Massachusetts

Review

Dispute resolution
Brown Rudnick

With origins in Boston and New York dating back to the 1940s, Brown Rudnick has since blossomed from a key player throughout New England into a strategically cultivated mid-Atlantic shop. Litigators within the firm are recognized for an aggressive, creative and indeed unconventional approach. A peer insists, “These are trial lawyers! They have guts and take bold positions. Now I may not always agree with these positions, but I’m impressed with them.” While it hosts attorneys attending to a broad range of commercial litigation, several star players have emerged as leaders in some rather novel areas. 

     The firm, and Washington, DC-based Ben Chew, landed squarely in the headlines for the representation of Johnny Depp in a massively publicized defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard. A Virginia jury unanimously ruled in favor of Depp following a six-week trial, finding that he had proven all elements of defamation. The seven-member jury awarded him $15 million, as well as $2 million to Heard on account of her counterclaim. Chew, a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, notches himself a coveted position on this edition’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers list.In another controversial and highly public matter, New York’s Michael Bowe and Lauren Tabaksblat are representing more than 50 victims of child pornography, rape, and trafficking in a landmark lawsuit against MindGeek, the parent company of tubesite Pornhub, a dominant entity in the industry. The lawsuit alleges claims under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizationslaws and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 and seeks damages for MindGeek’s exploitation of child sexual abuse materials and non-consensual content. Among other objectives, the lawsuit seeks to require MindGeek to impose stringent policies and procedures that ensure only legitimate, legally compliant consensual content is permitted on its platform. The complaint also asserts claims against Visa for knowingly participating and profiting in a human trafficking venture. The pursuit of claims against Visa is in clear recognition of the important role that banks and other institutions play in facilitating human trafficking and the unique role they each can play in bringing an end to these illegal activities. A peer marvels, “This is a really big step in making a difference. You might think, ‘It’s porn – who cares?’ right? But this really exposes just how shady some of it is and is forcing the industry and the public to confront it. It’s been reported that some 60% of Pornhub’s content has since been removed – that’s huge.” The same Brown Rudnick pair also represents Blueprint Capital Advisors, the only African-American asset manager in New Jersey, and one of the few in the country, in a landmark racial equality case against several governmental and business entities in the state, alleging the illegal misappropriation of a proprietary investment model Blueprint developed for public pensions and delivering the program to a rival investment firm. In response to Blueprint’s public challenges to defendants’ misappropriation, the client suffered a years-long and ongoing campaign of retaliation involving blatant, aggressive, and unapologetic racist abuse.” 

     Brown Rudnick has also emerged as one of the most unflinching players in the bankruptcy litigation arena, specifically on behalf of creditors. “These are the bomb throwers,” observes one peer. “These are the people who you think about when you wonder, ‘Who do I call if I need a rabid dog?’” In particular, Robert Stark is identified as a leader. “Robert Stark thinks outside the box and helps drive a deal,” testifies a client. “He helped protect my interests and drive [a] positive outcome.” Stark, David Molton and Jeffrey Jonas (all based in New York) represented the Official Committee of Talc Claimants in the wake of Johnson & Johnson’s controversial October 2021 corporate transaction, colloquially referred to as a “Texas Two-Step,” dividing the company’s consumer products division into two companies and transferring all of the company’s talc-related tort liabilities to a newly created entity, which was then put into bankruptcy, with J&J demanding that the court extend all bankruptcy protections to the entire company conglomerate. “I love Jeff Jonas, he’s the best,” raves a peer. “There are some wonderful court illustrations of him just excoriating a witness on the stand who is just lying through their teeth!” 

