McGeorge School of Law

JoAnne Speers

Adjunct Professor of Public Policy
JoAnne Speers
Website: LinkedIn

BA, UC Berkeley

JD, UC Berkeley

MPP, UC Berkeley


Professor JoAnne Speers brings more than 30 years of service in federal, state and local government to her teaching at McGeorge. Professor Speers is passionate about excellence in public and nonprofit service—something she has been supporting for much of her career.

Many of those years were with the League of California Cities, providing support to and advocacy on behalf of California cities. As general counsel of the League for 16 years, she served as in-house counsel and also worked closely with city attorneys of California's nearly 500 cities. In addition, she became responsible for overseeing a variety of the League's member service functions during her tenure.

Promoting good governance at the local level is a core theme of the League's belief system. It is also the mission of the Institute for Local Government, a 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with the League (and under Professor Speers' stewardship, the California State Association of Counties). Professor Speers added the role of chief executive of the Institute to her League duties for several years and then focused exclusively on expanding the Institute's service to local government for eight years.

One element of public service excellence involves access to knowledge and skill-building. One of Professor Speers' favorite projects with the Institute was developing a series of plain-language resources to help newly elected local officials get off to a strong start in their public service. The materials also serve as a resource for the public and media in understanding local government issues and processes.

Another gratifying endeavor was Professor Speers' collaborative work with municipal attorneys across California to produce the first ever California Municipal Law Handbook. The handbook assembled the collective knowledge of municipal attorneys in the state and made it available to all who practice municipal law.

Laws both empower and constrain; conflicts over the "rule of law" are central to policy making. After receiving her law degree at UC Berkeley, Professor Speers deepened her understanding of our justice system while clerking for the Honorable Milton L. Schwartz in the Eastern District of California. That experience complemented previous work for the California Legislature, including her year as an Assembly Fellow. After a short stint in private practice, Professor Speers put these experiences to work in the League's legal advocacy program.

A highlight in this endeavor was the successful effort to overturn a state statute that diminished local fiscal control and accountability. Professor Speers coordinated the efforts of county counsel and city attorneys, worked with special counsel hired to represent city and county litigants and authored the amicus briefs on behalf of cities at the California Supreme Court. Ultimately, the state's High Court agreed with local agencies that the statute violated California constitutional protections relating to local control and fiscal accountability.

Public service excellence also means decision-making in the public's interest. Among Professor Speers' responsibilities at the Institute for Local Government was the nonprofit's work in public service ethics. Professor Speers has written and spoken extensively on that topic a variety of audiences, including publishing a plain-language explanation of California's ethics laws for local officials and a regular column on ethics for the League's monthly magazine, Western City. In addition, she spearheaded the statewide effort to help local officials and their counsel implement a 2005 state law requiring local official training on ethics laws and principles.

The American Society for Public Administration recognized the Institute's work in promoting public service ethics with its Public Integrity Award in 2009.

In 2014, Professor Speers resigned from her position with the Institute to pursue a longstanding interest in teaching at the university level.

Since then, she has pursued her passion for excellence in public service as an adjunct professor in the University of San Francisco's public and nonprofit administration programs. Courses taught in those programs have included policy analysis, public finance, nonprofit law, strategic governance and leadership ethics.

She is very pleased now to be pursuing her passion for public service excellence at McGeorge. She supplements her adjunct faculty work with writing, consulting, expert witness work and training.

Professor Speers holds three degrees from UC Berkeley: JD, MPP and BA (Political Science). She also holds a certificate from Stanford University's Executive Program for Nonprofit Management.

In 1999, the California Bar's Public Law Section recognized Professor Speers' work in service to local government with Public Lawyer of the Year Award.