Scott C. Smith


Tel: (949) 263-6561


At a Glance

Scott provides guidance on First Amendment issues to public and private clients.

He serves as city attorney for the cities of San Clemente and Aliso Viejo and general counsel to the Santa Margarita Water District and the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission.

Scott helps local government agencies navigate election and campaign laws.


Best Best & Krieger LLP Partner Scott C. Smith advises public and private clients on issues of state and local regulatory and land use law, including advice on critical issues relating to the First and Fifth Amendments, development and environmental law and municipal law. Scott’s career in public law at BB&K began immediately after law school graduation.
City Attorney and General & Special Counsel
Scott’s principal clients include the cities of San Clemente and Aliso Viejo, where he serves as contract city attorney. He also served as city attorney in Lake Forest, Santee, La Verne and Big Bear Lake. He is general counsel to the Santa Margarita Water District and Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission. He advises public and private clients on issues of land use regulation, public-private partnerships and the California Coastal Act. He regularly presents ethics training to public officials.
First Amendment, Election and Constitutional Law
Scott’s work includes providing regular legal guidance on issues surrounding First Amendment, election and campaign laws. He is also well-versed in helping public agencies navigate emerging legal trends relating to protected speech, social media, public records and privacy.
Scott is often called upon to provide advocacy and litigation support to clients on Constitutional issues relating to the use of public spaces, including free speech on public websites, political speech in public forums and camping and homelessness in public spaces.
Land Use and Development
Scott enjoys working on complex real estate and regulatory matters, usually for public agencies. He coordinates BB&K’s service teams to acquire and consolidate real estate, review environmental impacts, obtain state and federal permits and licenses, assure water availability and meet affordable housing goals. His approach is to work collaboratively and constructively as he coordinates these firm resources for clients. His municipal, land use and environmental law practice includes work on large-scale entitlement and development agreements, growth management initiatives, project permitting, local agency formation (LAFCO) and land use initiatives. The Los Angeles Daily Journal named Scott one of California’s top 25 land use attorneys.
He also served as a land use and environmental law instructor for the University of California, San Diego Extension and University of California, Los Angeles Extension courses.
Scott has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the California State Bar Association’s and California Lawyers Association’s Public Law Section, where he served as co-editor in chief of the State Bar’s Public Law Journal. Scott served for 10 years as general counsel to the California Chapter of the American Planning Association. He was president of the Orange County City Attorneys Association in 2016.
Scott began his practice in the firm’s Municipal Law practice group in the Riverside, then moved to San Diego to serve as the firm’s first office managing partner there. He served for 9 years on the Solana Beach School District Board of Trustees. He was a founding partner of the firm’s Orange County office in 2001. He served two terms on the firm’s five-member Executive Committee.

Some of Scott’s most significant projects include:

  • Land use regulation – advise clients on regulation of sensitive land uses, including vacation rentals, sober living homes, public camping and retail marijuana dispensaries. Work on various general plans and housing element certifications.
  • Election law – special counsel to Los Angeles County in developing special legislation and County enactments for a special tax to address homelessness. He also advises the firm’s city clients on issues relating to growth management initiatives.
  • Local agency formation – representation of Orange County LAFCO in review of several cityhood applications and pre-annexation/development agreements for Newport Coast (Newport Beach), Talega (San Clemente), Tonner Hills (Brea), Bolsa Chica and Sunset Beach (Huntington Beach).
  • Retail and commercial uses – work to assist clients on retention of retail uses and revitalization of aging commercial centers.
  • Master plans and development agreements – work with the City of Lake Forest to prepare, negotiate and finalize development agreements for the Opportunities Study, a comprehensive planning process to rezone nearly 838 acres to create and vest residential, retail, commercial, school, government and park uses, with landowner/developers providing approximately $200 million in city facilities.

He lives in San Clemente where he and his wife, Wendy, raised their three sons and a daughter.

