W. Lee Smith

W. Lee Smith, Special Counsel at Michel & Associates, P.C.


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Mr. Smith specializes in environmental, land use and insurance law.  His environmental law practice emphasizes cost-recovery litigation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Hazardous Substance Account Act (State Superfund), and related regulatory provisions and common law theories of recovery.  Mr. Smith has extensive experience defending PRP groups in Superfund sites, and representing clients in matters involving federal, state, and local regulatory agencies including the EPA, DTSC, RWQCB, AQMD, as well as local health departments, hazardous materials divisions, public works departments, fire departments, and sanitation departments.  In this capacity, Mr. Smith advises and represents clients on regulatory compliance issues, permits, and enforcement orders. In addition, Mr. Smith has experience in CEQA, NEPA, OSHA, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Polanco Redevelopment Act, land use regulations, water law, toxic torts, natural resources, contracts and transactions, business and corporate law matters.  Mr. Smith has also served as Special Counsel to bankruptcy trustees representing bankruptcy estates in legal matters pertaining to environmental and insurance issues.  Mr. Smith’s insurance practice includes bad faith litigation and coverage issues.

With his environmental and business background, Mr. Smith is uniquely qualified to advise and represent clients in real estate transactions, including Brownfields properties and the purchase and sale of properties contaminated or potentially contaminated with hazardous substances and waste.

Mr. Smith began his legal career at the Department of the Navy, Office of General Counsel, Western Area Counsel Office, Environmental and Water Law Divisions. He distinguished himself in complex litigation while at the San Diego law firm of Chapin, Fleming, McNitt, Shea & Carter in the environmental department where he worked extensively on Aguilar v. Pacific Gas & Electric, et al., subsequently made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

In 1995 Mr. Smith graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University San Marcos. He earned his law degree from California Western School of Law in 1997. While in law school, Mr. Smith worked as a Research Assistant for Law Review and clerked for the Department of the Navy where he worked extensively on environmental and water law matters.

Mr. Smith has been recognized by Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine as one of the top environmental attorneys in Southern California.


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