Steve Merksamer served as a senior partner of Nielsen Merksamer for over 33 years during which time he led the firm’s government law practice and served on the firm’s management committee. Now he is Of Counsel to Nielsen Merksamer.
A recognized expert in government and administrative law and the initiative and referendum process, Mr. Merksamer has served as counsel and a senior strategist to well over one hundred initiative and referendum campaigns at the state and local level. Mr. Merksamer also advises CEOs and General Counsels on complex regulatory and administrative law matters, including matters relating to the California Legislature and Executive branch.
Mr. Merksamer has had a most distinguished career in public service. Mr. Merksamer served as the Chief of Staff to Governor George Deukmejian, a position which he held from 1983 to 1987. As Chief of Staff, Mr. Merksamer served as a member of the Governor’s cabinet, chaired the cabinet in the Governor’s absence, oversaw the Governor’s cabinet and staff, and directed day-to-day operations of California’s state government. He also chaired the Governor’s Emergency Operations Executive Council. In 1982, Mr. Merksamer chaired and directed the transition between the Brown and Deukmejian administrations. Prior to that, he was the Special Assistant Attorney General of the State of California, serving as the Attorney General’s senior counselor and policy advisor. In that capacity, Mr. Merksamer advised the Attorney General on the principal litigation conducted by the Civil, Public Rights, and Criminal Law Divisions.
He previously served as a California Deputy Attorney General, where he regularly appeared before administrative law judges and the courts and was a member of the specially-selected litigation team that successfully defended the constitutionality of Proposition 13 before the California Supreme Court. Amador Valley Joint Union High School District v. Board of Equalization, 22 Cal. 3d 208 (1978).
Prior to attending law school, Mr. Merksamer served as an Assistant to the Lt. Governor of California and an Assistant to the Speaker of the California State Assembly.
Mr. Merksamer was appointed by President Reagan to serve on the President’s Administration of Justice Task Force, the President’s Export Council, and the National Commission on Presidential Scholars.
He has served on the Board of Governors of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University and the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Governor’s Residence Foundation, the California Museum, and the California Musical Theatre.
Mr. Merksamer has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) since 2009 and has chaired both the audit committee and the executive committee. In 2018, he was elected Chair of the Board and is now serving his fourth consecutive term as Chair.
He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the California Chamber of Commerce, a Trustee of the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, and a founder and past Chair of State Law Resources, Inc., an international network of independent law firms.
Mr. Merksamer is rated AV-preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, designated a Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters and has been selected by his peers to be included in Best Lawyers in America every year since 2007.