Colin L. Pearce: Lawyer with Duane Morris LLP

Colin L. Pearce

San Francisco,  CA  U.S.A.

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Practice Areas

  • Water Law
  • Energy Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Business Litigation
  • Environmental Litigation
Contact InfoTelephone: 415.957.3015
Fax: 415.704.3098
University University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1984
Law SchoolNotre Dame Law School, J.D., 1988
Admitted1988, California; U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California; U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California; U.S. District Court for the Central District of California; Supreme Court of California

Professional Activities

•The State Bar of California

Board Memberships

•Board of Directors, Attorney Referral Service, Santa Barbara County Bar Association
•Board of Directors, Westside Medical Clinic, Santa Barbara, California

BornSanta Barbara, California, October 23, 1962

Colin L. Pearce is an experienced trial lawyer as well as an environmental, water, energy and regulatory attorney, with an emphasis on representation of public entities, including cities, water districts and utility districts. He has extensive experience representing public entities, private entities and individuals in a wide range of matters from administrative proceedings to lengthy jury trials of complex water disputes. Mr. Pearce has significant experience in all aspects of litigation and in handling administrative proceedings and appeals. He has recently focused on environmental and water litigation and litigation involving public entities, but he has substantial experience litigating a broad range of cases, including complex business disputes. He has extensive experience with state and federal appeals, including handling the appeal of complex water right matters, CEQA cases, civil rights actions and business-related matters.

Mr. Pearce also has represented private and public entities and individuals in proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission involving energy, including energy deregulation and rates as well as railroad crossings and transfers of public utility assets. He has also handled matters before the California State Water Resources Control Board and various regional water quality control boards. He has negotiated settlements with Regional Water Quality Control Board and other regulatory agencies as well as complicated settlements involving water diversion and use, water contamination and CEQA. He has extensive experience in matters involving a broad range of federal and state environmental statutes and regulations, including CEQA, CERCLA, NEPA, the Endangered Species Act, California's Proposition 65, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, RCRA, as well as related regulations. He has substantial experience in water-related matters and California and Western water law, including legal issues surrounding surface water, appropriative rights, riparian rights, groundwater, and issues involving the State Water Project and Central Valley Project. He has handled cases and disputes involving water rights, groundwater and surface water contamination, water transfers, water supply requirements, water rates, groundwater pumping, water banking, waste discharge orders, water right applications, irrigation, stream flow requirements, water right permits and recycled water. He has prepared and filed water rights applications, petitions and appeals before the California State Water Resources Control Board and defended actions brought by the Board and has extensive experience handling water-related matters with and before various regional water quality boards. He has handled a significant number of CEQA actions and has taken several CEQA cases to trial. Mr. Pearce advises clients on energy-related matters and has appeared before the California Public Utilities Commission on matters involving a wide range of energy matters and disputes.

Mr. Pearce has extensive and in-depth experience with a broad range of public law issues on behalf of and involving public entities. He has tried cases in federal and state court on behalf of public entities in matters involving condemnation, water rights, construction, excessive force, water rates, water transfers, municipal code enforcement, zoning, Proposition 218 claims and public contracts. He has also handled a number of energy and regulatory matters on behalf of public entities in proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission, the California State Water Resources Control Board, various regional water quality control boards and other regulatory agencies. He has advised and represented public entities in a number of diverse disputes and proceedings, including matters involving CEQA, energy issues, land use, water quality, water supply and planning, water transfers, development, elections, civil rights claims, police defense, personnel matters, government finance (including Propositions 13 and 218), water rates, groundwater pumping, groundwater contamination, water supply assessments, storm water runoff, zoning, employment discrimination allegations, Brown Act compliance and claims, railroad crossings, contracts, leases and construction disputes. He has represented private companies in a wide range of commercial and business disputes, including actions involving trademarks, premises liability, commercial leases, construction, products liability, franchise agreements, professional negligence and liability, wrongful death, securities broker's claims, slip and fall, and other types of personal injuries.

Mr. Pearce has significant experience with construction matters, including on behalf of and against public entities, including work on SCADA systems, water pipelines, sewer pipelines, contracting requirements and bidding. He has substantial experience handling matters involving real property, including real estate disputes, land use issues, property damage claims, sales of residential and commercial property, commercial lease disputes, unlawful detainer actions, underground storage tanks and land use planning. He has represented private landowners in the prosecution and defense of multiple actions involving easements, boundaries, development, wells and environmental matters.

A member of The State Bar of California, Mr. Pearce is a 1988 graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.


