Roopali Desai

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Roopali is a partner in the firm’s litigation group, focusing her practice in the areas of complex civil litigation, political law, and civil appeals. Her practice involves representing clients at all stages of litigation in state and federal court, in front of administrative agencies, and in arbitration proceedings. Her clients include large and small businesses, non-profits, and political campaigns and parties. Roopali’s business clients rely on her experience and her creative approach to litigating when they need help resolving disputes in a variety of areas, including contracts, business torts, trade secrets, real estate, partnership, and products. She also regularly assists her clients in obtaining time-sensitive relief, including temporary and preliminary injunctive relief, expedited appeals, and special actions.

Roopali is also a leading election lawyer in Arizona. Her political law practice involves advising clients on all aspects of election law including campaign finance compliance, disclosure and reporting requirements, and bringing and defending election challenges. Roopali is especially known for her experience representing initiative, referendum, and recall campaigns, and has served as legal counsel for numerous successful statewide and local measures.  She is experienced in drafting ballot language and preparing initiative and referendum petitions, and is experienced in defending and prosecuting various types of pre- and post-election challenges to initiatives, referendum, and recalls, including seeking injunctive relief. Roopali’s political law clients include federal, state, and local candidates; political party organizations and clubs; independent expenditure committees; ballot measure sponsors, supporters, and opponents; corporate, union, and trade association PACs; nonprofit organizations; and governmental entities such as counties, cities, towns, and special districts.

Roopali was instrumental in the construction and passage of Prop 207, which legalized the adult use of cannabis in the State of Arizona. Through that process she worked closely with regulators, key legislators, and many of Arizona’s largest cannabis dispensaries and cultivators. Drafting the law has given Roopali a deep understanding of the express provisions of the law as well as the rationale supporting the language and concepts ultimately adopted. Since Prop 207 passed, Roopali has provided valuable legal assistance to cannabis dispensaries, cultivators, transporters, and testing laboratories. Those clients recognize her deep knowledge of the subject, relationship with regulators, and understanding of the adult use statutes and regulations. Because of her involvement in Prop 207, she was also asked to assist the Arizona Department of Health Services in the development of the State’s Social Equity Ownership Program granting marijuana establishment licenses to individuals from disproportionately impacted communities. She also spearheaded the development of training and education for social equity applicants.

Roopali represents a range of dispensaries, cultivators, and service vendors to the cannabis industry. She negotiates with regulators over fair and equitable interpretations of the statutes, regulations, and regulatory actions arising from the laws. She drafts agreements for service providers that contemplate the requirements and restrictions of the adult use cannabis laws. She also regularly litigates on behalf of cannabis clients relating to business and other disputes.

Roopali’s deep knowledge and understanding of the adult use cannabis laws, business, and regulatory landscape in Arizona and her innate skills in the courtroom make her an excellent choice for cannabis clients seeking superior legal counsel in the cannabis marketplace.

Representative Matters

  • Legal counsel to Sinema for Arizona.
  • Legal counsel to Congressman Tom O’Halleran and his United States Congressional Campaign Committee.
  • Obtained summary judgment and award of attorneys’ fees on behalf of national healthcare system and its manager relating to contract dispute. Subsequently successfully defended the District Court’s grant of summary judgment and award of fees on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Successfully defended the winning bidder of a multimillion-dollar state contract in the largest health care bid protest in Arizona history.
  • Obtained defense verdict in civil rights action against large hospital system.
  • Successfully defended claims against developer brought by competitor in municipal zoning matter.
  • Represents Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona and United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association in political law matters.
  • Routinely brings and defends challenges to candidate nomination petitions and ballot measure petitions. In recent years, successfully defended challenge to referendum petitions for Prop 305 on behalf of Save Our Schools Arizona, successfully defended nomination petitions for candidate in Congressional District 4, and successfully defended challenge to initiative petitions in City of Kingman on behalf of business owners. Also has experience on the other side, successfully challenging initiative petition based on petition and signature defects, Parker v. City of Tucson, 314 P.3d 100 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2013), and successfully defended mandamus action seeking to compel placement of referendum measure on city ballot, Respect Promise in Opposition to R-14-02-Neighbors for a Better Glendale v. Hanna, 2015 WL 5474447 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2015).
  • Successfully obtained a preliminary injunction and, ultimately, summary judgment in a case challenging the constitutionality of legislation. United Food & Commercial Workers Local 99 v. Bennett, 934 F.Supp.2d 1167 (D.Ariz. 2013).
  • Successfully defended claims against global manufacturer of window products in construction defect litigation.
  • Routinely represents and advises clients in matters relating to Arizona’s public records and open meeting laws. Successfully prosecuted public records case on behalf of national civil rights organization.

Awards & Recognitions

  • In Business: Women of Achievement (2021)
  • Valle del Sol Mom of the Year (2021)
  • Arizona Capitol Times: Best of the Capitol Awards: Best Political Lawyer (2019 & 2021)
  • Business Insider: 11 Power Players Shaping Arizona’s Recreational Cannabis Market (2021)
  • Finalist, ATHENA Awards (2017)
  • Az Business Magazine’s Most Influential Women (2016)
  • Phoenix Business Journal: 40 under 40 (2016)
  • Chambers USA: Litigation – General Commercial (2021 – present)
  • The Best Lawyers in America© 2021 Phoenix Civil Rights Law “Lawyer of the Year”
  • The Best Lawyers in America©: Commercial Litigation (2015 – present); Civil Rights Law (2017 – present); Administrative/Regulatory Law; Appellate Practice (2019 – present); First Amendment Law (2020 – present); and 2021 Phoenix Civil Rights Law “Lawyer of the Year”
  • Southwest Super Lawyers: Legislative & Government Affairs (2019 – present)
  • Southwest Super Lawyers Rising Stars (2014 – 2016)

Publications & Speeches

  • Presenter, “Legalization in Arizona: Initiatives and Ethics,” State Bar of Arizona (Oct. 2020)
  • Panelist, “Amicus Briefs on Appeal,” State Bar of Arizona (Jan. 2019)
  • Presenter, Arizona Election Law Seminar, State Bar of Arizona (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019)
  • Co-author, Arizona Election Law Seminar Manual (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018)
  • Co-author, Arizona Consent and Health Information Resource Manual (2009)
  • Presenter, “Arizona’s Electronic Discovery Laws – Update for Compliance Officers,” Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association Task Force on Healthcare Compliance Meeting (2009)
  • Co-presenter, “Arizona’s Electronic Discovery Laws and Their Impact on Health Care CIOs,” Arizona Healthcare Information Executives Meeting (2008)

Activities & Memberships

  • Member, Advisory Board, National Cannabis Roundtable (2021 – present)
  • Member, Board of Directors, Save Our Schools Arizona (January 2019 – present)
  • Member, Transition Team for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (Dec. 2018 – January 2019)
  • Member, Committee on Civil Justice Reform (2015 – 2017)
  • Member, Board of Directors, Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest (2008 – present)
  • Member, Board of Directors, American Civil Liberties Union – Arizona (Jan. 2014 – July 2019)
  • Member, Board of Directors, New Pathways for Youth (Sept. 2015 – March 2019)
  • American Bar Association
  • State Bar of Arizona
  • Maricopa County Bar Association
  • American Health Lawyers Association

Clerkships

  • Hon. Mary Schroeder, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Education & Admissions

  • J.D., University of Arizona, magna cum laude
  • M.P.H., University of Arizona, summa cum laude
  • B.A., Women’s Studies, University of Arizona, cum laude

Best Lawyers Award Badge

Roopali H. Desai
Rated by Super Lawyers


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