Environmental and Land Use Cases

Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Successfully intervened on behalf of hunters’ rights group in this lawsuit brought by environmental groups against the BLM to prohibit the use of lead ammunition for hunting in the Arizona Strip, a popular hunting area. Resulted in a favorable published decision on intervention standards. (266 F.R.D. 369 (D. Ariz. 2010).)

IMACC, et al., v. Warburton, et al.,
A complicated federal CERLA/ RCRA recovery action with extensive cross-over in contract, bankruptcy, and environmental issues.

People v. City of Stockton
Defended the City of Stockton against charges of allegedly releasing chlorine from the City of Stockton Waste Water Treatment Facility into the San Joaquin river.  The release resulted in a massive die-off of over 200,000 fish.  Charges brought by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office were dismissed during litigation of a pre-trial motion.

REV 973, LLC v. Mouren-Laurens Oil Company
Complex fourteen-year cost-recovery action under CERCLA involving multiple parties, properties, cross actions, and potential responsible parties (PRPs). A very light sentence with no jail time was ogtained for the company president early in the proceedings.

TSC v. Civil K & L Plating et al., and State of California v. K & L Plating, et al.,
Parallel and criminal proceedings involved an accidental death and alleged environmental violations at the electronic plating company.  The cases involved  complicated fraud allegations, workers compensation, and Board of Equalization issues.  Settlement was reached during jury selection for a fraction of the original offer.

Paradise Rod & Gun Club
The Board of Supervisors of Butte County approved a shooting range for the club. The opponents of the shooting range, who privately admitted being opposed to civilian possession of firearms, challenged in court the awarding of the permit based upon the California Environmental Quality Act. In a letter of August 7, 2003, counsel for the club advised that noise testing is taking place and that a settlement conference has been scheduled. On January 20, 2004, the Butte County Superior Court denied the plaintiffs’ peremptory writ of mandamus; ruled that the club have judgment on the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief; and vacated an order enjoining the construction activity. The California Court of Appeal on May 24, 2005, affirmed the decision of the Butte County Superior Court denying the peremptory writ of mandamus and vacating the injunction prohibiting the gun club from opening a shooting range in Butte County. Neighbors for Responsible Action v. County of Butte, 2005 WL 1232430 (Cal. App. 3 Dist.).

South Bay Rod and Gun Club
Michel & Associates, P.C. successfully defended a shooting range against a lawsuit by neighbors. A 24 acre plot of land immediately north and east of the club’s 300 yard impact area was purchased. It was to be purchased for the club’s benefit. The club filed a complaint in the Diego County Superior Court on August 19, 2004. The complaint is for breach of fiduciary duty, specific performance, declaratory relief, and imposition of constructive trust. This case involves a dispute over the purchase of real property to assure that the best interests of the club are protected. Ownership of this land is needed to insure the future of the club in its shooting activities. All trial briefs have been filed. The club’s reply brief was filed on August 19, 2005. The court issued its decision on September 12, 2005. It held the cause of action was barred by the statute of limitations, and, furthermore, the plaintiff did not meet his burden of proving his claims.

Ventura Shooting Range
This range apparently is on property deeded to the city “for a public park or resort.” The range has been in existence since 1957. In 1993, the city turned over operation of the public portion of the range to a private concessionaire. The city voted to shut the range down. While initial indications were that the range was constructed on the gifted portion of the park, the city has recently opined that the range is situated on the purchased parcel. At present, this factual issue remains to be resolved. While California law abolished reversionary interests in 1982, California courts have recognized that such former conditions amount to covenants that run with the land and are enforceable equitable servitudes that can be enforced by injunction.

City of Los Angeles v. San Pedro Boat Works, Inc.
San Pedro Boat Works, Inc. operated a marine ship repair and maintenance facility in San Pedro at the Port of Los Angeles for more than 70 years. The business was run by various owners and operators, who used different material and techniques over the years. Los Angeles filed this CERCLA action seeking damages, injunctive relief, and the recovery of costs incurred in connection with the alleged release of hazardous substances. We represent San Pedro Boat Works in the litigation. Ongoing.

