Michael Murphy is a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington, D.C. office, and is a member of the firm’s Environmental Litigation and Mass Tort practice group. Mr. Murphy has handled a wide variety of cases under most federal and a number of state environmental statutes, and has handled litigation as lead counsel in a number of state, federal district, and federal appellate courts. He regularly counsels clients on compliance issues and handles regulatory inquiries and investigations. Mr. Murphy was recognized by Law360 as one of its five "Rising Star" environmental attorneys under 40 to watch.
Mr. Murphy has extensive litigation experience in the following areas:
- CERCLA Litigation
- Environmental Enforcement Defense
- Administrative/Regulatory Litigation, including Transportation
- Mass and Toxic Tort Defense
- Government Contracts Litigation
Mr. Murphy graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1999, where he was a member of the Virginia Journal of International Law. He received his Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in 1993. He also attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, receiving a M.Sc. in International Law. Mr. Murphy is a member of the bars of the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Litigation
Mr. Murphy has represented clients in a variety of CERCLA cost-recovery and contribution actions in a number of jurisdictions. Representative matters include:
- As lead trial counsel, he obtained a significant CERCLA recovery for Lockheed Martin from the United States based on the government’s involvement at a Cold War-era rocket manufacturing facility in Southern California. Lockheed Martin Corp. v. United States, 35 F. Supp. 3d 92 (D.D.C. 2014).
- Represented a defense contractor in a $250 million CERCLA cost recovery action against the United States for its ownership and involvement at a former World War II "Plancor" aircraft component facility in Long Island, New York.
- Filed a CERCLA cost recovery action against the United States and the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers at a former Naval Aircraft Station in Rhode Island.
- Filed amicus briefs in Aviall Services and Atlantic Research in the U.S. Supreme Court, and also in related amicus briefs in the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Seventh and Ninth Circuits.
- Clarified the relationship between CERCLA’s cost recovery and contribution causes of action before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who ultimately adopted the position urged by Mr. Murphy during oral argument. See Kotrous v. Goss-Jewett Co. of N. Cal., 523 F.3d 924 (9th Cir. 2008).
- Defended against a multi-million dollar CERCLA claim brought by the State of Pennsylvania at a former Department of Energy nuclear research facility.
- Defended CERCLA claims brought against various clients at multi-party landfills in several states, including Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, and California.
Environmental Enforcement Defense
Mr. Murphy has defended clients in numerous State and Federal enforcement actions, involving a variety of different statutory and regulatory programs. Representative matters include:
- Obtained a favorable settlement for a Department of Energy contractor against a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act enforcement action and related False Claims Act allegations brought by the United States at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky.
- Defended a paper company against a statutory penalty action brought by Harris County, TX, seeking billions of dollars for waste disposal practices, and successfully assisted in obtaining a jury verdict clearing the company of any liability.
- Defended an aerospace industry client in a complex CERCLA/RCRA groundwater cleanup action in Southern California.
- Defended municipal clients in a sewer overflow Clean Water Act enforcement action brought by the United States and the State of Ohio, and against related citizen suit actions.
- Defended a national retail company against various criminal and civil investigations involving the handling of hazardous materials under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act.
Administrative/Regulatory Litigation, including Transportation
Mr. Murphy has represented clients adversely impacted by state and federal agency actions, and challenges to agency action. Representative matters include:
- Successfully defended an Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Federal Highway Administration against attack by local residents who sought to halt CSXT’s reconstruction of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel in Washington, DC.
- Represents a Class I railroad before the Surface Transportation Board in various matters related to the passenger rail issues.
- Challenged and overturned EPA’s refusal to disclose groundwater models under the Freedom of Information Act, reported in Goodrich Corporation v. EPA, 593 F.Supp. 2d 184 (D.D.C. 2009).
- Successfully challenged the Department of the Interior’s issuance of a special use permit that violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, reported in Trout Unlimited v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., 320 F.Supp. 2d 1090 (D. Colo. 2004), and also successfully defended the district court’s opinion before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. See Trout Unlimited v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., 441 F.3d 1214 (10th Cir. 2006).
- Challenged the State of Maryland’s general discharge permit for large animal feeding operations.
Mass and Toxic Tort Defense
Mr. Murphy has defended clients facing a variety of mass tort/toxic tort claims in both State and Federal courts. Representative matters include:
- Defended a Class I railroad in class action and personal injury litigation arising from a derailment incident in West Point, KY.
- Defending a paper company against claims by over four hundred plaintiffs in Harris County, TX, who allege that the disposal of dioxin contaminated paper sludge in the 1960s caused a variety of personal injuries and property damage.
- Defended an aerospace company against mass tort claims filed in California state court involving more than 800 plaintiffs who alleged personal injury and property damage for releases of solvents and ammonium perchlorate from a rocket manufacturing facility.
Government Contracts Litigation
Mr. Murphy has taken part in a wide variety of government contracts related litigation matters. Representative matters include:
- Defending against claims brought by the United States and several qui tam relators alleging violations of the False Claims Act based on the client’s alleged failure to disclose violations of various environmental laws and Department of Energy regulations.
- Defending an international accounting firm during the investigation and eventual settlement of False Claims Act and defective pricing allegations stemming from USAID contracts.
- Representing an aerospace company in an appeal before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals challenging a penalty for the alleged inclusion of expressly unallowable settlement costs into overhead cost submissions, successfully settling the matter for less than a third of the original penalty assessment.
- Representing an aerospace company in a mediated settlement with the Defense Contract Management Agency over the allowability of executive compensation payments related to a corporate merger.
- Representing several clients before the Government Accounting Office and the Court of Federal Claims in bid protests as both protestor and intervenor, with experience in GAO hearings and arguments before the COFC. For example, the Court of Federal Claims cited arguments made by Mr. Murphy as the primary reason it could support the agency’s decision to override an automatic stay of contract performance following a bid protest. Spherix v. United States, 62 Fed. Cl. 497 (2004).
- Representing an aerospace contractor in a dispute with the Air Force over the indemnification of environmental costs associated with the performance of contracts pursuant to P.L. 85-804, resulting in a submission of a certified claim that was later appealed to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals.