Michael S. Sorgen is a 1967 cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and has a B.A. (magna cum laude) from Brown University. He is admitted to the bars of California, District of Columbia, and the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, Mr. Sorgen is counsel of record in a significant health care case, enjoining California’s cuts in Medicaid payment rates, Douglas v. Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, 132 S. Ct. 1204 (2012). The case was argued October 3, 2011 and resolved in our favor 5-4 and remanded to the 9th Circuit on March 26, 2012.
Mr. Sorgen began his legal career at San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Aid Foundation where he engaged in poverty law reform and won numerous precedent setting cases involving the rights of children. These include Scott v. Mayer, N.D. Cal. Civil No. C-70 441 GSL (1970) where the federal court enforced the right to counsel for indigent juveniles and required the San Francisco Juvenile Court to establish and fund a fulltime Public Defender office there; Charles S. v. Board of Education (1971) 20 Cal.App.3d 83 and Wong v. Hayakawa, 464 F.2d 1282 (9th Cir. 1972) which refined due process rights for students in school disciplinary proceedings; T.N.G. v. Superior Court (1970) 4 Cal.3d 767, where the California Supreme Court vindicated the rights of minors to have their juvenile court records sealed; and In Re William M. (1970) 3 Cal.3d 16 granting a right to pretrial release in lieu of bail and Gonzalez v. Maillard, N.C. Cal. Civil No. 50424 (1972), which invalidated a vagrancy statute for juveniles as a violation of due process.
From 1971 to 1976, he was a fulltime adjunct professor of law at Hastings College of the Law, where he was responsible for the Civil Litigation Clinic and taught courses in education law, juvenile justice and children’s rights. He was the originating attorney in Larry P. v. Riles, 502 F.2d 963 (9th Cir. 1974), affirming a state-wide injunction against the use of I.Q. tests for placing AfricanAmerican children in classes for the mentally retarded and awarding attorneys’ fees.
He served as General Counsel to the Oakland Unified School District from 1976 through 1980 and taught education law clinics at UC Berkeley and Golden Gate University. He directly represented the School District in significant litigation involving intergovernmental financing (challenging Prop 13), authority, and education accountability, including a defense of its affirmative action setaside for school construction, Schmidt & Pollard v. Oakland Unified School District, 662 F.2d 550 (9th Circuit, cert. denied 1981). He also defended the School District successfully in numerous employment cases, including those alleging disability, gender or race discrimination.
Mr. Sorgen taught civil procedure and education law as a visiting professor at Whittier Law School, 1982 to1983; served twice as Fulbright Professor of Law, first at Université de Nice, France, 1980 to 1981, and then at Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia, 1985 to 1986, teaching comparative constitutional law and human rights in French and Spanish, respectively. Thereafter and through the present, he has participated in international conferences, working groups and litigation on human rights issues throughout the world.
Since beginning his private practice in 1986, notable successes include Wells v. One2One Learning Foundation (2006) 39 Cal 4th 1164, where the California Supreme Court authorized proceeding as private attorneys general under the False Claims Act to curb sham practices by “charter schools” engaged in “distant learning” for homeeducated children throughout the state; (Wells settled in 2010 for $250,000). The Children’s Hospital cases reforming California’s system of Medicaid reimbursement, forcing the state to repay millions of dollars to the plaintiff hospitals and preventing interstate commerce discrimination. In affirming the attorneys’ fee award in Children’s Hospital v. Bonta (2002) 97 Cal. App. 4th 740 the Court of Appeals recognized that attorney Sorgen had been “lead counsel in numerous class actions and other precedent setting cases in federal and state courts” and had taught for years at various law schools. Thus the court found counsel to be “highly competent.” Id. at 782.
Author: State, School & Family; CEB, California Civil Writ Practice
Member: National Employment Lawyers Association, Human Rights Advocates, National Lawyers Guild, Employment and International Human Rights Committees of the Bar Association of San Francisco, Litigation and Employment sections of State Bar of California.