Justin Reade Sarno


Justin Reade Sarno



(213) 228-0400

Justin Sarno is a partner and certified appellate specialist in the state of California. Only a small number of lawyers are certified by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as Specialists in Appellate Law and even fewer among local government lawyers.

Mr. Sarno defends law enforcement officials, public employees, and public entities across the state of California in a wide range of matters including federal constitutional civil rights, dangerous condition of public property, labor and employment, and complex litigation. Representative clients include the City of Pasadena, City of Santa Ana, City of Arcadia, and County of Los Angeles, among others. Mr. Sarno has briefed and argued innumerable appeals and writs before the California Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and California Court of Appeal.

From 2012-2017, Mr. Sarno was selected by Super Lawyers Magazine and Thompson Reuters as a “Rising Star” in the area of appellate law and municipal defense.

Mr. Sarno has written a novel of historical fiction entitled “The Laureate,” a cycle of Shakespearean sonnets, and numerous feature length screenplays. In addition, Mr. Sarno is an avid photographer, a musician, and tennis enthusiast. He graduated cum laude from UCLA in 2000, obtaining a B.A. degree in English Literature. Mr. Sarno is a proud alumnus of Loyola High School of Los Angeles and is a father of three.

Click here for the detailed requirements for appellate specialists on the State Bar Web site.


B.A., University of California, Los Angeles, 2000
J.D., Southwestern University School of Law, 2003

Court Admissions

United States Supreme Court
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Central District of California
Southern District of California

Significant Outcomes

 JMS Air Conditioning and Appliance Service, Inc. v. Santa Monica Community College District, et al. (B284068) (2019) – Second District, Division 1. A decision certified for publication (2018 WL 6604052 / 2018 Cal.App.LEXIS 1228), in which the Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of petition for writ of administrative mandamus brought by an air conditioning subcontractor on a public works development project at Santa Monica Community College District.  The subcontractor claimed that it was the subject of an improper substitution request pursuant to Public Contracts Code section 4100 et seq.  The case clarified the proper standard of review (i.e., whether a vested right was implicated), the adequacy of due process protections in the hearing process, and who specifically from the “awarding authority” may validly preside over a substitution hearing pursuant to the language of the Code.

 Boyd Allyn Roe v. City of Fountain Valley (G054434) (2018) – Fourth District, Division 3. Affirmed summary judgment in favor of Fountain Valley Police Department and individual officers in use of force case brought under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, as a result of claim preclusion under Heck v. Humphrey (1994) 512 U.S. 477 and Susag v. City of Lake Forest (2002) 94 Cal.App.4th 1401.

 Anyssa Sanchez v. Brawley Elementary School District (16-55892) (2018) – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Affirmed grant of summary judgment in lawsuit brought by student alleging Title IX violations in relation to single incident of peer-on-peer sexual harassment.

 City of Baldwin Park v. Superior Court (BS172837) (2018) – Appellate Division of Superior Court of Los Angeles. Suggestive Palma Notice issued within one day of writ of mandate filing, relative to trial court’s overbroad order of production of peace officer personnel files on Pitchess motion.

 Victor Valley Union High School Dist. v. Superior Court (E066110) (2016) – Fourth District, Division 2. Stay of proceedings instituted following writ petition which argued that trial court fatally misapplied primary assumption of risk standards in the context of interscholastic cheerleading.

Haghnazarian v. City of Glendale (B257501) (2016) – Second District, Division 2. Affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City of Simi Valley, a case alleging a constitutionally defective search and seizure of a residence.

Vance v. Apple Valley Unified Sch. Dist. (E059632) (2015) – Fourth District, Division 1. Affirmed summary judgment in action against school district bus driver relating to allegations of teenage drug overdose following inappropriate sexual relationship with public employee.

Jacobson v. Palmdale School District (B239582) (2013) – Second District, Division 4. Obtained reversal of trial court’s denial of Anti-SLAPP special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. Drafted appellate brief and presented oral argument before the Court of Appeal.

Wattar v. Palmdale School District (B242050) (2013) – Second District, Division 7. Affirmed sustaining of demurrer to Second Amended Complaint, due to failed compliance with California Tort Claims Act (Gov. Code, § 910, et seq.)

Kreitenberg v. Los Alamitos Unified School District (G043933) (2012) – Fourth District, Division 3. Holding that parents do not have standing under the Unruh Civil Rights Act to recover tuition costs incurred as a result of voluntarily transferring son from public school to private school in light of allegations that son was subject to environmental discrimination.

Robert White, et al. v. City of Santa Ana (G045757) (2012) – Fourth District, Division 3. Affirming the trial court’s grant of a special motion to strike (Anti-SLAPP) in favor of City of Santa Ana in class action litigation, involving allegations that the City of Santa Ana and City Manager failed to comply with notice provisions of Vehicle Code § 21455.5, regarding its municipal red light traffic camera program.

Lindsay v. Kiernan (09-55652) (2010) – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Affirming entry of summary judgment on behalf of peace officer accused of excessive force through use of X26 taser, on grounds that force applied was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

McDonald v. Antelope Valley Community College District (S153964) (2008) – California Supreme Court. Analysis of equitable tolling doctrine in the context of a litigant’s pursuit and then abandonment of an internal grievance procedure with the Community College Chancellor’s Office, pursuant to the California Code of Regulations.

Carrillo v. City of Baldwin Park (B199425) (2007) – Second District, Division 3. Palma notice issued by California Court of Appeal following successful filing of writ petition relative to trial court’s misapplication of peace officer use of force standards in the State of California; induced settlement in excessive force matter involving clerk of the Superior Court and traffic stop initiated by peace officers from City of Baldwin Park.

Aderele v. City of Culver City (B188656) (2006) – Second District, Division 3. Palma notice issued by California Court of Appeal following successful filing of writ petition relative to trial court’s misapplication of peace officer use of force standards in the State of California; induced settlement in wrongful death matter involving police officer related shooting of mentally ill suspect.

Leadership, Membership & Honors

In August 2018, Mr. Sarno was formally certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California in Appellate Law.

Mr. Sarno has been selected by Super Lawyers, Rising Stars from 2012-2017.