  • Brigham Young University Law School, J.D.
  • Utah State University, B.A., political science, valedictorian


  • Best Lawyers in America®, Land Use and Zoning Law and Municipal Law, 2019​-2021
  • Daily Journal Top 50 Land Use Attorneys in California, 2014 


  • California
Election Law Resource Center

Election Law Resource Center

BB&K’s Election Law Resource Center gives California cities the Vote of Confidence they need to ensure legal compliance with all aspects of local elections. This unique service includes:

  • A digital copy of BB&K’s Election Law Toolkit
  • ​Email and telephone hotline

Legal Alerts Dec 02, 2020

During a Pandemic, is a Grocery Store Run the Same as a Baptism Under the 1st Amendment?

SCOTUS Sets Aside New York Limits on Religious Gatherings

Legal Alerts Sep 23, 2020

Two Courts Offer Election Guidance: Slow-Walking Ballots is Unconstitutional

Mail-In and Absentee Ballots Debated in COVID-19 Pandemic and Election Day Overlap

Legal Alerts Sep 17, 2020

An Extraordinary Smackdown of an Ordinary Sign Ordinance

Court Invalidates Common Sign Ordinance on First Amendment Grounds

Legal Alerts Aug 13, 2020

Challenge to Prop 15: Courts Don’t Mess with Initiatives (or AGs Who Summarize Them)

Swift Decision Rejects Ballot Language Opposition

Authored Articles & Publications May 21, 2020

Face Masks, Temperature Screenings and Privacy Rights: Re-Opening Public Agencies During COVID-19

Part 2 in a PublicCEO Series

Authored Articles & Publications May 13, 2020

The Clash Between Emergency Powers and Individual Rights During COVID-19 Pandemic

Part 1 in a PublicCEO Series

Legal Alerts Apr 29, 2020

COVID-19 Safety Orders v. the First Amendment

A California Federal Court Weighs-In on Religious Group’s Challenge

Authored Articles & Publications Oct 02, 2019

Best in Law: Political Speech Restrictions

Business’ First Amendment Rights and Government Participation

Legal Alerts Jul 16, 2019

President Trump Can’t Block Twitter Users, U.S. Appellate Court Rules

The court concluded its opinion with an observation that at this time in history, “wide-open, robust debate” is the best assurance of good government

Legal Alerts Aug 07, 2018

Ninth Circuit: No “Amen” to School Board Invocation

Prayers Violated First Amendment

Legal Alerts Jun 29, 2018

Colorado Cake Bias Case Holds Lessons for Public Agencies

U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Shows Importance of Eliminating Bias from Administrative Claim Process

Legal Alerts Nov 08, 2016

Billboard Regulations: Cities and Counties

No State Preemption of Local Billboard Regulations, California Appellate Court Finds

  • “Cash Crop: Local Government Taxation of Marijuana Business," State Bar of California Public Law Journal, winter 2017
  • “Public Officials and Agencies: To Campaign or Not to Campaign?,” BBKnowledge, Sept. 8, 2014
  • “Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Initiative Disclosure Requirement,” BBKnowledge, June 26, 2014
  • “Supreme Court Invalidates Federal Aggregate Limit on Campaign Contributions,” BBKnowledge, April 2, 2014
  • “[Video] Ethics Laws and the Importance of Transparency for Public Officials,” BBKnowledge, Jan. 2, 2014
  • “Prop. 8 Ruling Complicates Process For California Initiative Proponents,” BB&K Legal Alert, July 8, 2013
  • “Ninth Circuit Upholds Opening Prayers at City Council Meetings,” BB&K Legal Alert, April 1, 2013
  • “FPPC Approves Amendment Clarifying Appointments to Paid Positions,” BB&K Legal Alert, March 16, 2012
  • “Court of Appeal Reverses Lower Court Decision to Close Medical Marijuana Stores in Lake Forest,” BB&K Legal Alert, March 1, 2012


  • “Fight Between Rehab Facilities and Cities Felt Across Orange County,” Orange County Register, Oct. 22, 2015

Contact Scott C. Smith

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