Daniel K. Ohl has served as an Of Counsel Attorney with Silver & Wright LLP for three years. Prior to his work with the firm, Daniel served as the Deputy City Attorney of the City of Huntington Beach, and Deputy City Attorney for the City of Newport Beach. His extensive experience in municipal law and the inner working of government agencies make him a tremendous asset to the team at S&W.
Continue reading for more about Daniel, his background, and what he sees for the future of code enforcement law.
What is your background?
After finishing law school at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, I began working for a private firm in Oakland doing insurance defense litigation for large entities regarding exposure to asbestos and chemical contamination. Eventually, I made the switch to working with public entities, particularly school districts, and spent time representing Long Beach Unified and Huntington Beach Unified School Districts when they were sued.
I enjoyed the work for its variety and the fact that it felt like you were really making an impact when you work with these public agencies. From there, I moved onto a small firm that represented police officers in administrative and civil litigation situations in state and federal court. This gave me an entirely new experience in terms of the kind of work and exposure to media that came with working and representing police officers. I then made my way to the City of Newport Beach and then the City of Huntington Beach as a Deputy City Attorney where I was exposed to all of the areas public entities provide services to the public. In that position, I worked on a number of different matters on a day to day basis and I become a resource for a wide variety of issues and topics.
Overall, I have over 37 years of legal experience in a broad range of practice areas. All of it has helped prepare me for my current work with Silver & Wright.
What are your current practice areas?
I handle all things relating to code enforcement and housing enforcement, including criminal prosecutions and administrative hearings and processes. I am also involved in civil code enforcement issues and with receivership matters–specialized areas of law in which Silver & Wright is a statewide expert.
How has your work as a City Attorney helped you in your work with Silver & Wright?
It has helped tremendously in that a large percentage of what I handled in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach was related to code enforcement issues. There is also a different way that cities have to operate, and a certain level of sensitivity and tact that must be employed. My experience working in those cities has helped me learn the ins and outs of how cities operate and taught me how to get things done in creative ways. At Silver & Wright I have learned that each city is unique and being successful for them is a cooperative effort.
What was it about Silver & Wright that made you want to come work for the firm?
I have known one of our founding partners, Matt Silver, for quite a while. His father is a former City Manager, and I knew of Matt and his great reputation. I met Matt during my time as a Deputy City Attorney in Huntington Beach and had always admired and respected him. When he approached me to come and join the firm, I decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. It was much of the same type of work that I knew and was experienced in so I could help the firm grow and succeed, but I would also be getting exposed to receiverships which was an exciting area. It was a great fit all around.
What is unique about working with cities as opposed to non-municipal clients?
The biggest difference is that with cities there may be several different departments directly affected by what is proposed or done on any given issue. Their interests and concerns need to be addressed and respected. For instance, if we are assigned to a case involving code enforcement, there are likely going to be other departments involved, whether it is Police, Fire, or Zoning. So there is a likelihood that you will have the opportunity to work with, and learn from, members of different departments in different jurisdictions. There can be many different interests and concerns to address, which can make things complicated, and which makes it that much more satisfying when a good result is achieved.
Do you foresee any new challenges in your field in the near future?
We are seeing situations where the receivership process is not being well received by some judges, for one reason or another. The receivership process can be a very valuable tool for cities to address long-standing and serious code violations that have plagued communities for years. Some owners complain the process deprives them of the ability to manage their property. However, the receivership process actually benefits cities and residents when it is done well, and those owners have the opportunity to be involved every step of the way.
A reasonable option is to help ensure that the court appoints responsible receivers who are analytical in their approach, thorough in their property evaluations, and seek timely instructions from the court. If they get court approval for each step of the process and track their progress, it is much more likely to be a successful outcome for all concerned.