James Wheaton is President and Legal Director of the Environmental Law Foundation, and Senior Counsel and Founder of the First Amendment Project. They were founded in 1992 and 1991 in Oakland, California. He teaches the Journalism Law seminar in the Graduate Schools of Journalism at both Stanford and UC Berkeley. Through the First Amendment Project he also runs a Free Speech Legal Clinic at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley.
He has been named as one of “California’s 100 Top Lawyers” by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal, and honored as an Attorney of the Year by California Lawyer three times, for his work in each of his specialties: Environmental Law, Constitutional Law and Water Law. He has also received awards from the Playboy Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists Northern California Chapter, and the Ecology Law Quarterly, and his professional work has been noted in Outside, Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Playboy magazines.
His political work includes writing the text of – and running or chairing campaigns for – statewide ballot measures over the last 30 years on topics such as labeling GMO foods, marijuana legalization, old growth forestry, insurance regulation, campaign finance, political ethics reform, consumer privacy, and litigation reform.
As a volunteer he is on the Advisory Board of the International Documentary Association, an Advisor to the California State Bar's Environment Section Executive Committee and for three years co-chaired its Environmental Conference at Yosemite. He was a Trustee of River Network for nine years, and past-President and board member for thirteen years for Friends of the River. He has served as a City of Oakland Public Ethics Commissioner, as Executive Director of California Common Cause, and as chair of the Society of Professional Journalists (NorCal) FOI Committee.
He is an investor and volunteer at The New Parkway Theater in Oakland, and Camp Navarro in Mendocino County. He is a Burner and runs camp “JOBI – Coffee Tea or Me?” He has been part of the lead build team on the Temple, and helped build the Black Rock Lighthouse. He is a Stone of a group called The Soup, a deliberate community of support, fun and creativity that exists year-round and culminates every Solstice in a five-day off the grid outdoor music festival and fundraiser held at an undisclosed location.
He is a graduate of Brown University and Berkeley Law School. He is a white water rafter, kayaker and canoeist, trained whitewater guides, has a sailboat on San Francisco Bay, is an avid woodworker, builder and maker, and retired from 7 years of coaching Oakland Little League baseball, where he is still an occasional umpire and calls ‘em as he sees ‘em.