James Bruen has more than five decades of criminal and civil litigation and business counseling experience, centered around environmental matters. His practice includes representation of industry, universities and governmental institutions in complex domestic and international products and environmental counseling and litigation. In the course of his career, Jim has headed well over 7,500 environmental and products cases, matters and disputes, spanning virtually every issue and topic. His work has included a number of complex, high-profile cases, some with tens of billions of dollars at stake, and teams of attorneys from several law firms working together on exceptionally intricate, genuinely bet-the-company litigation. He is a past President of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

As a senior environmental attorney, Jim brings to his cases the perspective, judgment and hands-on expertise of an exceptionally experienced strategic and tactical advisor. He has an enormous range of contacts in both the private bar and government, is highly respected by clients, and is uniquely capable of anticipating how a case will proceed, and what the most advantageous approach is for his clients. He is one of a handful of attorneys in the United States with this level of experience, and is a major strategic force multiplier for those he advises.

Jim has served as lead trial counsel in mass tort litigation, natural resource damage litigation, environmental enforcement litigation, environmental cost recovery/contribution litigation and white-collar environmental crimes defense. He has extensive experience in leading the successful prosecution or defense of litigation while simultaneously managing confounding regulatory or business matters. In environmental law, and related regulatory, business or strategic questions, he’s a genuine trusted advisor at the highest level.

Before entering private practice, he served for seven years as a Criminal Division Assistant United States Attorney, a Civil Division Assistant United States Attorney, and Chief of the Civil Division, in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California.


  • Environmental “Trailblazer” , National Law Journal.
  • Band 1 environmental lawyers in California, Chambers USA (2018)
  • Legal Media Group's 2018 Guide to the World's Leading Lawyers-Best of the Best USA
  • 16 "Distinguished Environmental Advocates" by the American Bar Association (2009)
  • “Thought  Leader”  in Who’s Who Legal: Thought  Leaders – Global Elite (2019) 
  • Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Environmental Law, Environmental Litigation, Mass Tort Litigation and Natural Resources Law
  • Best Lawyers 2014 San Francisco Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions - Defendants “Lawyer of the Year” (2014) 
  • Client Choice Award for Environment & Climate Change for California (2015)
  • Who's Who in America
  • Who's Who in the World
  • International Corporate Law's Guide to Environmental Law Experts
  • Practical Law Company's Which Lawyer? Yearbook
  • Expert Guides' Best of the Best USA
  • International Who's Who of Environment Lawyers
  • International Who's Who of Business Lawyers
  • PLC Cross-Border Environment Handbook
  • Who's Who Legal USA (Environment)
  • Who's Who Legal California (Environment
  • Who's Who in American Law

Memberships and Affiliations

  • President, ACOEL Foundation
  • Immediate Past President and Regent, American College of Environmental Lawyers
  • Member, International Society for Environmental Epidemiology
  • Member, International Society of Environmental Forensics
  • Master-at-Large, Edward J. McFetridge (San Francisco) Chapter of the American Inn of Court
  • Life Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Former Chief of Civil Division, Office of the United States Attorney, Northern District of California

Firm Highlights


Emerging Contaminants: Coming to an NRD Site Near You!

What Are Emerging Contaminants? Emerging contaminants are chemicals in the environment for which the health risks—both human and ecological—remain unknown. They are also sometimes called contaminants of emerging concern, since the chemicals, or products...

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Ninth Circuit Asks the California Supreme Court to Interpret the Scope of Personal Injury Coverage

On January 15, 2019, the Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the California Supreme Court: Does a commercial liability policy that covers “personal injury,” defined as “injury… arising out of… [o]ral or written...

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CBD in Foods and Beverages? Not Quite Yet

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Erica Villanueva Named to 2019 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Fellows Program

SAN FRANCISCO, February 25, 2019: Farella Braun + Martel is proud to announce that partner Erica Villanueva has been named a member of the 2019 class of Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) Fellows....

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The Uncertain Future of California’s Vehicle Emission Standards

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Advancing the Careers of Women in the Environmental Practice: Obstacles & Opportunities

Sandra Edwards, Speaker, Advancing the Careers of Women in the Environmental Practice: Obstacles & Opportunities Join ELI-WELL for an inclusive conversation with women leaders in the environmental practice, exploring the unique challenges and opportunities women...

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Farella Braun + Martel Wins Benchmark Litigation 2019 San Francisco Firm of the Year Award

SAN FRANCISCO, March 15, 2019: Farella Braun + Martel announces it has been named “San Francisco Firm of the Year” by Benchmark Litigation . Farella Partner Douglas Young accepted the award on behalf of...

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Identifying and Preparing Expert Witnesses for Trial

How do you identify the key experts you need for trial? Once you have them, what are the best practices for preparing them for trial? How do these practices vary depending on your venue, and...

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Prior Litigation Can Impact Coverage in Future Disputes March 6, 2019 "Prior Litigation Can Impact Coverage in Future Disputes" Insurance Recovery Senior Associate Shanti Eagle discusses how positions taken by insureds in prior litigation can impact or foreclose coverage in subsequent disputes...

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CWA Regulation of Discharges to Groundwater: Permitting Uncertainty in Light of Circuit Court Split

Sarah Bell will speak on the Strafford live webinar, "CWA Regulation of Discharges to Groundwater: Permitting Uncertainty in Light of Circuit Court Split." This CLE webinar will discuss the "indirect discharge" theory of Clean...

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