Our firm has won landmark victories in environmental and civil rights cases throughout the country
Selected Environmental Cases
Friends of the Earth v. Laidlaw Environmental Services
890 F. Supp. 470 (D.S.C. 1995), vacated, 149 F.3d 303 (4th Cir. 1998), reversed, 528 U.S. 167 (2000)
Our firm litigated this case from the district court to the landmark Supreme Court decision holding that plaintiffs had standing to prevent a company from unlawfully discharging mercury under the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court’s 7 to 2 decision, authored by Justice Ginsburg, reversed a series of Supreme Court decisions in which citizens were denied access to the federal courts due to their lack of standing under the Constitution. Under Laidlaw, citizens who have been affected by polluters can go to federal court to seek relief and enforce environmental laws.
Included as a selected case in the book Environmental Law Stories by Richard Lazarus and Oliver Houck.
Sierra Club v. Fri
344 F. Supp. 253 (D.D.C. 1972), affirmed, 4 ERC 1815 (D.C. Cir. 1972), affirmed by equally divided Court, 412 U.S. 451 (1973)
Our firm litigated this case in the Supreme Court (affirmance by an equally divided Court), which held that the Clean Air Act requires that air quality in areas still having clean air must be protected from significant deterioration, and that air quality must be improved in areas with heavily polluted air.
As a result of this case, EPA issued regulations for the prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) of air quality in clean air areas. Based on these regulations, Congress included specific PSD provisions into the Clean Air Act itself.
263 F. Supp. 2d 796 (D.N.J. 2003), affirmed, 399 F.3d 248 (3d Cir. 2005), certiorari denied, 125 S. Ct. 2951 (2005)
Our firm won a court order requiring Honeywell to excavate and remediate 1.5 million tons of hexavalent chromium contamination to abate an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment in Jersey City, New Jersey, and to remediate the deep groundwater and sediments in the Hackensack River
The chromium excavation, which was completed in 2009, is one of the largest chromium excavations in history. Today, the firm continues to represent plaintiffs in proceedings before Special Master Robert G. Torricelli, who was appointed to oversee the implementation of the injunction.
NJPIRG v. Powell Duffryn Terminals, Inc.
720 F. Supp. 1158 (D.N.J. 1989), affirmed in part and reversed in part, 913 F.2d 64 (3d Cir. 1990)
Our firm litigated two cases involving the Powell Duffryn terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. The first resulted in the imposition of the statutory maximum penalty for Powell Duffryn’s violation of the discharge limitations in its NPDES permit. At the time, the $4.085 million was the largest penalty ever imposed by a court in a suit brought by citizens to enforce the Clean Water Act.
We settled the second lawsuit involving monitoring and reporting violations. The settlement resulted in the creation of the Environmental Endowment for New Jersey, Inc. Since its creation, monies from the settlement of several Clean Water Act citizen enforcement suits have been directed to the Endowment. Each year on Earth Day, the Endowment provides grants to projects related to improving and understanding the environment.
West Virginia Division of Izaak Walton League v. Butz
367 F. Supp. 422 (D. W. Va. 1973), affirmed, 522 F.2d 945 (4th Cir. 1975)
Our firm represented the Izaak Walton League, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and others in winning an injunction to stop the clear-cutting practices of the Forest Service in the Monongahela National Forest. The court of appeals held that, under the Organic Act of 1897, the Forest Service could allow only the cutting of mature timber in national forests, not young growing trees, and that each tree must be individually marked prior to sale.
As a result of this decision, Congress passed the National Forest Management Act of 1976, which modified the requirements imposed by the court of appeals but included substantially more environmental protections than before the decision.
Selected Civil Rights & Employment Cases
194 F. Supp. 3d 30 (D.D.C. 2016), 302 F.R.D. 1 (D.D.C. 2013), affirmed, 860 F.3d 713 (D.C. Cir. 2017)
Our firm brought a class action on behalf of three-to-five-year-old children against the District of Columbia for its failure to provide, and failure to timely provide, special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act, and District law.
After over a decade of litigation, including two trials and numerous challenges to class certification, the District was required to improve critical aspects of its special education program for preschoolers.
Our firm litigated a broad challenge to the District of Columbia’s operation of its Medicaid program on behalf of Medicaid recipients and applicants. This class action claimed that the District failed to deem newborns to mothers on Medicaid immediately eligible, failed to provide the opportunity to apply for Medicaid at clinics and hospitals, failed to decide Medicaid applications in 45 days, terminated people from Medicaid without adequate notice, failed to provide comprehensive child health services under the EPSDT (early and periodic, screening, diagnosis and treatment) program, and failed to notify families about the EPSDT program.
After a trial in which the plaintiff class prevailed, the case settled while an appeal was pending. The firm continues to monitor the District’s compliance with a comprehensive injunctive order to this day.
Palmer v. Clinton (Secretary of State)
Civ. Nos. 76-1439, 77-2006 (D.D.C.)
Our firm successfully challenged the hiring, promotion, and assignment practices of the U.S. State Department on behalf of Alison Palmer, a Foreign Service Officer, and a class of women like her. Our firm began this case in the early 1970s and it concluded in 2009, resulting in broad reforms that led to a substantial increase in the number of female Foreign Service Officers and their promotion to the highest levels of the State Department.