COSTA MESA, Calif., December 7, 2011 – Patrick Muñoz, a partner with Rutan & Tucker, LLP, Orange County’s largest full-service law firm, has recently been honored by the Daily Journal, California’s largest legal news provider, for his outstanding achievements in the field of municipal law.
Muñoz, who is the City Attorney for cities of Dana Point and Twentynine Palms, was recently featured in an article published in the Daily Journal’s Los Angeles and San Francisco editions. Muñoz was cited as one of the highest caliber municipal lawyers in California through his prolific community involvement, the fair and equitable manner in which he practices law, and his overall acumen for the law as demonstrated by the numerous results he has achieved that significantly impact the practice of municipal law on a statewide basis.
His successful work on behalf of The City of Dana Point in cases involving medical marijuana dispensaries has shown that a law that was meant as a benefit for seriously ill Californians has been hijacked by unscrupulous businessmen, with most dispensaries operating as nothing more than retail businesses illegally making millions of dollars selling a recreational drug.
Earlier this year, he and the Rutan team were victorious in Orange County Superior Court in three lawsuits that accused dispensaries of selling marijuana in violation of the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA), which prohibit dispensaries from operating as for profit, business enterprises. All totaled, Rutan was successful in obtaining three judgments, requiring the illegally operating dispensaries to pay Civil Penalties of over $7,000,000.00. In addition, the dispensaries were required to pay the City’s legal fees.
Muñoz was also successful in leading Rutan’s legal team in a challenge to the IRS’s desire to classify Dana Point’s recreational class instructors as employees, rather than independent contractors. After utilizing an expert witness to conduct an exhaustive survey of other California cities, the Rutan team persuaded the IRS that it is an industry standard to classify instructors as independent contractors. This concession caused the IRS to acknowledge that the so called “safe harbor rule” set forth in its regulations applied, and hence it agreed to a dismissal and judgment in favor of the City. The financial impact of this litigation upon cities cannot be measured in dollars alone in that, with budgets being as tight as they are, had the IRS prevailed many cities might simply have had no choice other than to do away with many recreational classes provided as a community service.
Muñoz is president of the 30-member Board of the Orange Coast College Foundation. Under his leadership, the Foundation has mounted a campaign to raise $10 million to build a state-of-the-art planetarium on the college campus. He also makes time to stay involved with CM900, the charitable arm of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, and with the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce. On the home front, he and his wife keep busy with their two children who enjoy academics, sports and music.
“We are pleased that our partner Patrick Muñoz has been chosen for this distinct honor,” said Hans Van Ligten, head of Rutan’s 39 member state-wide Government and Regulatory Law Department. “Pat is not only a great example for his fellow attorneys to follow as an advocate and counselor, but shows how to go beyond that and contribute to the entire community.”
About Rutan & Tucker LLP
Rutan & Tucker is the largest full-service law firm headquartered in Orange County, California with offices in Costa Mesa and Palo Alto. Primary practice areas include corporate and securities law, business and real estate litigation, labor and employment law, intellectual property, real estate, government and regulatory law, land use law, bankruptcy, condemnation and property valuation, environmental law, and taxation and estate planning. Detailed information about the firm is available at www.rutan.com.
Rutan’s Government & Regulatory Law Department represents municipalities, school districts, special districts, property owners and others in a broad range of issues including land use, environmental, employment, redevelopment, litigation, municipal finance, ethics, and elections issues across the State.