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|City Attorney of San Francisco|
|Assumed office |
December 11, 2001
|Preceded by||Louise Renne|
|Education||Villanova University (BA)|
George Washington University (JD)
Dennis Herrera is the elected City Attorney of San Francisco, perhaps best known for his longtime legal advocacy for same-sex marriage in California, including the In re Marriage Cases, 43 Cal.4th 757 (2008), and Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570. U.S. (2013), also known as the legal fight against Proposition 8. He was first elected as City Attorney in 2001, and re-elected without opposition in 2005, 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2019. He ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of San Francisco in the 2011 election, finishing third in the City's ranked-choice voting system.
Early life and education
Born November 6, 1962 in Bay Shore, Long Island, New York, Herrera grew up in the nearby middle class community of Glen Cove. His father was a psychiatrist who immigrated from Colombia after serving as part of a UN Peacekeeping force during the Suez War of 1956. His mother is the child of Italian immigrants and worked as a nurse in Glen Cove.
Herrera earned his bachelor's degree from Villanova University in Pennsylvania, and his Juris Doctor from the George Washington University School of Law in Washington, D.C. Herrera worked various jobs to support himself during his education, from his newspaper route as a young boy, to restocking shelves at the local grocery store, to serving as a short order cook in a local diner. Upon graduating from law school in 1987, Herrera was offered an associate position at a maritime law firm in San Francisco and moved to the city.
After his move to San Francisco, Herrera became an active member of the community, joining his local Democratic club and helping to get Democratic candidates elected in the city. In 1990, he was appointed to the Waterfront Plan Advisory Board, and later served on the Finance Committee for the California Democratic Party.
In 1993 Herrera was appointed to the U.S. Maritime Administration in Washington, D.C. during President Clinton's Administration. He returned to private practice in San Francisco as a partner in the maritime law firm of Kelly, Gill, Sherburne & Herrera.
Then-Mayor Willie Brown appointed Herrera to the SF Transportation Commission, and later to the San Francisco Police Commission. Herrera was voted the President of the Police Commission after just one year of service.
San Francisco City Attorney
In December 2001, Herrera was elected San Francisco City Attorney, becoming the first Latino to hold the office. He was re-elected in 2005, 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2019.
On January 31, 2017 Herrera brought the first lawsuit in the nation against President Donald Trump over his executive order threatening to withhold billions of dollars in federal funding from sanctuary cities and other local and state governments.
Herrera's federal lawsuit alleges that the executive order is unconstitutional and exceeds the president's power. The trial court ruled in San Francisco's favor, finding Trump's executive order unconstitutional and ordering a nationwide halt to enforcement of it. The federal government appealed that ruling. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on August 1, 2018 upheld the district court's ruling on the merits in favor of San Francisco, finding that the executive order violates the Constitution's separation-of-powers guarantee, which reserves legislative and spending authority to Congress, not the president.
Herrera on August 11, 2017 filed a second lawsuit against the Trump administration, this one seeking to invalidate new grant conditions that U.S. Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III sought to place on a group of U.S. Department of Justice grants for local law enforcement. Those grant conditions were issued after the district court had issued a preliminary injunction in April 2017 that halted enforcement of the sanctuary executive order as the case proceeded.
Herrera on September 19, 2017 sued the top five investor-owned fossil fuel companies seeking billions of dollars for infrastructure needed to protect San Francisco against sea-level rise caused by global warming from their products. At a March 2018 climate change tutorial requested by the judge, the fossil fuel companies were compelled to acknowledge that the science of global warming is no longer in dispute.
Uber and Lyft
In 2017 and 2018, Herrera launched investigations into Uber and Lyft over driver pay and benefits, accessibility, discrimination, public safety issues and potential violations of other state and local laws.
On September 26, 2017, San Francisco became the first city in the country to sue Equifax for failing to protect the personal data of more than 15 million Californians, part of a data breach that compromised the personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers.
Airbnb and HomeAway
Herrera successfully defended San Francisco's short-term rental regulations from legal challenge by Airbnb and HomeAway and secured a settlement in May 2017 that requires the companies to ensure that listings on their site comply with San Francisco law, protecting rent-controlled apartments from being used as de facto hotels.
Herrera declared in November 2016 that the state's current cash bail system is unconstitutional and refused to defend it in a federal class-action lawsuit brought by a national civil rights group against San Francisco's sheriff. This led to a legislative drive to reform the state's system where the only factor in deciding whether an inmate is freed prior to appearing before a judge is if they can pay the amount on the bail schedule.
Academy of Art University
In December 2016, Herrera reached a settlement with Academy of Art University valued at more than $60 million in cash and property to house low-income seniors. The for-profit academy for years had violated state and local laws in its aggressive acquisition and use of vast real estate holdings in San Francisco.
In May 2017, Herrera secured a court victory that got tenant evictions voided and $5.4 million in court awards against abusive landlord Anne Kihagi, had worked to force tenants from their rent-controlled homes so she could charge more money.
