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Michael Van Zandt

Michael J. Van Zandt

(415) 995-5001


Michael is the co-chair of the Environmental Natural Resources Land Use Practice Group. He has practiced for more than 40 years in the areas of environmental law, natural resources law, adjudication, acquisition, transfer, and defense of water rights, and federal and state administrative law. He represents clients in Takings Claims against the United States, involving water and grazing rights. Michael is the lead attorney in a defense class action case involving more than 4,500 water rights owners. He also represents one of the largest irrigation districts in the State of Nevada.

Michael has extensive experience with hazardous waste, wetlands laws, NEPA, CEQA, Superfund, Clean Air, Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water, Endangered Species Acts, and California's Proposition 65. Under the Clean Water Act, he represents both governmental and private entities sued by citizens groups for alleged violations of storm water and effluent discharge permits. Under Proposition 65, he successfully represented multiple defendants in challenging test methods for detection of lead in plumbing products. He has resolved numerous Proposition 65 cases for companies both inside and outside California without resorting to litigation. In addition, he has experience with pesticide training and permitting issues as well as Community Right to Know issues for hazardous materials.

Michael served as chief of environmental law for several Department of Defense organizations. He was the primary environmental law advisor to five major maintenance complexes. He also served as Assistant General Counsel for the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization of the Department of Defense. He is a retired Air Force Officer.


LL.M. University of Virginia School of Law ( 1985 )
J.D. with distinction, Order of the Coif University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law ( 1980 )
A.B. Honors Program St. Joseph's College ( 1971 )

Academic Distinction

Order of the Coif

Traynor Honor Society

Pacific Law Journal, Editor-in-Chief

Admissions and Courts

District of Columbia
Supreme Court of the United States
U.S. Court of Federal Claims
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 Central District of California
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada


Environmental Practice Leader
Environmental Crimes & Investigations Practice Leader

San Francisco Baykeeper v. City of Milbrae. Citizens group alleged thousands of violations of the federal Clean Water Act. Successfully negotiated Consent Judgment favorable to the City that incorporated ongoing upgrades to City's sanitary sewer system into court approved agreement.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance v. Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc. Citizens group sued industrial facility for alleged violation of its stormwater discharge permit. Case was dismissed by plaintiff three days after summary judgment was filed.

Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. Representing the largest irrigation district in Nevada in ongoing litigation against the United States and various entities over water rights on the Carson and Truckee Rivers in California and Nevada. Cases involve endangered species, wetlands, federal water decrees, federal Reclamation Act, Indian Tribe trust obligations, and federal contract law.

White Collar Criminal Case. Lead counsel for five defendants in criminal indictment against a political subdivision and its officers accused of falsifying official reports to a federal agency. Case was resolved with full dismissals of all defendants based on motions to dismiss filed by the defense team.

Friends of Hope Valley v. Frederick Company. Case involved assertion of a public easement under California law over a 700 acre parcel in Alpine County. Case was voluntarily dismissed just before trial based on defense evidence that would prevent plaintiff from proving a continuous easement for five years across the entire parcel.

Chair, Senior Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association

Editorial Board Member of Experience Magazine, Publication of the Senior Lawyers Division

Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation

Environment, Energy and Resources Special Committee for the Senior Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association

"Hanson Bridgett Talks SoCal Groundwater Resolution," Law360 (August 2023)

"Hanson Bridgett Secures Water Rights for Ventura County and Ventura County Waterworks Districts 1 and 19" (July 2023)

"EPA Seen as Prepared for Big Challenges Ahead of Carbon Rules," Bloomberg Law (July 2022)

"Federal judge sides with New Mexico ranchers in water case," The Seattle Times (November 2017) 

"Sanctions Denied Where Disposal Allegation Is Supported by Circumstantial Evidence," Toxics Law Reporter (August 2011)

"Ninth Circuit Rules Approved Wetlands Jurisdictional Determination by Corps Not Final Agency Action Under APA and Not Reviewable," California Water Law and Policy (October 2008)

"Victory at Pine Creek," Range Magazine (Fall 2008)

Litigation Counsel of America, Senior Fellow

Northern California Super Lawyers (2004-2006)