An Executive Interview with Partner Valerie Escalante Troesh
Valerie Escalante Troesh
Written By Alexandra Applegate
August 21, 2020

Q: What is your background?

I have been representing public entities for over a decade since graduating from Cornell Law School with my Juris Doctorate and L.L.M and before then, my bachelor’s from U.C. Berkeley. I started off my legal career in one of California’s largest municipal law firms representing public agencies in a wide array of legal matters, from suits brought under fair housing, disability, and related laws against city zoning and enforcement efforts, tort and constitutional laws against cities for police services, the Public Records Act, to suits under Federal and State establishment clause claims for City Council invocation processes and more.

Desiring to broaden my scope of expertise, I branched out into private law matters and represented businesses and individuals in high-stakes litigation in State and Federal courts throughout the nation in key legal fields such as partnership and joint venture disputes, slate financing matters, contract and lease litigation, construction defect and product liability actions, annuities and mortgage insurance suits, and legal malpractice.

When I had my first child, it really hit home on what mattered both personally and professionally: our community, and the people in it. Without hesitation, I returned to public-sector law at Silver & Wright LLP to give back and make a difference for our communities in partnership with the public agencies we serve. I’ve built a strong practice here along with Founding Partners Matthew Silver and Curtis Wright, former colleagues of mine while working together representing public agencies in our nascent legal careers.

Q: What are your practice areas?

I represent public agencies in all aspects of code enforcement to aid in our clients’ goals of protecting and bettering their communities while ensuring they meet their legal obligations and reduce their liabilities. I advise on municipal codes; application of State and local nuisance abatement laws and enforcement of same; governmental obligations and liabilities under Federal, State, and local laws; administrative hearings, including legal requirements, case preparation and presentation, and strategies should the appeal result in writs of mandamus proceedings; Public Record Act requests, and more. I manage our clients’ receivership and nuisance abatement litigation. I also defend our public agency clients in administrative appeal hearings and writs of mandamus as well as Federal and State litigation.

Q: Why did you decide to join Silver & Wright as a partner?

Throughout my legal career, the most fulfilling work I experienced was in representing public entities, which began over a decade ago while working together with Curtis Wright and Matthew Silver at the same law firm. After learning more about Silver & Wright’s practices and its growth after its initial founding, the switch back to public law and joining the Silver & Wright team came easy.

I was brought on to ensure we continued to provide exceptional legal services through managing key clients and matters as well as mentoring and supervising our attorneys and staff who service our clients’ legal needs. After three years in this capacity, partnership was the next logical step to formalize my role with the firm. I am committed to growing and developing our firm’s relationships with our clients, while guaranteeing the firm produces excellent and strategic work product.

In addition, as a dedicated professional who also is a mother of two young children, the ability to work with the firm and establish an individualized work-life balance that benefits my career growth and for my family has been invaluable.

Q: How does your experience add value for clients?

First, my legal experience is unique and gives me a comprehensive perspective when representing public agencies. Having not only the substantive public law experience, but also the private side experience, I am able to offer clients an additional level of sophistication in analyzing and strategizing their legal issues. For example: my experience with construction defect, commercial lease, and contract disputes has given me an eye for liability issues that arise in determining responsible parties for enforcement efforts; my significant experience with ESI enables me to advise clients of risks and obligations in ESI; my experience with financial institution litigation gives me a firm understanding of actions involving beneficial interest holders aiding our clients who regularly encounter banks and other interest holders in nuisance abatement actions.

Second, having mentored and managed attorneys and staff for a decade makes me well-situated to lead teams of our legal providers that I ensure are knowledgeable about our clients, their needs, and preferences. This translates into more efficient work-product, more exacting work-product, and overall, a tailored legal experience for our clients.

Q: What competitive advantages can Silver & Wright offer to local governments and the businesses with which they partner?

Unlike other law firms that practice municipal law, Silver & Wright has assembled a team of attorneys that have diverse experiences and bring subject matter expertise beyond general municipal law. We have built a team of skilled attorneys—a former prosecutor, a former ecological enforcement attorney, and former city attorneys—who bring the necessary expertise to handle the wide array of legal issues facing our clients in a way other firms cannot. For the clients and matters I oversee, I build effective teams of attorneys and paralegals best positioned to efficiently represent our clients.

Q: What’s a recent project of which you’re particularly proud?

I recently represented a city to obtain relief in court against an extremely substandard, abandoned single-family residential property. The property itself was substantially dangerous—holes in the floor and walls, unpermitted construction, lack of utilities, and trash, garbage, human wastes were throughout the interior. And the exterior was just as bad. The city was forced to continually board up the property after repeated break-ins by illegal squatters who also engaged in illicit drug use. Neighbors complained frequently about the negative impact on them and their families. We set out to help the city alleviate this problem property through a health and safety receivership.

The property was also uniquely plagued with numerous title issues, including a wrongful foreclosure suit, multiple banks claiming an interest in the property and other lien holders. The title owner was also non-responsive.

Despite these challenges, I was able to: locate the owner and obtain his agreement for the receivership; negotiate with the main lien-holder bank its agreement to a receivership and subordination of its financial interests in favor of the receivership’s costs and city’s cost recovery; and negotiate an agreement with lien-holder trust company to give up its interest in favor of the receivership in exchange for its dismissal from the receivership action. We successfully avoided all motion practice in court and fast-tracked the appointment of a receiver, who swiftly moved to take action on the property.

Q: Why is conducting training and speaking engagements important to you and a valuable way to spend your time?

It allows me to give back to the community. By providing expert guidance to code enforcement officers and other public agency staff, it allows me to help public agencies that I may not regularly work with and assist them to more effectively serve their communities. This year alone, I’ve offered training on administrative hearings, the Drug Abatement Act, and emergent technology use in code enforcement in light of COVID-19. I’m also currently preparing to offer an administrative hearing officer training with mock hearing simulation.; as a contract hearing officer and having been before numerous tribunals on the advocacy side, I enjoy providing my expert advice and insight to others to help them serve.

Q: What challenges and new developments do you predict in your field?

Like the rest of the world, public agencies are wrangling with the impacts of COVID-19 on their communities and how to best serve while ensuring the health and safety of all. With the fast pace with which COVID-19 has hit communities, public agencies should be aware of the impacts of the usage of emergent technologies to make informed decisions for their use. Contemporaneous with Covid’s onslaught, I’ve been working with our public agency clients and non-clients in pro bono trainings in how to effectively and strategically engage in code enforcement through the use of emergent technologies. The public enforcement landscape is changing, but with the right tools and informed use, public agencies will continue to safely adapt as COVID-19 continues, and quite possibly, alters the long-term approach to enforcement efforts.

Adding to this, as the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to unfold, there is no doubt that public agencies will face additional challenges in protecting their communities. The economic ripple effects may include an increase in homelessness, blighted and abandoned properties, drug use, criminal activity, and other serious consequences for citizenry. All of this, while public agencies’ budgets may be constrained due to lower tax revenue, less support from State and Federal governments, among other factors. Fortunately, Silver & Wright understands these challenges and takes a holistic and strategic approach to ensure public agencies can preserve and improve their communities during these challenging times.

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