Hunton Andrews Kurth

Hunton Andrews Kurth, the product of a recent merger between two prominent firms (the Southeast institution Hunton & Williams and the Texas-centric Andrews Kurth), with the combined entity bringing together each firm’s strengths in a complementary fashion and doubles down on its comprehensive coverage regionally. Clients cheer the firm’s “expertise in our area and consistent excellence in client service and communications exceeded expectations,” calling out the individual lawyers’ “thorough, responsive and concise work product,” and testifying that they are “always available”.
     Hunton’s concentration of litigation talent in its Richmond office is particularly notable. Mike Shebelskie garners praise from well beyond Virginia and is noted nationally for his presence in high-stakes matters often containing an environmental element, an area in which Hunton & Williams was particularly well versed. Shebelskie has cases with Elbert Lin, another Richmond partner who has been particularly visible as of late. Lin argued for Maui County at the Supreme Court in a case exploring the parameters of the Clean Water Act, Lin triumphed in a favorable decision that was rendered in April 2020. “This is a milestone,” claims a peer. “It’s time to recognize Elbert Lin!” Another environmental litigator (and leader of the practice) based in the DC office, Deidre Duncan led a team that won a significant victory for Mosaic Fertilizer in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in a suit challenging the federal authorizations and reviews issued for Mosaic’s South Pasture Extension mine under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act (CWA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA.)The underlying suit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups, raised more than a dozen claims under NEPA, CWA and ESA. The Hunton team defeated those claims in the district court in November 2018, and the environmental groups appealed. In a comprehensive opinion, a divided panel of the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and, in doing so, established important precedent governing the scope of NEPA reviews.
    Kelly Sandill in the firm’s Houston office led an all-female firm team that scored a milestone win in a hotly contested lawsuit for the Houston Police Officers’ Union when, in May 2019 after months of litigation, a Harris County District Court Judge awarded summary judgment in the client’s favor by ruling that Proposition B, which was a City Charter Amendment passed by the voters that tied firefighter pay to police pay, was preempted by Texas state law and unconstitutional. The ruling follows a year’s worth of contentious debate surrounding Proposition B and the financial effect on the City of Houston and Houston police officers. In the Miami office, all-purpose commercial litigator Sam Danon continues to be viewed as “a force,” with one local peer elaborating, “Sam is very savvy – he’s a native Spanish speaker, which you need to be around here, but Sam is particularly good at using this to his advantage not only in litigation but for building business.”
     The firm’s geographic footprint is not limited to the South. Partners in the firm’s Boston office Harry Manion and Martin Gaynor led a team that won a June 2019 jury verdict of more than $20 million against the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center over dredging related to construction of a marine terminal.

 

Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo

The practitioners at Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo have, over the course of several decades, developefrom their venerable Boston roots a national litigation presence bordering on the indomitable. Extensively equipped to attend to a broad range of litigation needs, the Mintz team is recognized chiefly for its involvement in the spheres of whitecollar, commercial, and product liability matters.  

    Mintz’s Boston office, easily indexable as the keystone of both its legacy and current practice, in no small part owes its vitality to firm chairman Robert Popeoas well as litigation practice chair Scott FordIn addition to having garnered over four decades of recognition for his white-collar litigation might, Popeo is to thank for Mintz’s litigation practice itselfhaving been credited as its establishing partner. He and Ford are currently active in the role of defense counsel to the exiled former Saudi dignitary and top counterterrorism official Saad bin Khalid Al Jabri, who currently resides in Canada, in disputes in US federal and Canadian courts with Sakab Saudi Holding Company. Following allegations by Al Jabri that Sakab, a subsidiary of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund under the control of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), deployed Saudi agents to travel to Canada to murder Al Jabri in connection with his extensive and intimateknowledge of the Kingdom’s royal family and inner workings, MBS responded with its own suit alleging that Al Jabri embezzled billions of Saudi State funds during his tenure at the Ministry of the Interior. Ford and Popeo have, so far, been successful in obtaininga complete dismissal of the claims against Al Jabri, and currently argue for the upholding of the decision on First Circuit appeal.  

    Also in Boston, insurance specialist Nancy Adams recently achieved a critical appellate victory on behalf of The Netherlands Insurance Company and Peerless Insurance in coverage litigation filed against Macomb School District, among those insured by Netherlands/Peerlesswho sought coverage under its policy’s errors and omissions policy in connection with student sexual abuse incidents. After filing suit against Macomb seeking declaration that a sexual misconduct exclusion barred coverage, Netherlands/Peerless was met with a federal district court decision ruling that the policy’s exclusion was ambiguous, and Macomb was thusly awarded $1.5 million of coverage. Adams, however, steadfastly obtained a district court ruling reversing the prior decision on the behalf of Netherlands/Peerless.  Other crucial Boston players include founder and co-chair of the insurance practice Kim Marrkand, securities litigation co-chair Adam Sisitskyand sports & entertainment co-chair Keith Carroll, among others. 

