Melissa (Missy) K. Sims stands as a distinguished Senior Counsel at Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman, PLLC, specializing in environmental and public client law. Based in Princeton, Illinois, Melissa has carved a niche for herself as a formidable advocate in the realm of environmental litigation, championing the rights of communities affected by pollution and environmental negligence.
Her journey into environmental law was catalyzed by her groundbreaking representation of the Village of DePue, Illinois. This small town, nestled in North Central Illinois, faced a daunting challenge against corporate giants Exxon, CBS, and Viacom. They were contending with a decades-old superfund site, notorious as one of the most polluted in the country. Melissa’s relentless pursuit of justice in this case not only brought relief to DePue but also set a national precedent.
A notable triumph in her career came before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Here, Melissa secured a landmark ruling, establishing that cities were not preempted from utilizing their ordinances during the course of a federally sponsored cleanup. This decision reshaped the landscape of environmental litigation, empowering municipalities to take a more active role in safeguarding their environments.
Building on the DePue precedent, Melissa then successfully represented another small Illinois city in its battle against Shell and ConocoPhillips. This case revolved around decades-old refinery pollution, further cementing her reputation as a fierce advocate for environmental justice.
Today, Melissa’s expertise extends globally through Milberg’s environmental and public client practice. Her focus remains steadfastly on communities of color, which have historically borne a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution. Her work is characterized by a deep commitment to these communities, ensuring they receive the attention and justice they deserve. Melissa serves as co-chairs for the American Association climate change and environmental racism litigation groups.
In 2022, under Melissa’s guidance, Milberg filed a pioneering climate change lawsuit. This suit, a first of its kind, targeted the fossil fuel industry for racketeering. It uniquely focused on the devastating impact of the 2017 Atlantic hurricanes Maria and Irma, which wrought unprecedented destruction on Puerto Rico. This case underscored Milberg’s innovative approach to environmental litigation, addressing the complex interplay between climate change and corporate accountability.
Melissa K. Sims continues to be a beacon of hope and a pillar of strength for communities fighting against environmental injustices. Her work not only secures redress for past wrongs but also paves the way for a more equitable and sustainable future.
Time 100 Climate List, November 2023
CNN with Christiane Amanpour, July 2023
The New York Times, July 2023
JD Journal, July 2023
ABA Journal, July 2023
A Climate Change Podcast, August 2023