Earl E. DeBrine, Jr.

Direct: 505.848.1810
Main: 505.848.1800
Fax: 505.848.9710
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Email: earl.debrine@modrall.com


Earl DeBrine concentrates his practice in oil and gas, railroad, product liability and commercial litigation. For twenty-eight years, he has represented major energy companies, railroads and manufacturers in lawsuits and negotiations ranging from preferential purchase rights and other disputes under joint operating agreements, environmental and title disputes to oilfield wrongful death claims.  He also regularly advises oil and gas producers concerning development transactions and appears before the Oil Conservation Division and Commission in a variety of regulatory matters pertaining to oil and gas development. He serves as the firm's Treasurer, and co-chairs its Oil and Gas Practice Group and its Railroad Practice Group. Earl joined Modrall Sperling in 1987 after receiving his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Best Lawyers in America® selected Earl as 2016 Oil and Gas Law "Lawyer of the Year" in Albuquerque, only a single lawyer in each practice area in each community is selected Lawyer of the Year. Earl has achieved the highest rating possible from Martindale-Hubbell based on a peer review, and named among those listed in Southwest Super Lawyers®. He joined Modrall Sperling in 1987 after receiving his law degree, cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center.

Earl was raised in the middle Rio Grande valley north of Socorro, New Mexico. He maintains an interest in his family's farm in Lemitar and with his wife Joanna, owns The Capitol Bar, a historic saloon on the Socorro plaza built in 1896.


  • Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1987, cum laude
  • University of New Mexico, B.B.A. in Finance and Accounting, 1984, with distinction

Bar Admissions

  • New Mexico
  • U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • United States Supreme Court

Practice Areas


  • Represented BP America and argued before the New Mexico Supreme Court in a case establishing the proper venue for suits against foreign corporations.  See Baker v. BP America Production Co., 137 N.M. 334, 110 P.3d 1071 (2005).
  • Obtained summary judgment for an operator who had commenced drilling on an adjacent surface tract prior to the expiration of an oil and gas lease, defeating ownership claims of a lessee who had acquired a top lease.  See Manzano Oil Corp. v. Chesapeake Operating, Inc., 178 F. Supp. 2d 1217 (D.N.M. 2001).
  • Lead counsel who wrote the successful brief on behalf of several oil and gas producers that further clarified venue rules for suits against registered foreign corporations.  See Bank of America v. Apache Corp., 144 N.M. 123, 184 P.3d 435 (Ct. App.), cert. denied 144 N.M. 123 (2008).
  • Succeeded in sustaining federal jurisdiction over a railroad crossing wrongful death suit which plaintiffs sought to bring as a complaint in intervention in a pending state court lawsuit involving a different accident at the same crossing.  See Stark-Romero v. Amtrak, 763 F. Supp. 2d 761 (D.N.M. 2011).
  • Represented BNSF Railway and Amtrak, successfully excluded an expert report and obtained summary judgment in favor of BNSF in a railroad grade crossing wrongful death suit that was affirmed by the Tenth Circuit.  See Henderson v. Amtrak, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 207 (10th Cir. Jan. 5, 2011).
  • Successfully excluded expert testimony concerning train event recorder data under Daubert and Fed.R.Civ.P 26(a) and obtained partial summary judgment dismissing various claim based upon federal preemption.  See Vigil v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry., 521 F. Supp. 2d 1185 (D.N.M. 2007).
  • Successfully enjoined the prosecution of a railroad grade crossing accident suit filed in tribal court based on a lack of tribal court jurisdiction.  See Chiwewe v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 239 F.Supp.2d 1213 (D.N.M. 2002).
  • Wrote the successful brief in a case affirming the right of review by mandamus of court order allowing for discovery in arbitration and recognizing the limited nature of discovery in arbitration under the Texas General Arbitration Act and the Federal Arbitration Act.  See Mewbourne Oil Co. v. Blackburn, 793 S.W.2d 736 (Tex. App.--Amarillo 1990).


Professional Activities

  • Advisory Board, Institute for Energy Law
  • National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel
  • American Bar Association, Section of Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law
  • Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico

Civic Activities

  • Chair, New Mexico State Bar Civil Trial Specialist Committee
  • Member, Association of Commerce & Industry Agricultural Committee
  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Audit and Risk Management Committee


  • Best Lawyers® 2016 Oil and Gas Law "Lawyer of the Year" in Albuquerque
  • Best Lawyers in America®, in Oil & Gas Law and Railroad Law, 2007-present
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV® Peer Review Rated
  • Southwest Super Lawyers® in Energy & Natural Resources, 2007-present

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