• Ohio, 1991
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio


Lewis and Clark's Northwestern School of Law, J.D., 1990; Certificate in Environmental/Natural Resources Law, 1990

College of Wooster, B.A., 1987


A third generation garbage man, Mr. Durham has litigated more than 1,000 environmental cases, advised local governments on solid waste and recycling collection contracts and worked with clients regarding all types of enforcement and public health issues.

Joseph R. Durham is a member of Eastman & Smith and has represented cities, counties, local health districts, solid waste management districts, townships and villages in environmental law and litigation and public health law.  Mr. Durham has represented clients before local, state and federal courts, the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Review Appeals Commission, Ohio Department of Commerce, Ohio Board of Pharmacy, Ohio Real Estate Commission, county boards of revision (real estate tax appeals), Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Board of Nursing, Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulation (BUSTR), U.S. Custom and Border Protection and local boards of zoning appeals. 

Since 1991, Mr. Durham has advised local health district clients. He has litigated cases involving nuisances, solid and hazardous wastes, construction and demolition debris, landfills, recyclable materials, sewage, water and air pollution.

Mr. Durham worked at his family’s hauling business during high school and college.  He completed law school with a certificate in environmental and natural resources law.  In 2018 he was added to Best Lawyers in America® for Environmental Law.  As the chair of Eastman & Smith’s Environmental and Public Law Sections, Joe Durham coordinates the Firm’s Environmental, Public Law, and Solid Waste Management Practice Groups.

When not practicing law, Mr. Durham is a member of the Columbus Bar Association, Environmental Committee, and the Ohio State Bar Association. His entire family volunteers for the Columbus Public Schools Special Olympics program. Mr. Durham’s wife coached volleyball for more than twenty years while he previously coached basketball, softball and currently participates as a golf partner. Mr. Durham served a long tenure on the board of directors, and organized the annual charity golf outing fundraiser.



Environmental Law and Litigation

Mr. Durham’s understanding of the waste hauling industry is critical to his representation of public entities (solid waste districts, counties, municipalities, townships and health districts), whether it involves solid waste and recycling collection contracts, landfills, recycling facilities, drafting rules and plans, flow control, compliance, or enforcement. Mr. Durham is a pioneer in litigation before the Franklin County Environmental Court and has litigated nuisance cases involving drug houses, prostitution and human trafficking, apartments, condominiums, motels, hotels, illegal gambling and race tracks.  Some specific examples of his experience include:

  • Appointed as the first environmental prosecutor for Franklin County, Ohio;
  • Litigated environmental cases at the local, state and federal levels as a Franklin County assistant prosecuting attorney, as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and as an attorney in private practice;
  • Provides training on: hazardous materials and Department of Transportation regulations; National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permit requirements; and environmental investigations;
  • Authored the Environmental Investigation Resource Guide; and
  • Representing local health districts in published cases relating to construction and demolition debris facilities; household sewage systems; enforcement of local health codes; variances; contempt for violating injunction; nuisance abatement actions; and mandamus.

Public Health Law

Having nearly 30 years of experience advising local health district clients has given Mr. Durham an appreciation for all facets of issues facing health districts.   As a participant, speaker or subject matter expert, his experience addressing public health emergencies includes:

  • Franklin County Public Health Incident Command Structure: COVID Response;
  • National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) development of Public Health and the Law: An Emergency Preparedness Training Kit; 
  • "Hot Legal Topics in Preparedness" at Preparedness Summit Atlanta Podcast;
  • Isolation and Quarantine Taskforce, Franklin County, Ohio;
  • Local Public Health Preparedness Law Training exercise at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law; 
  • Partnership for Public Health Law Meeting, Washington DC, Collaboration of APHA, ASTHO, NACCHO, and NALBOH;
  • Several terms on NACCHO’s Public Health Law Workgroup;
  • Public Health Law Conference, Atlanta;
  • Network for Public Health Law's Mid-States Region, Ann Arbor, Michigan;
  • NACCHO's Preparedness Summit in Anaheim, CA; and
  • Ohio Department of Health, Social Distancing Legal Consultation Meeting.

Honors & Affiliations

Community/Professional Affiliations

  • Columbus Bar Association
  • Ohio State Bar Association

Honors & Awards

Best Lawyers Award Badge

  • Best Lawyers in American, 2018 - 2024
  • Distinguished Graduate Award, Lewis and Clark's Northwestern School of Law, 2022
  • Ohio Business Magazine's Ohio Leading Lawyers, 2024

Publications & News