Erin Brockovich and Robin Greenwald
Erin Brockovich grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, the youngest child of an industrial engineer and a journalist. After graduating from Lawrence High School Brockovich attended Kansas State University for one year, then moved to Dallas, Texas, where she earned her Associate in Applied Arts degree at Wades Business College.
After college, Brockovich moved to Southern California where she worked for K-Mart as a management trainee before taking a job at Fluor Engineers and Constructors to work and study to become an electrical design engineer. It was at this time when I decided to explore the world of beauty pageants. Although she won the title of Miss Pacific Coast, Brockovich quit after a year and married a restaurant manager.
Brockovich moved back to Kansas with her husband where her two older children, Matthew and Katie, were born. In 1987, she settled in Reno, Nevada, before she divorced her first husband. As a mother of two children and newly single, Brockovich got a job as a secretary at a local brokerage, where she met a stockbroker. They married in 1989 and gave birth to her youngest daughter, Elizabeth. In 1990, her marriage ended in divorce. She was again a single mother, this time with three children to feed and clothe.
After being seriously injured in a traffic accident in Reno, Brockovich and her kids moved back to Southern California where she hired Jim Vititoe of Masry & Vititoe to handle her auto accident case in 1991. Not long after her case was resolved, Brockovich was hired to work at the law firm as a file clerk. While organizing papers in a pro bono real estate case, she found medical records in the file that caught her eye. After getting permission from one of the firm's principals, Ed Masry, Brockovich began to research the matter.
Her investigation eventually established that the health of countless people who lived in and around Hinkley, California, in the 1960's, 70's and 80's had been severely compromised by exposure to toxic Chromium 6. The Chromium 6 had leaked into the groundwater from the nearby Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Compressor Station. In 1996, as a result of the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind, spearheaded by Brockovich and Ed Masry, the giant utility paid the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S. history: $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents.
Brockovich’s investigating inspired the hit movie Erin Brockovich, which highlighted my legal triumph and personal challenges. Released in March 2000 by Universal Studios, the movie starred Julia Roberts , who plays Brockovich. The movie's great success led to numerous awards and nominations, including 5 Academy Award nominations and one win. Steven Soderbergh was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Director,” and Julia Roberts won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA Award for “Best Actress” for her portrayal of Brockovich.
From the exposure of the movie, she became a reluctant public figure. Over time, Brockovich realized she could use her notoriety to spread positive messages of personal empowerment and for her to encourage people to stand up and make a difference. This led to Brockovich’s first television project, an ABC special entitled Challenge America with Erin Brockovich. It taped in New York and aired in December 2001. This feel good program is best described as "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on steroids, but preceded that successful series. She set out to motivate and organize hundreds of volunteers and donated resources to help rebuild a dilapidated park in downtown Manhattan a few months following 9/11.
Brockovich then hosted the Lifetime series Final Justice. This series recreated incredible stories of actual women, their perilous situations and how they overcame adversity. She followed that up with her book entitled Take It from Me, Life's a Struggle, But You Can Win.
Presently, Brockovich is one of the most requested lecture clients of the William Morris Agency. She travels the world doing personal appearances spreading motivational messages, telling her story and her personal life lessons.
As President of the consulting firm Brockovich Research & Consulting, Brockovich is involved in numerous major environmental cases.
She has come a long way from file clerk to inspired environmental activist to motivational speaker to television host and producer.
Brockovich was remarried in 1999 to Eric Ellis, and lives with her husband and children in Southern California.
Weitz & Luxenberg’s Environmental Toxic Tort practice is headed by Robin Greenwald, a leading environmental attorney in the country who has been practicing law for about 25 years. Robin spent over 15 years prosecuting environmental crimes and litigating environmental civil cases for the U.S. Department of Justice, both in New York and Washington, D.C. She was Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York, and Assistant Chief of the Environmental Crimes Section in Washington, D.C. She has led numerous environmental investigations and has been lead counsel in many environmental trials and appeals.
After leaving the Department of Justice, Robin was named General Counsel of the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General from 1999-2001. Robin was then selected as the Executive Director of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international organization devoted to protecting water bodies around the world, from 2001 to 2003. Immediately before joining our firm, Robin was the Director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Rutgers University School of Law – Newark, where she was also a clinical professor of Environmental Law. Robin was the lead attorney on the MTBE litigation and plaintiffs’ liaison counsel for all MTBE cases around the country.