    At Mintz’s New York office, white-collar defense and government investigations co-chair Peter Chavkinis active in the role of counsel to Morocco’s former Ambassador to the United States, Abdeslam Jaidi, in unprecedented and politically sensitive proceedings as to the prosecution of federal charges of conspiracy to defraud the United Statesfaced byJaidi and members of his familyThe matter, arising in relation to claims that the defendants made materially false statements in visa applications concerning the entrance of domestic workers into the US over the course of several decades, raises numerous novel inquiries into issues of diplomatic privilege and immunity.  

Proskauer

With seven of its 12 global offices situated strategically throughout the US, Proskauer provides a wide range of services to clients across a broad spectrum of practices ranging from commercial to intellectual property to securities, to white-collar crime and investigations, as well as its near-unparalleled status in specialty areas of employment, entertainment and sports law.
     The firm has also seen a pronounced spike in its bankruptcy profile, solidly on the strength of its mammoth appointment as lead outside counsel to the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, which was created to oversee the restructuring of Puerto Rico's finances, valued at $125 billion. The Board's mandate is to return Puerto Rico to fiscal health with access to the capital markets, and to initiate pro-growth reforms designed to generate a free flow of capital between Puerto Rico and the US. In January 2020, the Proskauer team notched a watershed win before the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. This action involved a team of Proskauer attorneys from numerous offices, including Boston’s Timothy Mungovan, New York’s Martin Bienenstock, Margaret Dale and Stephen Ratner, and Los Angeles’ Michael Firestein. Dale, a commercial litigator who has made a noted pivot to bankruptcy, is involved in several other Puerto Rico-related issues, primarily dealing with employee retirement issues.
     A newly listed star this year, New York’s Peter Sherwin heads up the firm’s burgeoning international arbitration practice and dedicates a high percentage of his practice to cross-border actions. Sherwin successfully represented Bed Bath & Beyond in an action in Delaware Chancery Court to enforce an agreement by 1-800-Flowers to purchase a business line for $252 million. 1-800-Flowers sought to void the agreement, pointing to the unexpected impact of COVID-19.  After engaging in discovery, 1-800-Flowers settled and agreed to move forward with its purchase for $245 million. Another newly listed New York star, Hadassa Waxman is championed by a competitor as “an absolute superstar, a true leader in the area of white-collar litigation.” Brad Ruskin, whose practice straddles a unique intersection of antitrust and sports litigation, is defending Major League Soccer (MLS) against a lawsuit brought by the North American Soccer League (NASL) against MLS and the US Soccer Federation following US Soccer’s decision not to sanction NASL as a Division II professional league for the 2018 season. NASL alleges that MLS and US Soccer are engaged in an antitrust conspiracy to ensure that MLS is the sole Division I soccer league in the US. Summary judgment briefing was completed in April 2021.
     Proskauer’s California presence has been steadily increasing and the local market is taking notice. “We never saw them on our radar before but now we are monitoring their progress closely,” admits a peer from a local competing firm. In another action exemplifying Proskauer’s dominant position in sports law, Los Angeles’s Bart Williams represented the “Power 5 Conferences” in the trial of a high-profile class action brought by current and former NCAA Division I football and basketball players. The players filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging the limits on compensation and benefits for student-athletes. Plaintiffs sought an order removing existing limitations on compensation and benefits available to class members from schools or conferences. Following a 10-day bench trial, the court held that the challenged rules promote consumer demand for college sports by recognizing the distinction between college and professional sports. The ruling was upheld on appeal in May 2020. Williams also, along with Mungovan, represents Shamrock Capital Advisors, a private equity firm that was one of the principal investors in FanDuel, a bookmaker and fantasy sports provider. The litigation was brought by FanDuel’s founders and other minority shareholders against the client after a merger and alleges breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment. Having scored favorable rulings for Johnson & Johnson in talc litigation, Williams’ product liability trial acumen (as well as that of Manuel Cachan) was called into service by Monsanto and its parent company Bayer, in a California case alleging that the use of Monsanto’s herbicide, RoundUp, caused the plaintiff’s nonHodgkin’s lymphoma. The case settled weeks before trial in January 2020. Williams is also lead counsel for toy company Mattel and their co-defendants in 23 separate product liability wrongful death cases in Delaware and California state courts related to the Fisher Price Rock-n-Play Sleeper. The cases allege that the toy in question was not safe for use as a sleeping device for infants. Williams is also defending Gilead Sciences in various Northern California state and federal product liability actions related to Gilead’s HIV prevention and treatment drugs. The cases allege that Gilead failed adequately to warn about the increased risk of potential kidney disease and bone injury that could result from its highly effective and FDA-approved HIV medications. The plaintiffs also allege that Gilead held back safer drugs that it could have brought to market sooner. Further exemplifying his all-purpose versatility, Williams represents Ellen DeGeneres and her loan-out company Monkey Business in connection with the investigation by WarnerMedia into work environment issues on the Ellen DeGeneres Show reported to involve claims that the show’s producers verbally abused staff and made racist and demeaning comments regarding the show’s guests. Williams is a universally revered trial lawyer, with peers offering unanimous support. “I have tremendous respect for him. He is one who just shines in front of a jury,” offers one peer.
     Proskauer continues to make strides in its intellectual property arena as well. The twin pillars of Los Angeles’ Sige Gutman and Boston’s Steven Bauer represent Amgen in a high-profile life sciences patent matter concerning Amgen’s development and commercialization of a biosimilar to Genentech’s Avastin, a monoclonal antibody cancer therapy. The trajectory of the case wound its way to the Federal Circuit, where the Proskauer team defeated Genentech’s motion for an injunction pending appeal and ultimately prevailed on the merits.