Gun control litigation
Herrera has been involved in a number of high-profile cases against the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates, both to defend San Francisco's gun control measures and to challenge gun industry practices. He also filed lawsuits in 2013 and 2017 against several companies for flouting state and local law by selling complete but disassembled large-capacity gun magazines as "repair kits." He secured settlements ending sales to customers in California of these devices.
City College of San Francisco
Herrera sued the accrediting agency that was unlawfully trying to close City College of San Francisco on August 22, 2013. He won preliminary injunction motion that halted the termination action and secured injunctions to protect City College's rights in the evaluation process.
Art Institute of California
Herrera investigated the Art Institute of California's deceptive marketing practices that underestimated student costs and inflated job placement figures, resulting in a settlement in 2014 that included a $1.95 million payment to San Francisco, endowing a $1.6 million scholarship fund for students who wished to return to finish their studies and offering $850,000 in general scholarships to new students.
Herrera sued Blue Cross and Health Net in 2011, alleging that these insurance companies systematically underpaid San Francisco General Hospital and other public hospitals for emergency services provided to their policy-holders. He reached a $6.25 million settlement for past claims and an agreement to reimburse at a higher rate for at least three years going forward.
On August 16, 2006, Herrera sued CitiApartments for unlawful business and tenant harassment practices, which forced out rent-controlled tenants to allow higher rents to be charged for the same units. The subsequent settlement, with penalties up to $10 million, put the company out of business.
Nevada "patient dumping"
After The Sacramento Bee discovered that mental patients in Nevada were being bused to various California cities without any supervision or plan for what they would do upon arrival, Herrera opened an investigation that found that dozens of these patients had been shipped to San Francisco. Herrera brought a class-action lawsuit against Nevada in 2013 that was settled in 2015 with Nevada agreeing to provide travel assistance to California only for patients who meet appropriate criteria, ensuring that the patients are returning to a home address or to a medical facility or program, and that they will be received or accompanied by a responsible individual. Nevada also agreed to provide San Francisco with semi-annual reports about these patients with information that includes the date of discharge, destination city, and name of individuals at any medical facility that has agreed to receive the patient. Nevada also agreed to pay San Francisco $400,000.
Marriage equality for same-sex couples
Herrera has been involved in every phase of the legal fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples in California.
In 2009, he joined the City of San Francisco as a plaintiff in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, seeking to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage, the first time any government entity had sued to challenge marriage laws discriminating against gay and lesbian couples. Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Santa Clara County Counsel Ann M. Ravel would also join their jurisdictions as plaintiffs in the suit.
In San Francisco's petition to the California Supreme Court, Herrera said: "The issue before the court today is of far greater consequence than marriage equality alone ... Equal protection of the laws is not merely the cornerstone of the California Constitution, it is what separates constitutional democracy from mob rule tyranny. If allowed to stand, Prop 8 so devastates the principle of equal protection that it endangers the fundamental rights of any potential electoral minority—even for protected classes based on race, religion, national origin and gender. The proponents of Prop 8 waged a ruthless campaign of falsehood and fear, funded by millions of dollars from out-of-state interest groups. Make no mistake that their success in California has dramatically raised the stakes. What began as a struggle for marriage equality is today a fight for equality itself. I am confident that our high court will again demonstrate its principled independence in recognizing this danger, and in reasserting our constitution's promise of equality under the law."
Proposition 8 was eventually held to violate the United States Constitution by federal district court judge Vaughn R. Walker on August 4, 2010, a decision that was left intact by the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. Same-sex marriages began again in California two days later.
After filing litigation against predatory payday lenders Money Mart and Check 'n Go on April 26, 2007, Herrera forced them to repay 10,000 California consumers $7.7 million and forgive another $8 million in debt.
Healthy San Francisco
When the Healthy San Francisco Initiative became law in 2006, establishing universal health care in the City, Herrera successfully defended the law's constitutionality against legal challenge. When some of the fees earmarked for the initiative were misappropriated by San Francisco restaurants, he convinced some of the restaurants to participate in a voluntary settlement program that recovered $844,000 for their employees.
On March 24, 2008, Herrera filed a lawsuit against the National Arbitration Forum and two other arbitration providers, alleging that the defendants were not neutral as they claimed in arbitration disputes between credit card companies and their customers, but were instead heavily biased in favor of lenders, calling NAF "little more than a collection agent masquerading as a neutral party." He alleged that NAF's records showed that consumers prevailed in just 0.2% of arbitration cases that went to a hearing.
On February 3, 2021, Herrera announced that, on February 11, he will sue the San Francisco Board of Education, the San Francisco Unified School District, and Superintendent Vincent Matthews for violating state law by not having a plan to "offer classroom-based instruction whenever possible". The school district is independent from the jurisdiction of the City. The lawsuit was the first of its kind, wherein a civil action is filed by a city against its school district over COVID-19 school closures, within the state of California. The suit is supported by Mayor London Breed, who has criticized the Board for focusing on renaming 44 SFUSD schools during the pandemic. Both the Board and Matthews have criticized the suit, calling it wasteful and inaccurate.
Run for mayor
In August 2010, Herrera announced that he would run in the 2011 San Francisco Mayoral Election. He ultimately finished third.
