Bill Vernon headshot
CEO’s note
by Vernon M. Billy
Legal Services provides members with affordable, complementary legal services

he path of public education in the United States has been shaped, in part, by landmark legal cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, Lemon v. Kurtzman and Plyler v. Doe. Closer to home, Mendez v. Westminster and Serrano v. Priest have made an enduring impact on California’s school system. So, while litigation is never the first option for the change our schools desire, it is a powerful last resort.

For three decades, CSBA’s Education Legal Alliance has been the leader in supporting districts and county offices of education on important statewide legal issues. The ELA is a consortium of school districts, county offices of education and regional occupational programs that have united to pursue and defend public education interests before state and federal courts, state agencies and the Legislature. The ELA has repeatedly demonstrated the important role that legal advocacy plays in strengthening schools and supporting improved student outcomes by taking on precedent-setting cases that impact, among other things, student learning, governing board authority and the financial management of schools statewide.

The ELA’s success has prompted many CSBA members to ask for assistance on more routine, yet vitally important matters that impact governance, student achievement, the conditions of children and district finances.

We considered how we could fill this need — with deliberations resulting in the creation of CSBA’s District and County Office of Education Legal Services, which we proudly launched in August 2021. Now, for a subscription fee, district and COE decision-makers, including each trustee and the superintendent, may seek legal advice from one of CSBA Legal Services’ staff attorneys. Even districts with in-house counsel can greatly benefit from this new service, whether it’s by consulting with our experienced attorneys or utilizing them when an independent investigation is required.

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Visit the new Legal Services website at:
What can Legal Services do for you?
Our new Legal Services department builds on the successful work of the ELA by allowing CSBA to establish an attorney–client relationship with our members and provide them with legal advice — something they ask for every day. Legal Services continues ELA’s legacy of advocacy but extends it to the local level by providing effective legal representation for individual districts.

Our Legal Services attorneys can provide research assistance on district- or county-specific legal issues; respond to questions that require the preparation of memoranda or legal opinion; conduct discreet investigations; and evaluate discrimination, sexual harassment and conflict of interest claims. Our attorneys are also well-equipped for administrative agency proceedings and to provide assistance or representation in matters pending before various state agencies involving general and special education matters, special education compliance complaints, professional licensure issues and unfair labor practice complaints.

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Keep your existing law firm but avoid conflicts
The value for LEAs that do not employ a general counsel is obvious. But Legal Services also offers a great value to those with in-house counsel or that employ an existing education law firm. By subscribing to CSBA’s Legal Services, we can help your attorneys and your agency avoid professional or ethical conflicts when critical legal issues arise. For local school districts and COEs that have in-house general counsel, Legal Services offers expert-level consultation on a variety of legal topics to ensure that member LEAs receive high-quality advice and representation. Our attorneys also provide temporary on-call attorney coverage for board meetings and other matters when the LEA’s general counsel is unavailable due to vacation, illness or an emergency.

We recognize that, despite best efforts, actual or potential conflicts can arise. Ethical rules requiring attorneys to steer clear of even the appearance of impropriety may preclude regular counsel from handling a particular matter. When these situations arise, CSBA’s Legal Services is ready to step in.

Additionally, in situations such as employee discipline hearings, student grade changes or expulsion hearings, due process requirements can require that the prosecution role be handled by an attorney who is separate and independent from the attorney serving as the hearing officer or advisor to the school board. CSBA Legal Services attorneys are available as outside counsel for these roles.

Our Legal Services attorneys can provide research assistance on district- or county-specific legal issues; respond to questions that require the preparation of memoranda or legal opinion; conduct discreet investigations; and evaluate discrimination, sexual harassment and conflict of interest claims.
Legal Services also hosts a variety of learning events such as webinars, specially designed seminars and in-service training on proper procedures, as well as liability avoidance strategies in areas such as student discipline, personnel actions, weapons and school security, sexual harassment prevention, special education and complaint handling, premises safety, equal opportunity, the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar law-related topics. Subscribing members will also have unprecedented access to a library of resources that includes a searchable repository of collective bargaining agreements and salary schedules from throughout the state. This searchable database is the first of its kind and will be a valuable tool when our members are at the bargaining table.

The areas in which CSBA Legal Services can assist are as varied as the legal obstacles that LEAs face — and those challenges have never been more significant.

LEAs are now confronted by more uncertainty, more potential liability, more complicated stakeholder relations and a more highly charged atmosphere than at any period in history. This is not the time to take chances or to compromise on your legal representation. With CSBA Legal Services, you won’t have to, and you can do it at an extremely affordable rate.

Please visit the new Legal Services website at to learn more about this new member service.

Vernon M. Billy initials signature