John is possibly the number one construction lawyer of his generation.
The Legal 500 U.S.

John Heisse, a Pillsbury Litigation partner, was named “Construction Lawyer of the Year” for 2017 by Who’s Who Legal.

Guiding global developers, builders, owners and designers through every phase of complex public and private construction, John has successfully represented clients regarding major energy, infrastructure, hospitality, professional sports, commercial and health care projects around the world. He draws on his engineering background and deep legal experience to counsel clients on project planning, contracting, contract and delivery issues, and to resolve disputes through negotiation, arbitration and litigation.

John is a past chair of Pillsbury’s Construction Counseling & Dispute Resolution team, a past president of the American College of Construction Lawyers, and a past chair of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Construction Law.

Representative Experience

  • Represented SONGS Decommissioning Services (SDS) (a joint venture between AECOM and Energy Solutions) in disputes with Southern California Edison (SCE) over the decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California (San Deigo, CA).
  • Successfully defended major Japanese manufacturer and several of its U.S. subsidiaries in an ICC Arbitration involving claims in excess of $7 billion stemming from the claimed failure of certain critical components manufactured and supplied by our clients to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). Our clients were found to be the “prevailing party,” and were awarded fees and costs in excess of $58 million (San Diego County, CA).
  • Counseled the Panama Canal Authority on project delivery methods and phasing and contracting strategies for the $5 billion construction of new locks, excavation for lock access and dredging operations (Panama City, Panama).

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  • Advised Golden Link Concessionaire on the Presidio Parkway, a public-private partnership project linking San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge, regarding the rights and responsibilities of various project stakeholders and resolving claims arising out of the project (San Francisco, CA).
  • Represented the builder of Salesforce Tower in a lawsuit alleging that the excavation and dewatering of the tower contributed to the settling and tilting of the nearby Millennium Tower (San Francisco, CA).
  • Represented the developer with regard to disputes with the prime contractor arising out of the construction of a 100 MW hybrid energy generation and storage facility (Los Angeles, CA).
  • Served as chair of an international arbitration panel on a dispute arising out of the termination of the EPC contractor on a 674 MW natural gas-fired, combined-cycle power plant (New York, NY).
  • Represented an EPC contractor in the arbitration of over $100 million in disputes arising out of the design and construction of copper and molybdenum mining facilities, settling matter for favorable terms (Morenci, AZ).
  • Represented an EPCM contractor in arbitration before the International Centre for Dispute Resolution with an owner after the catastrophic failure of the internal lining in over 100 miles of desalinated water pipeline (Santiago, Chile).
  • Represented the prime contractor in a delay and impact claim against the public owner of a detention facility, successfully negotiating roughly $50 million in claims advanced by the prime and several subcontractors. Also successfully represented the prime contractor in an arbitration adverse to an electrical subcontractor, which had been terminated for default on the project (Riverside, CA).
  • Represented the BOM contractor in arbitration of a dispute with the developer of the first segment of the nation’s largest solar field. The dispute involved the failure of the solar field to achieve warranted production efficiencies, which resulted in a dramatic reduction of power generated. Since the payment for O&M services was pegged to power generated, this underperformance resulted in significant operating losses for the contractor. The arbitration involved complex engineering issues of thermodynamics and energy conversion (Mojave Desert, CA).
  • Served as an arbitrator in ICC arbitration regarding a dispute over the construction of a solar field in California (Calexico, CA).
  • Represented the City and County of Honolulu in litigation with a contractor following the cancellation of a planned $2.2 billion rapid transit system after the initial phase of project development had been performed (Honolulu).
  • Represented the design-build contractor in negotiations relating to the construction of the International Arrivals Facility at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Seattle, WA).
  • Represented a large Japanese home builder in arbitration of a complex construction dispute involving landslide repair and civil engineering work at a large, high-end residential and golf course project constructed on seismically active land. This arbitration centered on issues of geotechnical engineering and soils analysis (Vallejo, CA).
  • Represented a general contractor for the construction of Citizens Bank Ballpark, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies, in the resolution of subcontractor claims for delay, disruption and extra work. The claims of all but one subcontractor were resolved amicably; shortly before the commencement of trial for the remaining dispute, the parties agreed to transfer the dispute from the local trial court to a private arbitration proceeding before agreed-upon neutral arbitrators. The case was successfully resolved through a multiweek arbitration (Philadelphia, PA).
  • Represented a general contractor and its surety during construction of a roughly $200 million central plant and inpatient building for St. John’s Health Center. Worked closely during construction with the contractor’s team to identify and resolve disputes where possible, and ultimately settled close-out disputes with the owner, designers, construction manager and dozens of subcontractors. Also represented the completing surety in a trial against the controls subcontractor and an arbitration with the MEP designer (Santa Monica, CA).
  • Represented the general contractor of a hotel and casino, as well as its surety, in developing and resolving claims for additional scope, alleged defects, delay and disruption between the contractor and the owner, as well as between the contractor and dozens of subcontractors. Successfully resolved all claims prior to commencement of trial (Commerce, CA).
  • Represented the University of California’s Mt. Zion Outpatient Cancer Center against contractor claims on a multiprime contract involving 42 trades and construction of a state-of-the-art cancer center. Successfully resolved all issues and closed all contracts without litigation (San Francisco, CA).
  • Assisted in the negotiation and drafting of design-build contracts between the City of San Diego and the San Diego Ballpark Builders joint venture for the construction of PETCO Park, the home of the San Diego Padres (San Diego, CA).
  • Represented the University of California in disputes arising on several projects, including seismic upgrade projects involving defective design and disputes with contractors on hospital, student housing, and mixed-use facility projects on both the Berkeley and San Francisco campuses (Berkeley and San Francisco, CA).