• Duane Morris LLP
- Partner, 2001-present
- Associate, 1999-2000
• Hatch and Parent, Santa Barbara, California
- Associate, Senior Associate, 1990-1999
• Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro, Los Angeles, California
- Associate, 1989-1990

Civic and Charitable Activities

• Volunteer, Transition House, Santa Barbara, California

Selected Speaking Engagements

• Speaker, Case Studies: Meeting Water Challenges for Energy Projects, Law Seminars International's The Water/Energy Nexus in California Program, San Diego, California, June 20, 2011
• Guest Speaker, Environmental Legal Forum, radio station KFNX in Phoenix, Arizona, November 15, 2000

Reported CasesRepresentative Matters; Representing a city in defending its interests in a lawsuit aimed at overturning City Council approval of a $158 million tax credit for a resort development. Obtained in Monterey County Superior Court a dismissal, due to the opponents' failure to satisfy procedural requirements, of a lawsuit challenging competing land use initiative ballot arguments for the November 2013 election. Lead appellate counsel and lead trial counsel in obtaining on behalf of Milan Capital Management from the California Court of Appeal a ruling preserving a trial court victory affirming Milan's ability to proceed with a residential development in the City of Orange in Southern California, setting a precedent confirming the powers of local legislative bodies to interpret and apply their own general plans to development projects. Served as lead trial counsel for the City of Bakersfield in a lengthy and complex case involving the forfeiture of pre-1914 appropriative water rights on the Kern River. The case lasted more than 12 years and Mr. Pearce tried the case twice, first in a four-month trial, and several years later in a two-month trial of certain remanded issues, and handled the lengthy appeal of the matter. (North Kern Water Storage Dist. v. Kern Delta Water Dist., 147 Cal.App.4th 555 (2007)). Lead counsel in a one-month federal jury trial and related complex litigation on behalf of more than 100 homeowners in an action against a chemical company involving contamination of a groundwater basin and drinking water supply with perchlorate. Lead trial counsel for a California city and a number of its police officers in a five-week federal jury trial involving the successful defense of an action involving civil rights claims and allegations of excessive force. Mr. Pearce was also lead counsel in the appeal of the matter. (Paine v. City of Lompoc, 160 F.3d 562 (9th Cir. 1998)). Lead trial counsel for California city in federal action accusing police department and officers of civil rights violations, discrimination and sexual harassment. Obtained a verdict for all defendants after a jury trial. Lead trial counsel on behalf of large water district in successful defense of CEQA action involving the use of an exemption for the adoption of groundwater pumping rates. Lead trial counsel in successful prosecution of CEQA action against water district based on use of an addendum to an outdated EIR for a large water project. Lead trial counsel for county water authority in the jury trial of lost-profits claim arising out of condemnation of property for installation of State Water Project pipeline. Obtained jury verdict in favor of client after five-day trial. Representing private water company in ongoing mediation involving groundwater pumping levels and negotiation of related conjunctive use agreement involving the City and County of San Francisco. Representing City of Bakersfield in complex civil action involving groundwater banking, appropriative water rights, water supply assessments and development, and related issues involving the sufficiency of water supplies for development, groundwater pumping and the use of recycled water. Represented agricultural food processor in administrative proceeding and related civil action against regional water quality control board involving alleged violations of state Clean Water Act and waste discharge permit requirements. Representing City of Bakersfield in proceedings before the State Water Resources Control Board involving petition to revise the fully appropriated status of the Kern River and related application to appropriate surplus water. Defended California city in State Water Resources Control Board proceeding involving alleged violations of waste discharge order arising out of waste-water discharges. Represented California city before the California Public Utilities Commission in proceeding involving city's challenge to lease for coastal power plant and related water discharge issues. Represented county water district in litigation against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California over water wheeling rates and water transfers. Defended large water district in multiple actions involving challenges to district's groundwater pumping rates, and use of funds collected through pumping rates, under a number of theories, including violations of Proposition 218. Represented construction company in dispute over installation of the SCADA system for the water system of a large city. Represented private water company in negotiation of water transfer agreements and exchanges involving banked water in the Central Valley. Defended private landowners in State Water Resources Control Board enforcement action involving alleged excessive diversions from the Kaweah River. Defended City of Bakersfield in EPA enforcement action involving jurisdictional issues and permitting requirements. Represented large municipal utility district in lengthy Public Utilities Commission proceedings involving energy deregulation, distribution rates and privatization. Advised coastal water management agency on groundwater and water quality issues, and represented agency in dispute over groundwater charges. Successfully blocked transfer of large PG&E power plant in Public Utilities Commission proceeding. Represented multiple private companies in defense of actions based on California's Proposition 65. Defended construction company and surety in action brought by county involving installation of cable lines. Represented large Bay Area water district in quiet title action involving rights to stream flow.

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California Enacts Comprehensive Groundwater Management Legislation
Jolie-Anne S. Ansley,Thomas M. Berliner,Colin L. Pearce, October 28, 2014
On September 16, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a historic package of three bills—Senate Bill 1168, Senate Bill 1319 and Assembly Bill 1739—instituting comprehensive groundwater management in California. The legislation represents perhaps the most significant...

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Office Information

Colin L. Pearce

One Market Plaza, Suite 2200
San FranciscoCA 94105-1127


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