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University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law - Summer 2014

Alumni News PACI F I C L AW 41 S T E V E Y E AT E R Stuart L. Somach, ’79, has a career practicing water law that spans three and a half decades. A shareholder at Sacramento-based Somach Simmons & Dunn, Somach is using his expertise to help shape the Pacific McGeorge Water Law Institute. The institute’s goal is to influence water policy with a focus on researching solutions to water infrastructure challenges. “The issues we will grapple with will be associated with how best to use water, how best to conserve water and how best to allocate that water,” Somach says. A former English and government junior high school teacher, Somach thought he would open a small general practice firm after graduation. He hesitated taking the school’s water law class because he couldn’t think how it fit with running a general practice. His wife persuaded him to enroll, and he quickly fell in love with the topic. Somach started his career with the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. He handled water litigation while also working on issues such as grazing, mining, national parks, the Endangered Species Act, and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In 1981, he was made an assistant U.S. attorney for the Department of Justice in Sacramento, where he litigated both high-profile water and nonwater cases. Three years later, he joined McDonough, Holland & Allen PC in Sacramento. Somach left in 1991 to open his own water and environmental law firm with several colleagues. Somach practices water, federal reclamation, and public agency law, as well as natural resources and environmental law. He litigates in federal and state courts and has argued cases in the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. He spoke to President Clinton in the White House about the Endangered Species Act and has testified before Congress about federal water and environmental issues. Water law, Somach says, is “very intellectually stimulating. My current work pulls on everything I’ve learned over a lifetime from a legal perspective.” California’s current drought is adding unnecessary stress to an already busy practice. Drought, he says, is a normal part of the Western water cycle, and we should not have to deal with it in a crisis mode. “The institute ought to give us tools to avoid this type of crisis situation,” he says. “Our legal system was developed to deal with droughts, and our infrastructure needs to catch up to where we are populationwise in order to allow that system to work.” ECO-LAW EXPERT Stuart L. Somach, ’79, brings a depth of knowledge and experience to McGeorge’s new Water Law Institute By Joanna Corman


University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law - Summer 2014
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