John F. Cermak Jr.

Partner

Los Angeles
T +1.310.442.8885
F +1.310.820.8859

"[John] is smart, efficient and a good negotiator."

— Chambers USA 2014

Overview

John Cermak's practice focuses primarily on judicial and administrative litigation, environmental, health and safety counseling, and the environmental aspects of real estate and corporate transactions. John litigates CERCLA cost-recovery actions, Proposition 65 cases, toxic tort suits, environmental common law tort actions, Clean Water Act penalty actions, appellate court challenges to agency rule-makings, and proceedings before administrative agencies. He represents clients, including PRP groups, in complex multiparty Superfund cost recovery actions.

John also regularly counsels clients on issues relating to water quality, air quality, hazardous and solid waste, land use issues, health and safety, Proposition 65 and environmental compliance. Moreover, he handles the environmental aspects of the purchase and sale of real property, including review of Phase I, II, and II reports. John has extensive experience in the environmental due diligence aspects of corporate mergers and acquisitions and also counsels clients regarding various federal, state and local environmental laws.

Select Experience

Environmental Litigation

John handles state and federal trial and appellate litigation under virtually all of the major federal environmental laws, and similar state laws, as well as laws unique to California. His experience, which is at both the trial court and appellate level, ranges from briefing and arguing complex hazardous waste and toxic exposure issues to prosecuting and defending complex governmental enforcement actions seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief. In addition, he has represented clients in toxic tort suits and in lawsuits alleging common law causes of action relating to environmental contamination of property, such as nuisance, trespass, negligence, and ultra-hazardous activity.

  • Defend paper company in CERCLA cost-recovery action seeking over $1 billion in costs relating to PCBs in river and lake sediments extending down an 80-mile stretch of river.
  • Defend international diversified holding company which was the former property owner and alleged successor in interest to former property owner in cost recovery action under California's Hazardous Substances Account Act and alleging trespass and nuisance involving more than 30 separate parcels and over 100 defendants.
Environmental Counseling

John regularly counsels client under federal, state and local environmental laws on a wide range of topics.

  • Assist clients in developing test protocols to determine compliance of products with Proposition 65.
  • Advise client on federal and state self-auditing requirements for manufacturing facilities across the United States.
Environmental Aspects of Real Estate and Corporate Transactions

John regularly carries out due diligence reviews, including review of Phase I, II, and III environmental reports and the negotiations of environmental representations and warranties, and indemnities. In addition, he has litigated many of the issues that can arise under those provisions.

  • Perform environmental compliance audits for clients, including major chemical manufacturer, aerospace component manufacturer, drill rig manufacturer, gear manufacturer and metal forming operations.
  • Advise clients on environmental aspects of corporate transactions, including business acquisitions, reorganizations, lending activities, bankruptcy, SEC disclosure, and real estate development and transfers.
More »

Experience

Environmental Litigation

John handles state and federal trial and appellate litigation under virtually all of the major federal environmental laws, and similar state laws, as well as laws unique to California. His experience, which is at both the trial court and appellate level, ranges from briefing and arguing complex hazardous waste and toxic exposure issues to prosecuting and defending complex governmental enforcement actions seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief. In addition, he has represented clients in toxic tort suits and in lawsuits alleging common law causes of action relating to environmental contamination of property, such as nuisance, trespass, negligence, and ultra-hazardous activity.

