David Stearns


Industry focus

I love developing and implementing the strategies that ‎solve my clients’ unique legal challenges so they can focus ‎on what they do best.‎

How I represent clients at Schwabe

I advise real estate developers, business owners, and individuals on complex environmental and natural resource issues throughout the Northwest, helping resolve disputes involving contaminated property, regulatory enforcement actions, and water rights. I have handled cases through all phases of litigation—from taking expert depositions and administrative hearings to arguing before the state court of appeals in a case that led to a favorable decision for my client.

Bringing a wealth of experience from my previous position as an environmental and natural resources attorney at Veris Law Group, I represented clients in cost recovery actions under the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), construction defect claims, and condemnation proceedings. I also handled appeals and settlements of Oregon Water Pollution Control Facilities Permit civil penalties.

I began my legal career as an Assistant Attorney General for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office in the Ecology Division, where I advised the State on complex water rights issues and litigated various environmental matters before the Pollution Control Hearings Board. During law school, I was a judicial extern for Judge Stephen J. Dwyer on Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals.


  • Defended and prosecuted cost recovery actions under the Model Toxics Control Act in state and federal courts.
  • Negotiated purchase and sale agreements in lieu of condemnation for contaminated properties.
  • Counseled property owners seeking regulatory closure following voluntary cleanup of contaminated properties.
  • Handled appeals and settlements of Oregon Water Pollution Control Facilities Permit civil penalties.
  • Defended more than 20 appeals of Department of Ecology decisions before the Pollution Control Hearings Board, and represented Ecology in state trial and appellate court litigation.
  • Represented Ecology in the Yakima Basin surface water adjudication, a case spanning four decades and involving thousands of parties including the United States, the Yakama Nation, and municipal and agricultural water users.
  • Advised the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council on issues relating to its review of the proposed Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal.
  • Served as lead advisor to Ecology on trust water rights, drought, the Family Farm Water Act, and water right claim amendments.
  • Briefed and argued Fox v. Skagit County before the state court of appeals, leading to a favorable decision.
  • Advised Ecology in its role as a member of the Governor’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force.


  • University of Washington, School of Law, Juris Doctor degree (2012)‎
  • Whitman College, Bachelor of Arts degree, Philosophy, cum laude (2007)‎


  • Oregon State Courts
  • Washington State Courts


Selected to the Washington Super Lawyers Rising Star List (2019-2020)

Additional Events

  • Presenter, “Annual Consumptive Quantity Policy Update and Litigation Overview,” Washington Water Right Transfers CLE, The Seminar Group (November 1, 2018)
  • Co-Presenter, Lorman Washington Water Rights, Sales, and Transfers Webinar (May 2016)
  • Co-Chair, Environmental and Land Use Law Section Midyear Meeting & Conference (May 2016)
  • Presenter, “Drought Law 101,” Washington Water Right Transfers CLE, The Seminar Group (November 2015)
  • Presenter, “Yakima Adjudication History and Status,” Washington Water Rights for National Forests Mini Workshop, U.S. Forest Service (November 2015)

Community Activities

Thurston County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project, Volunteer Attorney (2013–2016)

Outside Interests

Hiking, skiing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with friends.

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