John F. Barg

Of Counsel

John F. Barg
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John has had an active criminal and civil trial practice for more than 40 years, and has tried to verdict more than 100 civil and criminal cases, including many environmental cases. His environmental litigation experience includes toxic tort, cost recovery, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Superfund, and environmental insurance coverage cases, as well as non-environmental complex litigation in federal and state courts. Before entering private practice in 1984, John spent ten years with the United States Department of Justice. He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of Civil Litigation in the United States Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, and as a trial attorney in the Criminal and Civil Divisions of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

  • Union Pacific Railroad Company as owner of contaminated property in a toxic tort action brought by 30 plaintiffs whose drinking water wells and properties were impacted by chlorinated solvents from other sources (two neighborhood dry cleaners) in a lengthy jury trial; the jury returned a defense verdict, finding that contaminants from our client's property had not migrated in groundwater to any plaintiff's well or property.
  • Defendants in Polanco Act litigation, including trial and appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, concerning petroleum and metals contamination in Stockton. Redevelopment Agency of the City of Stockton v. BNSF Railway Co., 643 F.3d 668 (9th Cir. 2011) The United States Supreme Court affirmed a federal district court's determination, obtained by Barg Coffin Lewis & Trapp, LLP attorneys following a bench trial, holding that the environmental harm at a Superfund site was reasonably capable of apportionment and rejecting the imposition of joint and several liability under CERCLA. Burlington Northern v. United States, 129 S. Ct. 1870 (2009)
  • Cargill, Inc. in San Francisco Baykeeper v. Cargill, Inc., in which the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a Cargill pond near San Francisco Bay was not within the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The Ninth Circuit opinion is 481 F. 3d 700 (9th Cir. 2007)
  • Law firms in binding arbitration of fee dispute with Townsend & Townsend & Crew in connection with Microsoft Antitrust Litigation
  • A real estate development company in a $52 million claim involving 1,100 acres in Los Gatos, California; recovered over $18 million on a counterclaim relating to the same property after a one-month jury trial
  • A major oil company in multiple lawsuits brought by more than 14,000 plaintiffs concerning a release of a chemical catalyst from a San Francisco Bay Area refinery
  • An oil company in a London arbitration and California litigation seeking coverage from European and Bermuda insurers for a settlement with 13,000 individuals who claimed property damage and bodily injuries from an industrial accident in the United States, recovering more than $55 million in insurance proceeds



In addition to his trial practice, John’s professional experience and expertise include:

  • Co-authoring Environmental Litigation, Bancroft-Whitney’s California Civil Practice Guide on environmental law
  • Lecturing at Environmental Law Institute conferences
  • Serving the federal courts in providing arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation, and other forms of ADR to litigants in federal court
  • Representing White House, cabinet, and cabinet-level officers in constitutional and national security litigation
  • Environmental dispute resolution and mediation services


  • Twice named Best Lawyers’ San Francisco Lawyer of the Year (in Environmental Litigation, 2016; in Environmental Law, 2012)
  • Listed as a Leader in the field of Environmental Law by Chambers USA
  • Designated by peer review to be one of the “Best Lawyers in America” in the category of environmental law and environmental litigation
  • Named a “Super Lawyer” by San Francisco magazine in an annual survey of Northern California lawyers every year since the survey’s inception in 2004
  • Named one of the Bay Area’s top environmental lawyers by Bay Area Lawyer magazine
  • Listed in the International Bar Association’s Who’s Who Legal guide


Golden Gate University, J.D., cum laude, 1974

    • Law Review
    • Legal Writing and Research Instructor

San Jose State University, B.A., Political Science, cum laude, 1968


  • Commissioned service in United States Navy in Vietnam and Philippines
  • Retired Commander, United States Naval Reserve


National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel
American Bar Association
Federal Bar Association
American Trial Lawyers Association
State Bar of California
Bar Association of San Francisco
Defense Research Institute


United States District Court for all Districts of California
United States Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit (2014)
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (1998)
United States Court of Federal Claims (1991)
United States Supreme Court (1978)
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (1977)
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (1976)
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (1975)
Supreme Court of the State of California (1974)
State Bar of California (1974)