Sara Fagnilli

Sara J. Fagnilli


Direct:  216.928.2958
Fax:  216.916.2388

Focus Areas


  • Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, J.D., 1985
  • Hiram College, B.A., 1982

Licensed to Practice

  • Ohio
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit


Sara is a member of the firm’s public law and litigation practice groups. She has extensive experience representing public entities in northeast Ohio, including several cities, villages, and government agencies. She is now a prosecutor for the city of Vermilion and assistant prosecutor for the Village of Put-in-Bay. She previously served as director of law for the city of Lakewood and the city of Fairview Park and assistant to the law director and prosecutor for several other municipalities, including Orange Village, the cities of Richmond Heights, Hudson. Sara was assistant general counsel for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and is an experienced trial lawyer for both private and public-sector clients.

Sara has provided legal advice to various municipal boards and commissions, including boards of zoning appeals, planning and design commissions, architectural review boards, and civil service commissions. For more than 10 years, she taught legal writing, advanced brief writing, and civil procedure at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Sara’s trial experience includes federal and state trial and appellate practice in construction, competitive bidding, easement acquisition, eminent domain, labor negotiations, grievance and arbitration, contract drafting, employee benefits, finance, insurance, environmental enforcement, unemployment, workers’ compensation defense, and administrative appeals. She performs in-house accident investigations, managed outside counsel in certain litigation matters and works with municipal economic development matters.

Download Sara J. Fagnilli's Full Bio


  • Represents municipalities in all aspects of economic development projects.
  • Negotiates necessary agreements for development projects and preparation of documents.
  • Projects include sale of municipal owned property for redevelopment and preparation of all necessary documents.
  • Defense of employee litigation alleging retaliation involving significant labor and immunity issues, obtaining summary judgment and affirmance in the Court of Appeals.
  • Trial and appellate experience in general civil litigation, including contract claims and defense of employment matters for employers, workers’ compensation, and unemployment matters.
  • Represents municipalities and political subdivision in negotiations with labor unions including police, fire, service, dispatchers, finance, building and administrative units.
  • Represents municipalities and political subdivisions in mediation, fact-finding and conciliation hearings.
  • Assists municipalities in planning process for negotiation.
  • Represents clients, public and private, in workers’ compensation and unemployment matters.
  • Represents clients in employment arbitration matters.
  • Advises clients on personnel policies, including federal and state employment laws.
  • Represented municipalities at the Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission.
  • Represented municipalities in subsequent appeals to the Court of Common Pleas and Court of Appeals.
  • Advised clients on zoning laws and regulations.
  • Represented political subdivision at hearings.
  • Represents private and public sector clients in all phases of litigation.
  • Defended a political subdivision in a claim by a former employee.
  • Vacated a cognovit judgment against a business client.
  • Defended municipalities in Section 1983 litigation.
  • Experience in construction litigation matters including defending clients against claims for injunctive relief.
  • Served as director of law for two municipalities ( pops. 50,000+ and 17,000) over a period of 20 years.
  • Prosecutor for a municipality and an assistant prosecutor for several municipalities advising on all aspects of criminal matters.
  • Served as assistant director of law for several municipalities in all areas of municipal law, including planning, zoning and employment matters.
  • Served as lead counsel and co-counsel for several municipalities in labor negotiations, fact-finding proceedings and conciliation hearings.
  • Represents municipalities in grievance and labor arbitration matters.
  • Defended a municipality in a court challenge to a conciliation decision.
  • Co-counsel for a municipality in federal court defending a constitutional challenge to the sign ordinance.
  • Defended a municipality in a civil service reduction in force matter in a hearing and its subsequent litigation.
  • Represents political subdivisions in zoning hearings and/or subsequent litigation.
  • Represented several municipalities in municipal court by serving as an assistant prosecutor .
  • Served as an assistant general counsel for a regional political subdivision.
  • Represents municipal clients in the design and build phases of major construction projects, including easement acquisition and eminent domain litigation, construction and bond-related issues and competitive building disputes.
  • Co-counsel for a municipality in negotiations of an operation agreement for highly visible and significant property owned by the municipality.
  • Negotiated an agreement with a railroad to install arms at all crossings in the municipality.
  • Co-counsel for municipalities in Section 1983 litigation regarding alleged police and other civil rights violations.
  • Represented township in federal court litigation for alleged constitutional violations with an advisory jury verdict and decision for the township and defended the court’s decision in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Advises public entities regarding public records and open meeting laws.


“The Italian Americans” is a two-part documentary series produced by PBS member television station WETA in Washington, D.C. It first aired on February 17th & 24th, 2015.  As part of a promotional effort in conjunction with this series, Civic Commons ideastream of Cleveland, Ohio produced online profiles of local Italian-Americans in order to chronicle their lives and recognize their contributions to the northeast Ohio community. Sara was among those interviewed.




  • “Workers’ Compensation, a Death Claim, and a Union Contract: A Case Study,” Educational Service Center (ESC) of Cuyahoga County, Independence, OH, July 30, 2015
  • “Seminar for Elected Local Government Officials,” program presented by Walter | Haverfield LLP’s Public Law Group, Independence, OH, October 18, 2014
  • “The Injury, the Leave, the Pay: Navigating Employee and Employer Rights and Responsibilities under Workers’ Compensation, FMLA, ADA, Collective Bargaining Agreements and Other Federal, State and Local Laws,” Educational Service Center (ESC) of Cuyahoga County, Independence, OH, May 28, 2014
  • “Labor Law Update & First Amendment Speech of Public Employees,” Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and Northeast Ohio Law Directors Association, Cleveland, OH, February 13, 2014
  • “Ohio Municipal Case Law Update,” Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and Northeast Ohio Law Directors Association, Cleveland, OH, February 14, 2013
  • “Communicating with Social Media: Legal Issues for Political Subdivisions,” Ohio Municipal League’s 61st Annual Conference, Columbus, OH, November 1, 2012
  • “Public Sector Labor Law Negotiations,” program sponsored by Faulkner, Hoffman & Phillips, Ohio Fraternal Order of Police 8th District, Teamsters Joint Council No. 41, Cuyahoga Heights, OH, October 19, 2012
  • “Communicating with Social Media – Legal Issues for Political Subdivisions,” Ohio Association of Public Treasurers, Public Finance Officers Training Institute, Sandusky, OH, June 14, 2012
  • “Public Sector Ethics Basics,” Ohio Association of Public Treasurers, Public Finance Officers Training Institute, Sandusky, OH, June 11, 2012
  • “Social Media: Legal Issues for Municipalities,” Ohio Municipal Attorneys Association, Cleveland, OH, April 27, 2012
  • “Mayor’s Court Etiquette & Professional Responsibility,” Association of Mayor’s Court Clerks of Ohio, Beachwood, OH, April 26, 2012
  • “E-Discovery,” presented as guest lecturer for Professor Stephen Werber’s Ohio Civil Procedure class at the Cleveland Marshall College of Law, Cleveland, OH, March 27, 2012
  • “Social Media: Legal Issues for Municipalities,” Ohio Municipal Attorneys Association, Columbus, OH, March 2, 2012
  • “Social Media: Legal Issues for Municipalities,” Ohio Municipal Attorneys Association, Columbus, OH, December 2, 2011
  • “Internet Sweepstakes Cafes,” NE Ohio Planning & Zoning Workshop, The Conference Center at Geneva State Park, Geneva-on-the-Lake, OH, June 24, 2011
  • “Ohio Senate Bill 5: Public Management Perspectives,” Hillcrest Council of Councils, Mayfield Village, OH, May 21, 2011


  • Ohio State Bar Association
  • Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Northeast Ohio Law Directors Association (President, 1999-2000)
  • Member, St. Luke’s Parish
  • Lakewood Charter Review Commission (Chair, 1995)
  • Lakewood Citizens Advisory Commission, Community Development Block Grant Program (1993-1995)
  • Board Member, Fill This House (2014-2015)
  • Lakewood Kiwanis
  • Lakewood Women’s Club


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