Benchmark Litigation Reviews

Dispute resolution
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

Starting as a New England-centric shop, with roots in Boston stretching back more than 80 years, Mintz has since expanded both its geographic reach and its reputation considerably since that time. The firm has also grown its international footprint, with an office in London, as well as making a substantial push into California in 2003, with three offices in the state. “Mintz is definitely not just the firm that people in Boston are going to know,” insists one local peer. “In fact, although they’re definitely still a big name here, you’re more likely to see them in the big cases outside of Boston.”
        While the firm has proven its successful expansion beyond Boston, this flagship office still hosts the highest concentration of its star talent. Keith Carroll, who was part of the team on the aforementioned matter for Equitable, attends to a unique practice that blends investigation work with a comprehensive sports litigation component. The Boston office has also been noted as “an insurance powerhouse.” Kim Marrkand is identified as “a trusted advisor to Liberty Mutual,” by a peer, who testifies, “when I have a conflict on the insurance side, I call her.” Another peer raves, “There’s a guy at Mintz I regard as the BEST litigator there, [commercial and criminal litigator] Michael Gardener. Pound for pound, just the best, the guy I would go to if I had an issue. [He is} Very tough, very smart, very sophisticated, endlessly resourceful.”

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr is the product of a merger between the Mid-Atlantic-based regional player Saul Ewing and the Chicago outfit Arnstein & Lehr. The combined outfit brings a diverse array of practice areas to an equally diverse client base. A peer speculates, “Saul Ewing is aiming to go national, and they may just pull it off! They are making inroads into some interesting new areas, and they already have cornered the market in a few areas.”
     One of the areas in which the firm holds a dominant position in is the higher education practice. Arguably the most high-profile of these is Philadelphia’s Joseph O’Dea’s representation of Penn State as lead counsel to Penn State in all civil matters brought by the sexual abuse victims of Jerry Sandusky, a former sports coach, following Sandusky’s 2011 arrest. O’Dea spearheaded the effort to resolve the majority of victim claims, and also represented the University in numerous Sandusky-related lawsuits that did not involve victims, such as lawsuits brought by former football coaches and another by University Trustees challenging certain governance issues. Baltimore partners Jason St. John and Charles Monk, lead a team representing the Maryland State of Board of Education in defense of a challenge by a class of Baltimore City plaintiffs who are the parents of Baltimore City school children. Plaintiffs are attempting to revive a lawsuit from the early 1990s and claim that the State has failed to comply with its constitutional duty to provide adequate education to Baltimore City school children, including adequate funding for Baltimore City public schools, which have been saddled with failing infrastructure, namely y broken heat systems in the winter, absence of air conditioning in the summer, and pipe leaks throughout the year. St. John leads a team representing the State of Maryland and various state agencies in a high-profile litigation matter relating to a $1.5 billion, multi-phase, mixed-use real estate project to redevelop a 28-acre state office complex in midtown Baltimore known as the “State Center Project.” A Philadelphia team led by John Stoviak and Cathleen Devlin won summary judgment on behalf of Service Corporation International, a provider of cemetery, cremation and funeral services, resulting in the dismissal of the two named plaintiffs’ individual claims in a putative nationwide class action for negligence, breach of contract and violations of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law arising from alleged burial issues. This same team represents Cyprus Amax Minerals Company in pursuing recovery of millions of dollars of environmental investigation and clean-up costs to address alleged lead, cadmium and arsenic contamination of soils associated with the early 20th century operations of two former zinc smelters in Oklahoma. Devlin is a commercial litigator with an environmental specialty. “Cathleen handled disputes arising from ‘problems in the ground,’” quips a peer. The Chicago office is noted for the young energy of its team; two-thirds of its 35 litigators are under 50. George Apostolides serves as the office’s head of litigation maintains a commercial practice with a bankruptcy niche.Nancy DePodesta, a former US Attorney in Chicago, came to the firm and became an integral part of its white-collar group at the firm. Maintaining a specialty in political corruption, DePodesta is also leading two investigations for a major university, crossing with the firm’s higher education practice. Another partner with a fluency with investigations, Boston’s Jeffrey Robbins, who joined the firm in 2018 from Mintz. “That was a great add,” offers a peer. “Jeff is battle-tested, tough, the guy you want with you in the foxhole. He’s got a bit of a defamation niche to him. And he brought some younger partners along with him!” Throughout his career, Robbins has represented a broad variety of both individuals and entities, particularly media entities.

Labor and employment
Hunton Andrews Kurth

The national labor and employment team of Hunton Andrews Kurth are active in employment, wage and hour, labor relations and public accessibility cases. Their expertise stems from routinely representing clients in class, collective, and mass actions, as well as in high-profile, high-risk matters in federal and state courts. In addition, practitioners at the firm are noted for serving as counsel for clients in hearings before enforcement agencies, mediations, and arbitrations.
     Christopher Pardo joined the Hunton Andrews Kurth team in Boston after stints in other national and international firms. His practice involves defending clients in complex employment cases in federal and state courts, arbitration, and before administrative agencies. He also routinely defends clients in class and collective actions, wage and hour issues, trade secret litigation and restrictive covenant agreements, discrimination matters, wrongful termination, and other state law claims.