Mr. Harbottle practices in both State and Federal court, as well as in the administrative law settings unique to the practice of Education Law, and he has succeeded on several occasions in ushering in new law in his area. Dan also provides ongoing legal consultation to numerous school districts, and conducts frequent seminars and workshops regarding Education Law. Prior to founding HLG, Dan was the Chairman of the Education Law Practice Group at Rutan & Tucker, LLP, Orange County’s oldest and largest law firm. Mr. Harbottle practiced law with Rutan & Tucker for 18 years, and was an equity partner for his last 11 years there. During his tenure at Rutan, Dan was a primary member of a litigation team successfully defending a large public agency against a lawsuit filed on behalf of over 400 individual plaintiffs. After graduating with his BA and MA Phi Beta Kappa from Purdue University, Dan received his JD Summa Cum Laude from Indiana University, where he also served as an Editor of the Indiana Law Review. Dan also holds a PhD in Educational Foundations which he received from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1995. His dissertation involved application of U.S. Constitutional Law in the context of public education. At Purdue University, Mr. Harbottle taught Biology and American History, and at the University of Michigan, he taught Educational Foundations and Law. Mr. Harbottle has also served as an adjunct Professor of Law at Chapman University School of Law. Mr. Harbottle was previously elected to serve a two-year term on the California Office of Administrative Hearings Advisory Committee, which advises the Office of Administrative Hearings on special education due process and mediation procedures. Mr. Harbottle’s service with the Advisory Committee provided the firm with an enhanced opportunity to serve the special education legal community.
Jennifer Fant, JD, MA, MS
Ms. Fant, prior to co-founding HLG, worked for over a decade as a special education teacher and program specialist in Southern California school districts. Ms. Fant holds Masters degrees in both Clinical Psychology and Special Education, and a law degree from Loyola University. In September 2008, Ms. Fant joined Mr. Harbottle, providing legal representation to Southern California school districts. Prior to joining Dan in legal practice, Jennifer was already well known throughout Southern California school districts for her work as a special education program specialist. Jennifer was instrumental in the founding, development and maintenance of the autism programming in one of Southern California’s largest and most populous school districts. She, along with Mr. Harbottle and other team members, made well-received presentations at the annual ACSA Conference in Monterey, California explaining the fundamentals of this program.
Alefia Mithaiwala, JD, Ed.M.
Ms. Mithaiwala has been an attorney with HLG since January, 2011. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her Master’s Degree in Education, with a focus on Special Education, from Harvard University in 2002. Ms. Mithaiwala then earned her JD from the University of Georgia, cum laude, in 2005. Prior to practicing with HLG, Ms. Mithaiwala practiced special education law for public school district clients for over five years in Missouri and Illinois. Ms. Mithaiwala provides legal consultation and representation to Orange County public school district clients on compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. She also regularly advises clients with respect to revision of their internal policies and procedures relative to pupil services and complaint systems. Ms. Mithaiwala is published in several prominent education journals, magazines, and newsletters, and has conducted numerous trainings and seminars in Orange County and across the United States in the area of disability law.
Tracy Petznick Johnson, JD
Ms. Johnson works with Harbottle Law Group’s client districts from both our San Jose and Irvine offices. In addition to representation in special education matters, she regularly advises clients regarding discrimination claims, compliance complaints, and school discipline. She is also an active contributor to HLG’s federal appellate practice, and often gives pro bono staff development trainings to districts and SELPAs. Notably, Ms. Johnson spearheaded HLG’s successful litigation, in Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District v. Parent, to establish the two year statute of limitations on Independent Educational Evaluation requests in the State of California. Ms. Johnson earned her Bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her JD from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where she earned membership in the Order of the Coif. During law school, she served as an Educational Surrogate for a foster youth with emotional disturbance, represented juveniles in delinquency proceedings, and represented social workers in dependency proceedings. Ms. Johnson was also selected as a Bergstrom Child Welfare Law Fellow with the University of Michigan. Prior to law school, Ms. Johnson worked in grant-making with the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, which funded effective afterschool programming for preteens.