Professional Highlights

Named by Best Lawyers as “Lawyer of the Year—San Francisco” in Construction Law in 2014, 2016, 2019, 2022 and 2024; and in The Best Lawyers in America for Construction Law (2003 – 2024); Litigation – Construction (2011 – 2024). Also named as one of the “Top 10 Influential US Construction Lawyers” by Business Today (2023); consistently recognized by Chambers USA, The Legal 500 U.S. and Who’s Who Legal.

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  • Honors & Awards
    • Chambers USA, Construction—Nationwide (2017 – 2022) and Construction—California (2004 – 2024)
    • Best Lawyers (published by BL Rankings LLC) Construction Law, Litigation—Construction (2003 – 2024)
    • The Legal 500 U.S., Construction—Leading Lawyer (2007 – 2019, 2023); Hall of Fame (2020 – 2022, 2024)
    • Who’s Who Legal, Construction Lawyer of the Year (2017)
    • Thought Leaders: Global Elite (2019, 2021, 2022); Thought Leaders: Construction (2017 – 2018, 2020); Construction—Most Highly Regarded Individuals, International (2013 – 2016;) Construction—California (2005 – 2019)
    • Super Lawyers, Top 100 Lawyers in Northern California (2008 – 2010, 2012 – 2013, 2018 – 2019)
  • Speaking Engagements
    • “Choice or Law and Protecting Privilege,” Society of Construction Law North America (2018)
    • “The Threshold Approval to Evaluation Design Professional Liability, a Point/Counterpoint,” American College of Construction Lawyers (2014).
    • "Imposing and Meeting Pre-Qualification Requirements: How to Handle Protests." Construction Superconference (2011).
    • "Ethical Problems in Federal Contracts." American College of Construction Lawyers (2011).
    • "Attracting and Retaining a Diverse Workforce." Associated General Contractors of California (2008).
    • "Risk Allocation in Standard Form Agreements: Who’s the Fairest of Them All?" ABA Forum of the Construction Industry (2006). Moderator
    • "Forensic Scheduling and the As-Built Delay Analysis." Construction Superconference (2006). Panelist
    • "Construction Law for Accountants." California CPA Foundation (2004).
    • "Fundamentals of Construction Law." ABA Forum of the Construction Industry (2002).
    • "Best Value Procurement and Other Alternatives to the Lowest Responsible Bidder." Associated Builders and Contractors (2001).
    • "Proving Damages Through Lay and Expert Witnesses." ABA Forum of the Construction Industry (1999).
    • "The Accountant’s Role in Litigation." AICPA National Conference (1998, 2000).
  • Associations
    • American College of Construction Lawyers, 2005 – Present (President, 2020 – 2021; other leadership positions, 2010 – 2019)
    • American Bar Association, Forum on the Construction Industry, 1985 – Present (Chair, 2003 – 2004; other leadership positions, 1995 – 2003)
    • American Bar Association, Public Contract Law Section, 1985 – Present (Chair, Construction Claims Committee, 1998 – 1999, Vice Chair, 1995 – 1997)
    • American Bar Foundation, Fellow
    • Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (Founder, Board Member, 1994 – 2003, 2013 – 2016, 2022 - present; Board President, 1994 – 1997; 2023)
    • Giffords (Board Member, 2016 – 2022)
    • ACE Mentor Program (National Board Member, 2007 – 2010; Leadership Circle, 2010 – present)
    • Catholic University of America, School of Engineering (Executive Board, 2007 – 2015; Chair, 2013 – 2015)
    • American Arbitration Association, National Panel of Construction Arbitrators (Arbitrator and Mediator)


  • J.D., University of California, Hastings College of the Law, 1980
    Order of the Coif, Thurston Honor Society, Senior Editor, Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

    B.S.C.E., The Catholic University of America, 1976
    Tau Beta Pi


  • California

    District of Columbia