Saul Ewing

With a legal footprint spanning over 16 offices in numerous jurisdictions around the country, including New York, Chicago, DC, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and West Palm Beach outfits, Saul Ewing’s litigation team is equipped with an arsenal of diverse practice specializations. Among the most notable and active of the firm’s area specializations are its commercial, higher education, real estate, and white collar practices.

     Among the firm’s most exalted is litigation chair Cathleen Devlin of Saul Ewing’s Philadelphia office, who emphasizes in her practice complex environmental, commercial contract, and business tort litigation. Devlin currently serves alongside environmental civil litigation and appellate chair John Stoviak as lead counsel to Cyprus Amax Minerals Company in environmental litigation against TCI Pacific Communications regarding Cyprus’s pursuit of more than $14 million of recovery from TCI. The matter arises in connection with Cyprus’s environmental investigation and remediation as to arsenic, cadmium, and lead soil contamination allegedly attributable to 20th century zinc smelting operations in Oklahoma. Following Devlin and Stoviak’s obtainment of an alter ego summary judgement ruling entitling Cyprus to CERCLA contribution from TCI and a corresponding award of $14.2 million, a total which covers 45% of associated cleanup costs through 2017, TCI sought appeal of the ruling on the Tenth Circuit and was met with a complete affirmance. TCI currently seeks a Tenth Circuit rehearing.

     On the higher education front, the fount of the firm’s acuity is largely indexable to Joseph O’Dea, Jr. of Chicago; Wilmington, Delaware-based litigation vice chair and co-chair of the higher education practice group James Taylor, Jr.; and, also serving as co-chair of higher education in addition to co-chair of the K-12 schools practice, Chicago’s James Keller. Whereas O’Dea continues in the critical role of counsel for Pennsylvania State University in all litigation regarding the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, Keller is active in the role of counsel to Pennsylvania College of Technology (PCT) in a bellwether class action filed against PCT wherein plaintiffs seek partial tuition reimbursement as a result of the transition to online learning following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The matter will address novel and salient questions as to the contractual obligations of an institution to its students and the legal approximations of remote education’s quality.

     Also hailing from the firm’s Chicago office, commercial litigator Amy Kline directs her focus on the representation of insurance and reinsurance companies, as well as institutions of higher education. Joined by Boston partner Joseph Lipchitz, Kline currently represents Merck & Co. in litigation filed against Bayer AG regarding Merck’s sale of the Dr. Scholl’s line of products to Bayer under a stock and asset purchase agreement (SAPA). The matter arises following Bayer’s refusal to honor the terms of the SAPA, which stipulate that certain product-related claims in connection with currently unfolding and highly public talcum powder liability actions would transition to Bayer’s purview in 2021 after a specified period during which they remained Merck’s responsibility. Following an attempt on Bayer’s part to dispel itself of liability, Merck retained the firm and filed suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery.

     At the firm’s Baltimore office, partners Jason St. John and Charles Monk, II are currently defending the Maryland State Board of Education against a landmark government and education class action brought by parents of City of Baltimore schoolchildren in an attempt to revive a suit dating back to the 1990s, regarding claims that the state’s allegedly inadequate levels of funding and vital resources constitute a violation under Article VIII of the State Constitution.