Trump National Golf Club v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes
Represented the golf club in a dispute with the City over the installation and display of a large United States flag on its property. Submitted briefing complaining that denial of the club’s Conditional Use Permit request was preempted by Government Code section 434.5, which provides that a government agency may not regulate the display of a United States flag based on aesthetic considerations. Faced with these claims, the City compromised. The flag continues to fly over the property and has become a regional landmark. The case received significant media attention:

Trump Gets OK for Illegal Flagpole, The Washington Post (Sept. 21, 2006)
Trump Gets Approval for Illegal SoCal Golf Course Flagpole, The Associated Press (Sept. 21, 2006)
Stern Agency Meets Unflappable Mogul, L.A. Times (Feb. 7, 2008)

Association for a Cleaner Environment v. Yosemite Community College District (YCCD)
We represented ACE in its petition for a writ of mandate to force YCCD to comply with CEQA in closing an on-campus shooting range facility and moving its operations to an off-campus range facility adjacent to a wetlands area. The Petition was denied. ACE appealed. The appellate court ruled in favor of ACE on all issues in a published opinion that has since been widely cited. (116 Cal. App. 4th 629 (Ct. App. 2004).) ACE then successfully moved to enforce the judgment requiring YCCD to comply with CEQA. YCCD settled.

Kay v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes
Represented homeowner in dispute with City over the use of a pre-existing, five-mast antenna array on homeowner’s residential property for commercial purposes. In a published decision, the court ruled that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibited the City from regulating commercial broadcasting on the antennas. (504 F.3d 803 (9th Cir. 2007).)

South Gate Rod & Gun Club, Inc. v. City of South Gate
South Gate Rod & Gun Club, Inc. operated a trap and skeet range on city-owned property on top of a landfill at the confluence of the Los Angeles and Rio Hondo Rivers in the City of Signal Hill. Lead shot accumulated on the property over the course of several decades. The City improperly canceled the Club’s lease, then sued the Club under CERCLA for range clean up.Obtained insurance coverage for club and negotiated an acceptable settlement.

United States v. Laminating Company of America
Arose as a result of an alleged illegal hazardous waste transporter smuggling hazardous waste into Mexico. As a result of the Federal Bureau of investigation’s inquiry into the activities of the transporter LCOA was indicted on over 50 counts of conspiracy, illegal disposal of hazardous waste and illegal transportation of hazardous waste. The matter was settled prior to trial in the Central District Federal Court of Los Angeles.

Association for a Cleaner Environment v. City of Palos Verdes Estates
Palos Verdes Estates and Surfline, Inc. installed a webcam in a residential area to monitor surf conditions and shoreline activity. ACE contended the project was subject to CEQA review. The City Council voted unanimously to remove the camera.

Friends of Colorado Lagoon (FOCL) v. County of Los Angeles
FOCL sought a writ of mandate under CEQA to set aside the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ Mitigated Negative Declaration concerning the environmental impacts of the proposed Termino Avenue Drain Project. The project would have tripled the storm water drainage into the Colorado Lagoon and nearby water bodies in Long Beach. Prevailed at trial. Established that the approval of the Mitigated Negative Declaration was in violation CEQA and that an Environmental Impact Report was required.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Legal team member in defending Exxon against multiple civil and criminal claims relating to the 1989 oil spill in Valdez, Alaska. Developed law on use of dispersants and on medical monitoring, Native American subsistence lifestyle, and emotional distress damage claims. The case received significant media coverage:

22 Years Later, the Exxon Valdez Case Is Back in Court, New York Times (Mar. 3, 2011)
In the Wake of Exxon Valdez, National Public Radio (Mar. 11, 1999)
Federal Appellate Court Cuts Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Disaster Punitive Award to $2.5 Billion, Fog City Journal (Dec. 22, 2006)

Syntex Agribusiness / Times Beach Dioxin Contamination
In 1982 the EPA closed down the entire town of Times Beach, Missouri after discovering dangerous levels of dioxin present. Dioxin is an unwanted chemical byproduct of certain manufacturing processes. Years prior, oil recyclers had sprayed waste oil on town streets and parking lots to control dust. Some of that oil was contaminated with dioxin. EPA relocated 2000 people, demolished all of the homes and businesses in the town, and began one of the most extensive and expensive environmental cleanups in Superfund history.   Syntex Agribusiness Corporation assumed primary responsibility for the site’s cleanup in 1990. By the fall of 1997, all cleanup work at the site was completed, but litigation over clean-up costs and insurance coverage issues continued for years thereafter.