County Counsel Profiles
Deputy County Counsel
Patti Smith came to the Office of the County Counsel in 1994 after 3 years of private practice with area firms specializing in real property and contract litigation.
She is a senior attorney currently assigned to code enforcement litigation and miscellaneous civil litigation cases. In addition to providing general counsel to the Department of Code Enforcement, she has also been assigned to advise the County Fire Department, Department of Mental Health, Public Guardian, Conservatorship Investigation Office, and the County Hospital, Sheriff’s Department, Public Administrator, Department of Public Social Services, Department of Environmental Health, Department of Animal Services, Department of Building & Safety, Transportation Department, Health Services Agency and the Transportation Land Management Agency.
From 1994 – 1996 Patti successfully prosecuted code enforcement cases not only administratively, but also criminally and through civil court proceedings. During that time Patti was involved in the initiation of litigation regarding unpermitted migrant farm worker housing and successfully handled not only the legal issues, but also negotiated the ethical and political complexities involved with the displacement of migrant farm workers.
In 1995 Patti successfully obtained the first court-ordered injunction for the demolition of a single family residence in a residential neighborhood deemed a public nuisance by the County of Riverside.
In 1996 Patti was instrumental in creating and implementing a cost recovery protocol for the Code Enforcement Department that recovered $1 million in its first year of implementation and millions of dollars thereafter as reimbursement of public funds for abatement work on private properties.
In 1995 Patti successfully settled a long time legal dispute (COR v. Manco) for the Transportation and Land Management Agency, saving the County thousands of dollars.
While working in the probate section (1997 – 2003) Patti successfully resolved hundreds of complex conservatorship matters and received the praise of opposing counsel and the courts. William C. Katzenstein, a prior County Counsel, wrote: “during her involvement with conservatorship matters she interacted with conservatees and their families with compassion and the goal and belief to do the right thing, not a win/lose position.” Judge Robert Taylor praised her as being an attorney whose integrity the court could rely on and declared her to have “an excellent work ethic and a great dedication to her cases. She knows the law and has great follow-through. Her sincerity and her respect for those she served, for other counsel and for the court, made working with her a true professional pleasure.”
In 1997 Patti drafted a critical interagency MOU which saved the County over $100,000 per year by requiring the courts to use County doctors in lieu of court appointed private doctors for probate evaluations. She was instrumental in solving significant and complex procedural and legal evidentiary/investigative judicial concerns created by a former conservator, Bonnie Cambalik, who was convicted for embezzlement.
In 2001 Patti’s work was pivotal in the criminal investigation and conviction (with 35 year sentence) of prior conservator, Jeffery R. Walker, for elder abuse and related offenses.
In 2003 Patti successfully defended the case of McCray v. COR resulting in a full dismissal of the County without any payment to the plaintiff.
In 2006 Patti’s assistance to the US Attorney General’s Office and Supervisor Roy Wilson was not only instrumental in the successful multi-jurisdictional resolution and closure of a public nuisance posed by a long-term fire caused by an illegal landfill located on the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation, but also played a key role in facilitating political solutions to aid the impacted residents.
In 2007 while successfully managing complex weed abatement cases, Patti negotiated a contract dispute which saved the County $270,000.
In 2009 Patti, in association with other counsel, successfully obtained an opinion from the California Supreme Court in the case of Ste. Marie v. Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District authorizing the County to transfer land to the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District and preserve the purchase price of $4.8 million.
In 2009 Patti obtained the first court order appointing a Receiver for code enforcement cases and has been successfully using this tool since that time, saving the County thousands of dollars for abatement costs.
Patti received her JD Degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law (San Diego) in 1991 and attended Brigham Young University for undergraduate coursework. While in law school she was an editor of the Law Review, received two American Jurisprudence honors and was nominated to be published in “Who’s Who in American College and University Students.”
Patti has instructed dozens of training courses lecturing on legal issues regarding Courtroom and Expert Testimony, Evidentiary Investigation and Report Writing, Police Officer Survival, HIPPA and the State/Federal Constitution for governmental agencies and private groups including the Utah State Police Academy, Riverside County Departments, County Counsel Association and the J. Rueben Clark Law Society.
Trustee of the Temecula Valley Unified School District (1995 -1999). President from 1998-1999.
J. Rueben Clark Law Society; Women-In-Law Section Chair (since 2009)
Boy Scouts of America; volunteer 2000-2004
Special Olympics; volunteer, 1985 – 2008
Patti considers her most significant accomplishment to be her 6 remarkable children.