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Berding & Weil Attorneys Win Prestigious Daily Journal CLAY Award

Published: April 2023

Berding & Weil LLP celebrates Daniel Rottinghaus, Howard Silldorf, Theresa Filicia, and Carlotta Kirby for the 2023 California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) Award honoring their fight for justice on behalf of homeowners against the city of San Diego for water rate overcharging and achieving the Top Plaintiff Case List from the Daily Journal.

The Daily Journal recognized Berding & Weil lawyers Daniel Rottinghaus, Theresa Filicia, Carlotta Kirby, and Howard Silldorf, along with their co-counsel, Andre Mura, Steven Tindall, Kyla Gibboney, and Zeke Wald at the Gibbs Law Group in Oakland on their Top Plaintiff Case List for their $79.5 million trial verdict against the City of San Diego's water agency. This comes on the heels of being granted the much-coveted California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) award for protecting the constitutional rights of residential homeowners and achieving this verdict.

The lawsuit charged the City of San Diego's water agency with violating the California Constitution and discriminating against single family residential customers by charging them tiered water rates that are disproportionate to the City's cost of delivering water to the residential customer. Water rates that exceed the cost of delivery operate as tax.  Public water agencies are constitutionally barred from imposing such taxes unilaterally without voter approval. The application of the unconstitutional billing practice denied all residents of San Diego County a right to vote on the practice and disparately caused residential customers to pay more for water services than it cost the City to deliver the water to the residential customer's parcel.   After several years of litigation, the Court rendered its trial judgment ordering the City of San Diego to refund overcharged customers and to begin using rates that are compliant with the California Constitution.

While the City of San Diego has elected to appeal the verdict, the amount it owes to customers continues to grow by hundreds of thousands of dollars per month, and the efforts of these lawyers has revealed a government policy that taxes without appropriate representation. The appeal is not expected to be decided until Spring of 2024.

The CLAY Awards are conferred by the Daily Journal, one of the foremost legal publications in the United States. The CLAY Awards recognize lawyers throughout California whose achievements “have a significant impact on the law, the legal profession, a particular industry, or the community.” The nomination process is highly competitive and CLAY Awards are considered among the most prestigious awards for practicing lawyers in California.

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