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Christopher J. Neary

Fax: (707) 459-3018

Christopher Neary is both an attorney and a rancher. Mr. Neary operates Sunny Brook Ranch near the City of Willits which his family purchased in September 1950. Mr. Neary’s family settled in Sonoma County in 1843, his grandfather’s great grandfather, Joel P. Walker, having been a delegate from Sonoma and Mendocino County to the 1849 California Constitutional Convention. Mr. Neary was admitted to the California Bar in 1976. He is married to Susan Neary and they reside on the family ranch.

Upon admission to the Bar Mr. Neary returned to Willits and started his law practice in his hometown as a general practice attorney.

As he began to focus on real estate and environmental issues, his practice expanded to its present regional scope. Being a cattle rancher gives Mr. Neary a uniquely personal perspective on the complex laws surrounding land use, water use and other environmental issues.

Professional experience:

  • General Counsel, Brooktrails Township Community Services District, 1976-present
  • General Counsel, Mendocino Paving, Inc., 1976-present
  • General Counsel, North Coast Railroad Authority, 1991-2019
  • General Counsel, Harwood Investment, 1997-present
  • Counsel, Millview County Water District, 2001-present
  • Willits School Board, 2013 - 2020


  • Supreme Court of California, 1976
  • Northern District Court of California, 1976
  • United States Supreme Court, 1991
  • Eastern District of California, 1989
  • United States Tax Court, 1999
  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals 2010


  • University of the Pacific, Stockton, Calif.
    • English, 1970
  • Humphreys College of Law, Stockton, Calif.
    • 1975

Published cases:

Friends of the Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority (July 27, 2017) 3 Cal. 5th 677, 220 Cal. Rptr. 3rd 812, (Kruger, J. Concurring; Corrigan, J. Dissenting), Cert. Den. 138 S. Ct. 1686, The California Supreme Court held that the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (“ICCTA”) regulating the railroad did not preempt the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) to the extent that the application of CEQA represents an “act of self-governance on the part of the state,” but that direct regulation by the state of a franchisee operator of a state owned railroad was preempted under federal law.

Millview County Water District v SWRCB (2014) 229 CA 4th 879 The Court established the principle that common law forfeiture of pre-1914 water rights cannot occur in the absence of a perfected conflicting claim and recognized the principle that appropriators under pre-1914 rights and riparian diverters require neither permit nor authorization of the State Water Resources Control Board.

Paland v. Brooktrails Township Community Services Dist. In this 2009 case, Mr. Neary successfully defended a constitutional challenge to a public agency's utility rate setting. The California Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision, the California Supreme Court denied review, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari.
(197 Cal.App.4th 1358, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 270, Rev. Den. Feb. 10,2010, Cert. Den. April 19, 2010, 130 S. Ct. 2112, 176 L. Ed. 726)

Michael H. Meyer, Trustee in Bankruptcy for California Western Railroad Inc. v. North Coast Railroad Authority, d/b/a/ Northwestern Pacific Railroad, (2007) Surface Transportation Board Finance Docket No. 34337, January 30, 2007.

Community involvement:

  • North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
    • Member, 2003
  • Mendocino County Bar Association
    • President, 2000
  • Rotary Club of Willits
    • President, 1994
  • Willits Unified School District
    • Trustee, 1980-1991; 2013-2019
    • Chairperson 1986, 1991, 2015-2019

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