Leslie A. Brueckner is a Senior Attorney at Public Justice, where she specializes in cutting-edge appellate litigation in the state and federal courts. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and summa cum laude graduate of U.C. Berkeley, Leslie’s current areas of practice include class actions, constitutional law, federal preemption, mass torts, consumer rights, personal jurisdiction, and combating court secrecy. She recently celebrated her 25th anniversary with Public Justice.
Among notable recent victories, Leslie has won three unanimous rulings from the California Supreme Court, in 2015, 2017, and 2019 (see below).
The most recent of these victories was in Noel v. Thrifty (July 2019), where Leslie won an unanimous class action ruling from the California Supreme Court rejecting a strict version of the so-called “ascertainability” requirement and restored the viability of consumer and worker class actions against wrongdoing corporations. The decision overturns a string of California appellate decisions throwing out class actions on ascertainability grounds. (Here’s Leslie’s blog, which links to the decision. Leslie’s argument can be viewed here.)
In December 2017, Leslie won another landmark unanimous ruling from the California Supreme Court in T.H. v. Novartis holding that brand-name prescription drug manufacturers can be sued for failing to warn of the dangers of mislabeled, generic versions of their drugs. The decision rejected over 100 reported appellate decisions from state and federal courts nationwide. Leslie and her co-counsel Ben Siminou were awarded the Pound Civil Justice Institute’s 2018 Appellate Advocacy Award for their work on the case. (Here’s more info about the case from our website.)
In 2015, Leslie won her first groundbreaking decision from the California Supreme Court in Quesada v. Herb Thyme Farms, Inc., which upheld consumers’ rights to bring a class action against an organic grower for mislabeling its conventionally grown herbs as “organic.” The decision remains the only appellate decision in the country to hold that federal law—specifically, the Organic Food Production Act of 1990—does not preempt state consumer fraud claims on behalf of individuals who were defrauded by the use of the “USDA organic” label on conventionally grown food.
Leslie was also lead appellate counsel in Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine (2002), where she won a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision on behalf of man whose wife was killed when she was repeatedly struck by an unguarded boat propeller. In a rare decision favoring tort victims’ rights to hold manufacturers accountable, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Boat Safety Act does not preempt petitioner’s state common-law claims against a boat engine manufacturer for failing to install a propeller guard on the engine of a recreational motor boat.
Leslie is currently co-counsel in a number of appeals involving important access-to-justice issues including: Hardeman v. Monsanto (9th Circuit No. 19-16636 (preemption appeal of $80 million jury verdict finding Monsanto liable for injuries caused by Roundup pesticide); Korolshteyn v. Costo (9th Circuit No. 19-55739) (appeal of decision finding claims that dietary supplement labels are false and misleading under California’s consumer laws preempted by Food Drug and Cosmetic Act); Varner v. Dometic Corp. (11th Circuit No. 19-13242) (appeal of decision refusing to certify consumer class action on ascertainability grounds).
She is also co-lead counsel before the California Supreme Court in Sheen v. Wells Fargo, No. S. 258019, on whether the economic loss rule bars negligence claims arising out of loan modification negotiations that led to a home foreclosure.
Leslie is also co-counsel for plaintiffs in a series of lawsuits challenging so-called “ag-gag” laws that seek to criminalize whistleblowing in animal agriculture and elsewhere. Two such laws—Idaho’s and Wyoming’s—have been declared unconstitutional by U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Ninth and Tenth Circuits. Public Justice’s challenge to two other laws – in Iowa and North Carolina, respectively—are pending in the federal trial courts.