     In Boston, complex commercial litigators Lipchitz and Jeffrey Robbins recently defended Muslim civil rights advocate Lori Saroya in a defamation suit filed against Saroya by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), of which she previously served as a member of the national board, in connection with Saroya’s censuring of CAIR’s purported conduct of negligence as to sexual harassment and discrimination. Lipchitz and Robbins were successful in obtaining CAIR’s unconditional withdrawal with prejudice from the suit following two hearings before a US Magistrate and another before the US District Court Judge presiding over the matter.

WilmerHale

With a network of international and domestic offices, WilmerHale has built a reputation as a global powerhouse. Nationally, the firm’s original mainstay in Boston continues to secure near-unanimous recognition in litigation, and the New York, DC and California offices have further bolstered the firm’s top-tier standing. It is lauded for its litigation capabilities nationwide, particularly antitrust, white-collar, securities and appellate, as well as intellectual property, one of the firm’s most notable practices.

Boston-based trial lawyer Bill Lee is of the most accomplished litigators in intellectual property. He continues to add to his enviable list of milestone patent wins, which have earned him a long-standing reputation in the practice area. In these high-stakes cases, he is well known for his distinguishing ability to translate his encyclopedic knowledge into comprehensive arguments that sway judges and juries. Lee and Denver’s Mary “Mindy” Sooter obtained a damages-less win for Comcast in a patent infringement lawsuit brought by NextStep. Last September in Delaware, the federal jury found in favor of the client on two of the challenged patents, and returned a “doctrine of equivalents” infringement verdict on the last patent. Sooter and Lee secured the zero-dollar victory with a granted motion to preclude the plaintiff’s damages case.

In the appellate arena, Lee also obtained positive results working with appellate expert Seth Waxman of the DC office. The duo represented Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) before the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The FTC filed a case alleging that the lawsuits filed by AbbVie against Teva and Perrigo were shams, thus violating the FTC Act. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the FTC, which AbbVie appealed. The Third Circuit in parts affirmed, reversed, and vacated the District Court’s decision. Notably, the appellate court held that its lawsuit against Teva was not a sham, and the court vacated the disgorgement award. On the Perrigo matter, the Third Circuit upheld the District Court decision that the suit was objectively baseless, which Lee and Waxman challenged in a petition for certiorari that was denied. However, in a complete victory, the FTC dropped the entire case.

Waxman serves as chair of the firm’s appellate and Supreme Court litigation practice, with, as one peer notes, “an army of talent behind him”. Such talent includes Noah Levine, who represented the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) in a putative class action challenging non-judicial foreclosures in Rhode Island, arguing that the client and co-defendant violated the Due Process Clause as plaintiffs also argued that the defendants should be considered government actors. The District Court rejected both arguments, dismissing the complaints. On appeal, the First Circuit upheld the decision, securing a win for the client.

In New York, commercial litigator Hallie Levin obtained a win for T-Mobile in a five-day bench trial before the Delaware Court of Chancery. The trial arose from a settlement agreement between T-Mobile and Cox Communications that concluded a patent infringement case. In the agreement, Cox agreed that should it begin offering retail customers wireless services, it would be done in accordance with a wholesale wireless agreement with Sprint, which T-Mobile acquired. Cox and another mobile network later entered into a wholesale wireless agreement, and sued the client last January, arguing that the provision was unenforceable. Acting on behalf of T-Mobile, Levin filed counterclaims and requested an injunction to enforce the exclusivity obligation. The District Court found that Cox had breached the agreement and the provision was enforceable. The court issued an injunction preventing Cox from offering mobile services with any other operator.

On the West Coast, Sonal Mehta is continuously recognized as a top-tier litigator in the IP space, especially for her role representing titans of the life sciences and technology industry. Recently, she represented Ionpath, a venture-backed start-up by three Stanford professors who sought to commercialize their technology for biological tissue analysis, against competitor Fluidigm. The Northern District of California, in an accelerated patent “showdown” procedure, ruled Ionpath did not infringe the “showdown” claims. After the decision, Fluidigm dismissed its interference with contract claims, and later the plaintiff dismissed the rest of the claims in its appeal. The matter closed confidentially.