Rebecca R. A. Smith

Counsel

Clients facing challenging, sensitive, or complex water law issues rely on Rebecca Smith’s expertise to best map their path.

Rebecca provides thoughtful, careful guidance to both public agencies and private sector clients on water rights, groundwater management issues, and environmental compliance, among other topics.

Rebecca counsels both public and private sector clients on water rights, water supply, land use and development, and environmental compliance under state and federal law. She provides sophisticated, client-centric advice on water rights, groundwater management, and CEQA/NEPA compliance. She provides cutting-edge expertise in groundwater law, and devotes significant time in her practice helping clients to understand their emerging issues, obligations, and opportunities under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  Rebecca is well-versed in administrative procedure, and counsels clients through the permitting and appeals processes at the State Water Resources Control Board, through local agency appeals, and before federal agencies including the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Rebecca is proactive in building creative, efficient solutions for her clients. A thoughtful and collaborative general counsel, Rebecca has special expertise counseling clients on California Public Records Act (PRA) issues, state and local elections, Brown Act compliance, assessment and fee practices, FPPC compliance, petitions for writs of mandate, and other matters of special concern to public agencies.

Rebecca is active both in the firm’s Water Law practice and in its well-reputed Food and Ag practice. Because of joint involvement in these complementary practice areas, Rebecca lends a special understanding of food production and agricultural legal issues to her water law practice.


Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • Water Education Foundation, Board Member, 2019-present
  • Water Education Foundation Water Leaders Fellowship, Class of 2018
  • Center for Land-Based Learning, Board Member, 2018-present
  • Sutter Davis Hospital Foundation, Board Member, 2018-present
  • “Lawyers in the Library” Pro Bono Project, Sacramento County Public Law Library, Volunteer, 2011-present
  • Association of Women in Water, Energy and the Environment
  • Groundwater Resources Association
  • American Bar Association, 2010-present
  • American Agricultural Law Association, 2012-present
  • Sacramento County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section, 2010-present
  • Davis Chamber of Commerce
  • U.C. Davis Block CA Society, 2010-present
  • Notre Dame Public Defender Program, South Bend Juvenile Justice Center, Student Attorney, 2009-2010

Honors & Rankings

  • Advisor, California Water Law Journal, 2013-present
  • Editor-in-Chief, Journal of College and University Law, 2009-2010
  • Staff Writer, Journal of College and University Law, 2008-2010
  • Judicial Extern,  Honorable William M. Skretny, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, 2008
  • Counsel clients on claims of riparian and pre-1914 water rights, investigate water rights, and advise clients in interactions with the State Water Resources Control Board.
  • Delaware Tetra Technologies, Inc. v. County of San Bernardino; Center for Biological Diversity v. County of San Bernardino. Representing County in defense of six coordinated actions challenging the Cadiz Groundwater Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project under CEQA and the County’s Desert Groundwater Management Ordinance. Prevailed at trial on all claims in all six actions.
  • Prepare motion for summary judgment for community services district relating to a claim for tax refund, resulting in a $2 million judgment for client.
  • Draft legislation protecting landowner voting structure of irrigation district, and interface with legislative staffers to ensure the bill’s passage.
  • Counsel joint powers authority on matters relating to authority’s powers and obligations under the California Joint Powers Authority Act, and provide advice regarding the restructuring of that authority.
  • Prepare election materials and provide legal guidance regarding election procedures for numerous public agency clients, including California Water Districts, Reclamation Districts, Irrigation Districts, and Community Services Districts. During particularly contentious elections, provide valuable on-site legal advice regarding election challenges and voting procedures.
  • Counsel clients on issues relating to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation water contracts, water allocation and shortage policies, and compliance with federal Reclamation law.
  • Perform detailed CEQA analysis for private developer in connection with permit applications related to second phase of ongoing development project.
  • Counsel farming and winery clients on land acquisition matters, including easements, title restrictions, water rights, and development restrictions.
  • Assist clients in developing and evaluating water supply assessments and developing water supply policies, for future development and current needs.
  • Counsel public agency client through an election to change the rates and methods of apportionment of a special tax under the California Elections Code and the Mello Roos Act.
  • Extensive experience responding to, drafting, and challenging requests for public records under the California Public Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Represent municipality in large-scale CEQA and groundwater litigation.
  • Prepare and defend comprehensive administration record in advance of litigation.

Press Releases

2 related items

Speaking Engagements / Events

16 related items

Blogs

2 related items

Legal Alerts

9 related items

Publications

8 related items

Born into a family of veterinarians and a lifelong California native, Rebecca has a deep appreciation for the land, history, and agriculture of California. Rebecca also understands the importance of tenacity and hard work to success: As an undersized freshman, Rebecca fought her way to a spot on UC Davis’s 2003 Division II National Championship-winning rowing team.

Rebecca is a passionate water lawyer with a close connection to her clients and the people and land they serve.

Prior to her time at Downey Brand, Rebecca attended the University of Notre Dame Law School, where in addition to legal skills, she polished her talents as a member of the Notre Dame Women’s Boxing Team and developed an on-going appreciation for Notre Dame football. Now, when Rebecca is away from the office, you’ll find her back home in California, cheering on the Fighting Irish every fall with a glass of wine in hand.

Rebecca Smith is a leader on the firm’s food safety compliance team. She has particular expertise in the Food Safety Modernization Act, and has written and presented in great depth on the legal issues presented by that federal law.  In connection with this expertise, Rebecca counsels farming, food processing, and wine clients on recalls, supply contracts, and food safety regulatory compliance.

Rebecca participates both in the Food and Ag Practice and in the firm’s well-reputed Water Law practice. With these complimentary skill sets, Rebecca frequently advises clients in the farming, wine, and alcoholic beverage industries on land acquisition matters and water supply issues, in addition to food safety compliance matters.  These clients also benefit from Rebecca’s experience in reviewing and drafting supply and service contracts, negotiating leases and easements, and in ensuring compliance with state and federal contract and bidding rules.

Rebecca is in demand as a public speaker and author, and regularly gives presentations on food safety compliance, land use issues, and public agency law to clients and industry groups.


Experience

  • Advise winery on new compliance issues raised by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and identify best practices for distribution of pumice, tasting room management, and restaurant garden management.
  • Counsel clients on food safety compliance, including food safety protocols required by state and federal law and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance.
  • Assist wine and alcoholic beverage distributor in negotiating distribution agreements and expanding supply network, including

Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • Water Education Foundation, Board Member, 2019-present
  • Water Education Foundation Water Leaders Fellowship, Class of 2018
  • Center for Land-Based Learning, Board Member, 2018-present
  • Sutter Davis Hospital Foundation, Board Member, 2018-present
  • “Lawyers in the Library” Pro Bono Project, Sacramento County Public Law Library, Volunteer, 2011-present
  • Association of Women in Water, Energy and the Environment
  • Groundwater Resources Association
  • American Bar Association, 2010-present
  • American Agricultural Law Association, 2012-present
  • Sacramento County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section, 2010-present
  • Davis Chamber of Commerce
  • U.C. Davis Block CA Society, 2010-present
  • Notre Dame Public Defender Program, South Bend Juvenile Justice Center, Student Attorney, 2009-2010

Honors & Rankings

  • Advisor, California Water Law Journal, 2013-present
  • Editor-in-Chief, Journal of College and University Law, 2009-2010
  • Staff Writer, Journal of College and University Law, 2008-2010
  • Judicial Extern,  Honorable William M. Skretny, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, 2008