Mike Leslie, one of the founders of Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, is an accomplished trial lawyer and negotiator, with particular expertise in complex environmental litigation, including litigation brought under CERCLA, CEQA, common law environmental torts and California’s Proposition 65. Mr. Leslie is also known for his expertise in complex commercial litigation, having prevailed in cases involving intellectual property, real estate, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets and Section 17200, California’s unfair business practices statute.
Mr. Leslie has a longstanding record of successfully representing clients in complex multi-party actions, in which tens of millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages are at stake. Mr. Leslie regularly represents Fortune 500 corporations, multi-national energy companies, governmental agencies and small businesses. He has tried numerous cases to verdict, negotiated complex multi-party consent decrees with state and federal agencies, and won one of the largest jury verdicts in the state at the time on behalf of the State of California.
Mr. Leslie is a frequent speaker on complex litigation and trial practice.
Education and Honors;
J.D., Stanford Law School, 1985
Managing Editor, Environmental Law Journal
Editor, Wilderness Preservation
Project Editor & Co-Author, Land Use Regulation
Murie Award in Environmental Law
R. Hunter Summers Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy
B.A., Dartmouth College, 1980
Summa cum Laude
B.A. in Geology with Highest Distinction
Phi Beta Kappa
Rufus Choate Scholar
Law Clerk to Honorable A. Wallace Tashima, United States District Court for the Central District of California, 1985 – 1986
Member, California State Bar; United States District Court for the Central, Eastern, and Northern Districts of California; United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Mass Environmental/Toxic Torts Subcommittee, 2009 – 2015
Executive Committee, California State Bar Environmental Law Section, 2014-2015
Vice Chair, 2015, Executive Committee, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Environmental Law Section, 2006 – 2015; Treasurer 2014
CARB v. Yamaha — Mr. Leslie was asked by the State of California to substitute into a complicated enforcement action as lead trial counsel a mere ten days before trial. Mr. Leslie and his team, working with the California Attorney General’s office, quickly got up to speed and represented the California Air Resources Board in the trial of an enforcement action brought against a major vehicle and engine manufacturer. The manufacturer had brought a cross-claim against the agency, alleging a panoply of claimed regulatory and constitutional violations, and seeking sweeping injunctive and declaratory relief, including dismissal of the enforcement action. The manufacturer’s cross-claim was bifurcated and was tried first before the enforcement action. After multiple witnesses and days of trial, the manufacturer agreed to dismiss its cross-claim with prejudice and to pay CARB almost $2,000,000, plus an additional amount to be suspended conditioned upon the manufacturer’s future compliance with the engine emissions certification laws, thus resolving the case.
Port of Redwood City v. Shell — As lead trial counsel, Mr. Leslie obtained a defense verdict after a five-week jury trial in federal court in San Francisco. The plaintiff, a local governmental body, had been compelled to clean up wastes left over when their tenant, an oil recycler, went out of business. The case went to the jury with claims against Mr. Leslie's client, a multi-national energy company, for compensatory damages of $25 million, as well as punitive damages. After only two hours of deliberation, the jury rendered a complete defense verdict in our client’s favor, awarding the plaintiff nothing. After the plaintiff appealed, Mr. Leslie argued the case before the Ninth Circuit and won an opinion affirming the defense judgment in all respects.
Watson Land Company v. Shell — After substituting into an action a mere three weeks before trial and mastering literally thousands of exhibits, Mr. Leslie represented Shell Oil Company in a 10-week jury trial involving claims by a land company for cleanup of hydrocarbon contamination. Although the plaintiff went to the jury with a damages claim of almost $70 million—raised to over $120 million at trial—and also asserted a claim for punitive damages, Mr. Leslie won a nonsuit on the punitive damages claim and obtained a jury verdict for his client on two out of the three areas of contamination at issue. The award on the remaining plume—after the verdict was reduced by over $14 million on Mr. Leslie’s successful appeal—was $3.9 million, almost $20 million less than the plaintiff’s pretrial settlement demand.
State of California v. Attransco, et al. — Mr. Leslie represented several California state agencies against an oil shipper and several other defendants who were involved in a spill of 400,000 gallons of Alaska North Slope crude oil onto Orange County beaches, forcing widespread beach closures. After extensive litigation leading to $11 million in settlements with three of the defendants and precedent-setting decisions from both the Ninth Circuit and the California Court of Appeal, Mr. Leslie and his team recovered an $18 million jury verdict against the ship owner after a three-month trial. This verdict was the one of the first natural resource damage claims to go to trial and was reported as one of the ten largest jury verdicts that year.