  • Defend international diversified holding company which was the former property owner and alleged successor in interest to former property owner in cost recovery action under California's Hazardous Substances Account Act and alleging trespass and nuisance involving more than 30 separate parcels and over 100 defendants.
  • Defend paper company in CERCLA cost-recovery action seeking over $1 billion in costs relating to PCBs in river and lake sediments extending down an 80-mile stretch of river.
  • Defend toxic tort suits by homeowner relating to contamination associated with former wood treatment facility.
  • Defend against class action suit alleging diminution in property values due to groundwater contamination.
  • Defend manufacturer in a CERCLA cost recovery action involving one of largest contaminated groundwater basins in the United States used for drinking water.
  • Defend client against "citizen suit" action brought by State of Ohio seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties pursuant to RCRA and the CWA.
  • Brief and argue petitions for review challenging rules issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to CERCLA, RCRA, CAA, CWA, TSCA and the SDWA in federal appellate courts throughout the country.
  • Prosecute and defend cost-recovery actions under CERCLA and equivalent state statutes, such as California's Superfund law known as the Hazardous Substances Account Act, in courts throughout the United States, for clients in variety of industries, including oil refiners, chemical manufacturers, automobile manufacturers, paper manufacturers, hazardous waste transporters, and paint manufacturers.
  • Defend clients in enforcement actions by federal and state agencies, including EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Toxic Substances Control and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties.
  • Defend complex multi-party bounty hunter suit under Proposition 65 relating to lead in jewelry.
  • Defend manufacturer of PCE against Proposition 65 action by "bounty hunter" for alleged "knowing" discharges to sources of drinking water.
  • Defend manufacturers of products, such as latex gloves, coffee urns, exercise balls, and medical devices against Proposition 65 actions.
Environmental Counseling

John regularly counsels client under federal, state and local environmental laws on a wide range of topics.

  • Assist clients in developing test protocols to determine compliance of products with Proposition 65.
  • Advise client on federal and state self-auditing requirements for manufacturing facilities across the United States.
  • Advise clients on release reporting requirements relating to both recent and historical releases.
  • Advise clients on liability because of its status as an arranger, generator or transporter of waste, or because of its status as a lender, trustee, shareholder or parent.
  • Counsel clients on the applicability of air, hazardous waste and water quality regulations, and permitting.
  • Advise clients on applicability of hazardous waste and recycling laws to certain operations.
  • Counsel clients on remediation and closure requirements.
  • Counsel clients on health and safety requirements, including OSHA investigations, closing conferences and citations.
  • Assist clients on compliance with land use requirements, including conditional use permits and environmental impact requirements.
  • Assist clients on insurance coverage disputes.
Environmental Aspects of Real Estate and Corporate Transactions

John regularly carries out due diligence reviews, including review of Phase I, II, and III environmental reports and the negotiations of environmental representations and warranties, and indemnities. In addition, he has litigated many of the issues that can arise under those provisions.

  • Perform environmental compliance audits for clients, including major chemical manufacturer, aerospace component manufacturer, drill rig manufacturer, gear manufacturer and metal forming operations.
  • Advise clients on environmental aspects of corporate transactions, including business acquisitions, reorganizations, lending activities, bankruptcy, SEC disclosure, and real estate development and transfers.
  • Participate in Phase I and Phase II due diligence reviews of numerous industries, including zinc manufacturer, photo developers, printing companies, steel manufacturer, and soundproofing material manufacturer.
  • Perform environmental audit of abandoned pesticide plant on behalf of lending institution.
  • Advise clients on successor liability issues associated with acquisition of corporate assets.
  • Advise clients on property transfer disclosure laws.
  • Negotiate representations and warranties and indemnities provisions of stock and asset purchase agreements.
  • Draft Phase I and Phase II scopes of work for bid requests to environmental consultants.
  • Negotiate consulting agreements, including insurance coverage and indemnity issues, with environmental consultants.
  • Conduct due diligence and negotiate environmental provisions in real property transactions.
  • Conduct due diligence and negotiate environmental provisions in ESOP transactions.

Recognitions and Memberships

Recognitions

  • Chambers USA: Environmental in California (2011 to 2017)
  • The Best Lawyers in America©
    • Los Angeles: Environmental Law (2012 to 2018)
    • Los Angeles: Litigation – Environmental
  • Southern California "Super Lawyer" (2006 to 2017)
  • United States Department of Justice Honors Program
  • Martindale-Hubbell: AV Preeminent

Memberships

  • American Bar Association
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association: Judicial Selection Committee (1997 to 1999)
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of California: Settlement Officer (1998 to present)

Prior Positions

  • Law Clerk for the Honorable Robert C. Zampano, United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (1982 to 1983)
  • Law Clerk for the Honorable Ozell M. Trask and the Honorable Robert R. Beazer, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (1983 to 1984)

Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court, District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of California
  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Pennsylvania

Education

  • J.D., American University Washington College of Law, 1982, magna cum laude
  • B.A., Boston University, 1979, summa cum laude