Courtney Brady, JD
Ms. Brady joined HLG in September 2015. Prior to practicing with HLG, Ms. Brady was Deputy General Counsel to the Los Angeles County Office of Education. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from U.C. Santa Barbara and her JD from Chapman University School of Law in 2006. While in law school, Ms. Brady was a judicial extern for the Honorable Terry Hatter in federal district court. Ms. Brady provides legal consultation and representation in the areas of compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, charter schools, Brown Act, student records, student discipline, and complaint procedures. Ms. Brady is well versed in state and federal litigation. Ms. Brady also advises personnel commissions.
Sydney Blaauw, JD
Ms. Blaauw began as an attorney with the Harbottle Law Group in November, 2013. Prior to law school, Sydney earned her Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior with a minor in Women and Gender Studies from the University of California, Davis. Ms. Blaauw then earned her Juris Doctor, with an emphasis in Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, from Chapman University School of Law. Sydney’s practice has primarily focused on the representation of public entities in civil litigation. Currently, she defends school districts in administrative and federal matters arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other statutes, and in state court cases involving tort, breach of contract, and other related claims. Prior to becoming an attorney, Ms. Blaauw clerked for the General Counsel of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District and held several positions as a mentor and peer advisor to undergraduate and graduate students.
Lindsay Steinmetz, JD
Ms. Steinmetz joined HLG in October, 2016. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Chapman University, cum laude, in 2008. In 2012, Ms. Steinmetz earned her J.D., cum laude, and Certificate in Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, from Chapman University School of Law. Prior to becoming an attorney, Ms. Steinmetz worked as an ABA-trained behavior therapist for children with autism and as a program leader in a non-profit after school program designed to improve educational outcomes for at-risk and low income youth. During law school, Ms. Steinmetz was an active member of the Public Interest Law Foundation and dedicated her time to public interest endeavors and children’s law, earning multiple prestigious public interest scholarships and awards including the Segal Americorps Education Award, Lee Memorial Scholarship for Public Interest, and Commitment to Service Award. Prior to joining HLG, Ms. Steinmetz practiced education law and provided legal consultation and representation to public school district clients in the areas of student records, student discipline, complaint procedure, charter schools, and the Brown Act.
Tilman Heyer, JD
Mr. Heyer joined HLG in August 2016. Tilman first began working in special education as a disability aide for school-aged children in his hometown of Davis, California. Prior to law school, Tilman earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from UC Santa Barbara with a double major in Political Science and German, and served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in Political Science. Tilman then earned his Juris Doctor from the UC Irvine School of Law in 2016. During law school, Tilman clerked for the General Counsel of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District and was the Student Leader of the UCI Law Education Rights Project. In addition to his extracurricular involvement in education law at UCI Law, Tilman was recognized as the 2015 winner of the California State Bar Public Law Section’s Student Writing Competition, and is a published author on the topic of First Amendment law in public schools.
Ms. Nakasaki joined Harbottle Law Group in April, 2012. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Riverside and her certificate in paralegal studies from the University of California, Irvine. During her undergraduate studies, she became an Academic Peer Advisor. Prior to joining Harbottle Law Group, Ms. Nakasaki spent several years as a substitute teacher in southern California schools. This experience allowed her the flexibility to teach in various classroom settings and learning environments. Julie taught in several different special education programs for students from kindergarten through high school with varying degrees of educational needs.
Ms. Romero brings to Harbottle Law Group over 10 years of comprehensive experience providing assistance to attorneys practicing in various areas of education law. Deanna has collaborated with legal professionals in providing high quality client service to over 60 school districts throughout Southern California. She has broad and ongoing experience in personnel, pupil services, construction, real property, and special education matters. The majority of her experience and her passion is in special education. One of her key assets is developing and maintaining great working relationships with the firm’s clients. Like all member of HLG, client service is her top priority. Deanna also works closely and collaboratively with the California Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”) and the state and federal courts in which HLG practices, and is highly knowledgeable regarding the filing and e-filing procedures for those courts, as well as OAH.