Michelle L. Gearhart
Michelle L. 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 CEQA litigation, property disputes, business disputes, serious personal injury, wrongful death, police liability, product liability, professional liability, as well as 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.
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, and the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District, as well as the cities of San Diego, Carlsbad, Newport Beach, and Riverside.
Ms. Gearhart routinely handles high profile, high stakes, and complex cases. Ms. Gearhart previously litigated highly publicized civil suits against the San Diego Police Department and the Paso Robles Police Department. 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 represents the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District in numerous lawsuits challenging dust control measures at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Park.
Ms. Gearhart regularly represents property owners and developers whose projects are alleged to violate CEQA. Ms. Gearhart has prevailed in several writ actions involving property rights, development impact fees, and other challenges to property owners’ use of their land.
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 by-products. Robins Borghei has obtained millions of dollars in settlements against pesticide manufacturers for numerous municipal water providers throughout the state.
Ms. Gearhart practices in both State and Federal Courts and has won multiple appeals in both the California Courts of Appeal and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
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 of 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 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.
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
Ms. Gearhart and her husband stay busy with their very active three sons, as well as their golden retriever, Apollo.