide implications.
- Pacific Racing Association v. Bucholz, et al., Case No. RG06273072 (Super. Ct. Alameda County): successful removal of initiative from the ballot due to defects during petition circulation.
- Measures K and J, Moraga: initiative co-author, general counsel and treasurer to campaign involving complex, related land use measures.
- Modesto Irrigation District, et. al. v. Debra Bowen, Case No. 34-2010-80000478 (Super. Ct. Sacramento County): successful defense of pre-election challenge to statewide ballot measure.
- Presentation, "Redistricting After 2020 Census," Municipal Law Institute/Bar Assn. of San Francisco (Mar. 6, 2020) (with C. Skinnell & D. Johnson)
- Presentation, “Ethical Issues in Dealing with Administrative Agencies and Elected Bodies,” Law Seminars International conference on Land Use in Northern California.
- Presentation, “Pre-election Ballot Measure Litigation,” California Political Attorneys Association conference.
- Mr. Welch is a guest lecturer at the University California Hastings College of the Law on initiatives and charter cities.
- Mr. Welch frequently speaks at seminars and events in the areas of initiative, referendum, and governmental ethics.
- Presentation, "Ballot Box Planning," American Assn. of Political Consultants Regional Conference (June 23, 2015).