Affirmative Litigation


The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office’s affirmative litigation program pursues public interest cases under California’s Unfair Competition Law. These cases are funded virtually exclusively by civil recoveries — not taxpayer dollars. The award-winning program, for which the National Association of Consumer Advocates recognized Dennis Herrera as its 2009 Consumer Attorney of the Year, reflects voter-enacted changes to California law that require civil penalties recovered by public prosecutors to be used to enforce consumer protection laws. Since voters passed the amendments as part of Proposition 64 in 2004, our office has successfully challenged unlawful business practices that include price-fixing, illegal marketing, credit card collections arbitration scams and more.

The unit has won equally important industry changes to protect consumer privacy, reformed discriminatory practices in health insurance and media metrics, shuttered an unlawful immigration law practice, halted predatory evictions, ended fraudulent product marketing, and recovered wages and benefits for victims of wage theft. As part of this work, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office launched a pioneering partnership with Yale Law School, called the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project, that pairs law students with lawyers from across the office who are working on complex affirmative litigation matters.

Affirmative Litigation Guidebook

In April 2019 City Attorney Dennis Herrera released “Local Action, National Impact: A Practical Guide to Affirmative Litigation for Local Governments,” a guidebook created in partnership with Public Rights Project, Justice Catalyst and the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project at Yale Law School. 

The guidebook draws from the partnership between the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office and Yale Law School, as well as from successful case studies across the country on issues like fair housing, predatory lending, and LGBT rights. The guide offers a roadmap and concrete tips for local governments on how they can start and build an affirmative litigation practice. Read the full guidebook below: