As San Francisco City Attorney
Herrera has long expressed an "activist approach" to serving as City Attorney, expanding the traditional role of a municipal law office to one that includes aggressively litigating consumer and environmental protection cases, civil rights issues, and to address wage theft and tenant protection.
On March 24, 2008, Herrera filed a lawsuit against the National Arbitration Forum and two other arbitration providers, alleging that the defendants were not neutral as they claimed in arbitration disputes between credit card companies and their customers, but were instead heavily biased in favor of lenders, calling NAF "little more than a collection agent masquerading as a neutral party." He alleged that NAF's records showed that consumers prevailed in just 0.2% of arbitration cases that went to a hearing.
Healthy San Francisco
When the Healthy San Francisco Initiative became law in 2006, establishing universal health care in the City, Herrera successfully defended the law's constitutionality against legal challenge. When some of the fees earmarked for the initiative were misappropriated by San Francisco restaurants, he convinced some of the restaurants to participate in a voluntary settlement program that recovered $844,000 for their employees.
Nevada "patient dumping"
After the Sacramento Bee discovered that mental patients in Nevada were being bused to various California cities without any supervision or plan for what they would do upon arrival, Herrera opened an investigation that found that dozens of these patients had been shipped to San Francisco. The case prompted a review from the government of Nevada of its policies concerning the mentally ill.
Monster Energy litigation
On April 29, 2013, Monster Beverage Corporation, makers of Monster Energy drinks, filed a civil lawsuit against Herrera, alleging that he was violating their constitutional rights by investigating the company's marketing of its products to children despite a massive increase in hospitalizations and deaths among children due to consumption of energy drinks. Herrera filed suit against Monster the following week, demanding that they cease marketing their products to children.
Gun safety litigation
Herrera has been involved in a number of high-profile cases against the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates, both to defend San Francisco's gun safety measures and to challenge gun industry practices. On June 10, 2013, he filed a civil lawsuit against three gun accessory manufacturers, alleging that some magazine "repair kits" sold by the defendants were in fact merely disassembled high-capacity magazines, sales of which are prohibited in California.
Marriage equality for same-sex couples
Herrera has been involved in every phase of the legal fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples in California.
In 2009, he joined the City of San Francisco as a plaintiff in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, seeking to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage, the first time any government entity had sued to challenge marriage laws discriminating against gay and lesbian couples. Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Santa Clara County Counsel Anne S. Ravel would also join their jurisdictions as plaintiffs in the suit.
In San Francisco's petition to the California Supreme Court, Herrera said: “The issue before the court today is of far greater consequence than marriage equality alone ... Equal protection of the laws is not merely the cornerstone of the California Constitution, it is what separates constitutional democracy from mob rule tyranny. If allowed to stand, Prop 8 so devastates the principle of equal protection that it endangers the fundamental rights of any potential electoral minority -- even for protected classes based on race, religion, national origin and gender. The proponents of Prop 8 waged a ruthless campaign of falsehood and fear, funded by millions of dollars from out-of-state interest groups. Make no mistake that their success in California has dramatically raised the stakes. What began as a struggle for marriage equality is today a fight for equality itself. I am confident that our high court will again demonstrate its principled independence in recognizing this danger, and in reasserting our constitution's promise of equality under the law.”
Proposition 8 was eventually held to violate the United States Constitution by federal district court judge Vaughn R. Walker on August 4, 2010, a decision that was left intact by the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. Same-sex marriages began again in California two days later.
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