Michelle Gearhart is a litigation attorney and partner with the firm. Her current litigation practice focuses on representation of public entities as well as environmental law and water law. Ms. Gearhart has handled a myriad of complex litigation cases including serious personal injury, wrongful death, police liability, product liability, professional liability, CEQA litigation, property disputes, as well as business litigation and wrongful termination claims. She brings significant trial preparation and trial experience to the firm. Ms. Gearhart is rated AV® Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer review rating given to attorneys based on legal ability and ethical standards, and was named a Southern California and San Diego Top Attorney in 2013 and 2014, before relocating to San Luis Obispo in 2015.

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LITIGATION EXPERIENCE

Ms. Gearhart has handled a multitude of complex litigation cases involving public entities and private businesses. Ms. Gearhart has represented a number of local public entities including the cities of San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, and Paso Robles, as well as San Diego, Carlsbad, Newport Beach, and Riverside, and the San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District. Ms. Gearhart is also of counsel with the firm of Robins Borghei LLP and represents water districts and other public entities whose wells have been contaminated by pesticide products. Ms. Gearhart previously represented law enforcement agencies including the California Highway Patrol, the San Diego Police Department and the Carlsbad Police Department. She practices in both State and Federal Courts and has successfully won two appeals in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, as well as a bench trial involving property rights.

Ms. Gearhart has participated in several high profile cases including a highly publicized civil suit involving a San Diego police officer who was convicted of bribery and assault involving multiple victims. Ms. Gearhart successfully secured the summary dismissal of the accused officer’s former and current supervisors as well as the Chief of Police. Ms. Gearhart authored a motion to bifurcate the trial and several pre-trial evidentiary motions, which were granted, and ultimately led to plaintiff’s counsel re-engaging in settlement negotiations on the eve of trial, which was estimated to be a two to three month long trial in Federal court. Ms. Gearhart also recently second-chaired a personal injury trial against Caltrans with James Wagstaffe, one of California’s most successful trial attorneys.

Ms. Gearhart has negotiated numerous settlements on behalf of her clients. Ms. Gearhart has also successfully authored numerous demurrers, motions to dismiss and summary judgment motions obtaining dismissals on behalf of her clients.

PRIOR WORK HISTORY

Prior to joining AMMCG, Ms. Gearhart worked for Daley & Heft in Solana Beach, California. She served as outside counsel for various Southern California cities and public entities, including the cities of San Diego, Carlsbad, Vista, Newport Beach, and Riverside, and also represented officers in the California Highway Patrol. She handled cases involving claims of Civil Rights violations and related offenses. Ms. Gearhart was responsible for all aspects of litigation including preparation of dispositive motions, discovery, and trial preparation.

Ms. Gearhart worked at Liedle, Lounsbery, Larson & Lidl for nearly four years where she obtained broad case handling experience spanning complex tort claims, government tort liability, product liability, professional liability, breach of contract claims, complex commercial litigation, and construction defect.

While attending law school, Ms. Gearhart worked as a paralegal and legal assistant at the League of Minnesota Cities, and the firm of Moss & Barnett in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before attending law school, Ms. Gearhart worked as a legal assistant and paralegal at the firms of Cappello & Noel and Hager & Dowling, both in Santa Barbara, California.

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS, ADMISSIONS, STANDING

Ms. Gearhart is admitted to practice in all Superior Courts in the State of California and in the United States District Court for the Eastern, Central and Southern Districts. Ms. Gearhart is also admitted to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. She is a member of the San Luis Obispo County Bar Association and the Women Lawyers Association of San Luis Obispo. Since 2012, she has received an AV® Preeminent rating from Martindale Hubbell, the highest peer review rating given to attorneys based on legal ability and ethical standards. She was named a “Top Attorney” in San Diego Magazine in 2013 and 2014, as well as a Southern California Top Attorney in 2013 and 2014.

EDUCATION

Bachelor of Arts (Political Science), Westmont College, Montecito, California

Juris Doctor (with Honors), Hamline University College of the Law, St. Paul, Minnesota

Les Cours Francais, Le Sorbonne University, Paris, France

PERSONAL

Ms. Gearhart and her husband stay busy with their very active and energetic three sons, as well as their golden retriever, Apollo.