Dennis and his wife Anne first met in 1999, and were married 10 months later.
- San Francisco Municipal Election Nov. 3, 2009 - Results
- Herel, Suzanne (22 December 2004). "Same-sex marriage fight pits unlikely advocate against odd alliance / REPRESENTING S.F.: Straight family-man Herrera an improbable gay rights defender". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-21. Retrieved 2011-06-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "San Francisco Sues Trump Over 'Sanctuary Cities' Order". Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Diamond, Jeremy; McKirdy, Euan. "Judge issues blow against Trump's sanctuary city order". CNN. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Dolan, Maura. "Appeals court rules Trump can't withhold funds from California 'sanctuary' cities". latimes.com. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Kopan, Tal. "California, San Francisco join legal fight over sanctuary cities". CNN. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "San Francisco, Oakland sue major oil companies over rising seas". SFGate. 2017-09-21. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Levin, Sam (2018-03-21). "Climate science on trial as high-profile US case takes on fossil fuel industry". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Somerville, Heather. "San Francisco subpoenas Uber, Lyft on driver classification". U.S. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "San Francisco Sues Equifax Over Massive Data Breach". KQED. 2017-09-27. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "City of San Francisco Sues Hertz for Deceiving Customers". Money. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Airbnb Settles Lawsuit With Its Hometown, San Francisco". Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "City Attorney Won't Defend San Francisco's 'Money Bail' System". KQED. 2016-11-02. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "SF reaches $60M settlement with Academy of Art University". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Judge hits bad S.F. landlord with extra $400k penalty". SFChronicle.com. 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "California Cities' Settlement With Gun Industry Distributors, Dealers To Include Major Distribution Reforms, Payment - City Attorney of San Francisco". City Attorney of San Francisco. 2003-08-21. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Herrera sues over high-capacity ammo gun 'repair kits' intended to skirt California law - City Attorney of San Francisco". City Attorney of San Francisco. 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Herrera sues gun suppliers flouting state law with high-capacity ammo "repair kits" - City Attorney of San Francisco". City Attorney of San Francisco. 2017-02-09. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "City Attorney Dennis Herrera sues to block closure of City College". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "City College assured of protections, open process in 'tough and thorough' final injunction - City Attorney of San Francisco". City Attorney of San Francisco. 2015-02-17. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "SF wins $4.4 million settlement with for-profit art school". SFGate. 2014-06-17. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Herrera sues Blue Cross, Health Net for underpaying SFGH for emergency services - City Attorney of San Francisco". City Attorney of San Francisco. 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Herrera Sues Skyline Realty, CitiApartments for Egregious Pattern of Illegal Business Practices - City Attorney of San Francisco". City Attorney of San Francisco. 2006-08-16. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "CitiApartments owner must pay big or leave San Francisco business". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "San Francisco to probe allegations of Nevada 'patient dumping'". The Sacramento Bee. 2013-04-23. ISSN 0890-5738. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Weekly, Albert Samaha, SF. "Herrera investigating extent of 'patient dumping' from Nevada". The San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "S.F., Nevada reach tentative settlement in patient-dumping case". SFGate. 2015-10-05. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Liptak, Adam. "San Francisco's Role in Opposing Gay Marriage Ban Led Way to Supreme Court". Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera Sues to Invalidate Prop. 8". SFist. Archived from the original on 2009-11-14. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Herrera Sues Storefront 'Payday Lenders' for Illegal Business Practices, Deceptive Marketing - City Attorney of San Francisco". City Attorney of San Francisco. 2007-04-26. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Payday Loan Borrowers Eligible for Refunds". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Healthy San Francisco clears last legal hurdle". SFGate. 2010-06-29. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Restaurateurs settle over health surcharge". SFGate. 2013-05-08. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "S.F. sues credit card service, alleging bias". SFGate. 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Gecker, Jocelyn (February 3, 2021). "San Francisco sues its own school district to reopen classes". ABC News. AP News.
- Rasmus, Allie (2021-02-03). "City of San Francisco sues its own school district to force classrooms to open". KTVU FOX 2. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
- Li, David K.; Gostanian, Ali; Farivar, Cyrus (February 3, 2021). "San Francisco sues its own school district, demands restart of in-person instruction". NBC News. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
- Knight, Heather (2021-02-03). "San Francisco sues its own school district, board over reopening: 'They have earned an F'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
- Whiting, Sam (12 February 2009). "Catching Up With ... Dennis Herrera". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- Buchanan, Wyatt; Marisa Lagos (18 June 2007). "City Attorney moves to remove Ed Jew from office -- seeks permission to sue from AG". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- "The Rachel Maddow Show". NBC News. 5 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- Whiting, Sam (18 April 2004). "Dennis Herrera uses his power of attorney". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- Nevius, C.W. (22 November 2008). "City attorney Herrera has a new mayoral look". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- Kostal, Susan (4 March 2008). "The other man". San Francisco Magazine. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- Keeling, Brock (5 November 2008). "SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera Sues to Invalidate Prop. 8". SFist. Archived from the original on 14 November 2009. Retrieved 2011-06-23.
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