Education

  • Columbia Law School, J.D, 2005, James B. Kent Scholar, Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Notes Editor, Columbia Law Review
  • Duke University, A.B., cum laude, 1997

Admissions

  • California, 2006
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T: 415-433-6830
F: 415-433-7104
E: lells@rbgg.com

Lisa Ells is a partner at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP. She assists clients in difficult and complex matters involving actual or potential litigation. Ms. Ells maintains a diverse practice, successfully representing clients in a variety of First Amendment, commercial, constitutional law, disability access compliance, attorneys’ fees, legal malpractice, civil rights, and intellectual property disputes.

Ms. Ells is particularly experienced in appellate law. She has briefed numerous appeals, writs, and dispositive motions in the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit and Federal Courts of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal. She has argued before the Ninth Circuit and the California Court of Appeal. Full bio »

vCard icon

Download vCard
T: 415-433-6830
F: 415-433-7104
E: lells@rbgg.com

Lisa Ells is a partner at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP. She assists clients in difficult and complex matters involving actual or potential litigation. Ms. Ells maintains a diverse practice, successfully representing clients in a variety of First Amendment, commercial, constitutional law, disability access compliance, attorneys’ fees, legal malpractice, civil rights, and intellectual property disputes.

Ms. Ells is particularly experienced in appellate law. She has briefed numerous appeals, writs, and dispositive motions in the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit and Federal Courts of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal. She has argued before the Ninth Circuit and the California Court of Appeal. Ms. Ells’s appellate matters have addressed constitutional law, commercial real estate and land use disputes, disability access compliance, attorneys’ fees entitlements, and complex statute of limitations and procedural issues.

Ms. Ells has played a key role in some of the most significant civil rights class action cases on behalf of prisoners and parolees in California. She was a member of the legal team that successfully proved after a contested trial that California’s extreme prison overcrowding violates prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights to adequate medical and mental health care, and that required California to take steps to reduce the level of crowding. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling in 2011 in Brown v. Plata. Ms. Ells was also instrumental in securing a Ninth Circuit ruling in 2014 requiring California to take steps to ensure the federal rights of prisoners and parolees with disabilities are accommodated when the state chooses to house them in third-party county jail facilities.

Ms. Ells is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was an Editor of the Columbia Law Review and a James B. Kent and Harlan Fiske Stone scholar, and of Duke University. Prior to joining RBGG, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable James R. Browning of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and to the Honorable David O. Carter of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Ms. Ells has been named a Rising Star by the Northern California Super Lawyers every year since 2012, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Law Foundation.

Prior to establishing her legal practice, Ms. Ells worked for a number of years as a business consultant and as a product manager at a technology start-up company.

 REPRESENTATIVE CASES
  • National Federation of the Blind v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.:  RBGG represents the National Federation of the Blind and blind individuals in a class action in the Northern District of California challenging Greyhound Lines’ failure to ensure that its website and mobile software applications are accessible to blind individuals who use screen-access technology to access content on websites and mobile applications.
  • Cole v. County of Santa Clara: RBGG represents five current and former inmates in a class action on behalf of all prisoners with mobility disabilities to remedy long-standing inaccessibility issues throughout the Santa Clara County Jail system. The complaint was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California on November 14, 2016.
  • California Council of the Blind v. County of San Mateo: The firm represents an association of blind and low-vision persons and two blind individuals in an action challenging the State and San Mateo County’s failure to provide voters with vision impairments the opportunity to equally participate in the County’s absentee voting program, which relies on inaccessible paper ballots.  Plaintiffs seek to vote using software allowing them to read and mark their absentee ballots privately and independently using screen access software on their personal computers, which is already in place in a number of other states.
  • Sharkey v. O’Neal: Ms. Ells briefed and argued this appeal, which secured a unanimous total reversal of a district court order dismissing our client’s ADA damages claims against parole officers who forced him to move to housing that could not accommodate his wheelchair, causing him to repeatedly injure himself. Ms. Ells also established for the first time that the proper statute of limitations for Title II ADA claims in California is three years, rather than the previously assumed two years. See Sharkey v. O’Neal, 778 F.3d 767 (9th Cir. 2015).
  • Landmark Screens v. Morgan Lewis & Bockius: Ms. Ells briefed this appeal, which secured a unanimous reversal in the Federal Circuit of two district court orders dismissing our client’s fraud claim, which arose out of its former lawyers’ failure to timely file a patent application and attempts to cover up the mistake, and capping the potential damages for that claim. See Landmark Screens LLC v. Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, 676 F.3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2012).
  • Coleman v. Brown: Ms. Ells is a key member of the RBGG team that represents a class of the more than 30,000 men and women in California’s prison system with serious mental illness. After a contested trial, the district court held that the prison mental health delivery system violates the Eighth Amendment and ordered systemwide injunctive relief. See Coleman v. Wilson, 912 F. Supp. 1282 (E.D. Cal. 1995). The court determined that the constitutional violations remain ongoing in 2013 after the State attempted to terminate the injunction. See Coleman v. Brown, 938 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Cal. 2013). Through hard-fought litigation over the last two decades, RBGG has secured a number of significant systemic changes on behalf of the class, including, most recently, reforms to policies and practices regarding the use of force against prisoners with mental illness, as well as the overuse and misuse of solitary confinement. See Coleman v. Brown, 28 F. Supp. 3d 1068 (E.D. Cal. 2014). Ms. Ells has briefed numerous appeals, writs, and dispositive motions in the Ninth Circuit in the Coleman matter. Most recently, she briefed two appeals in this matter, one of which was voluntarily dismissed by the State at the close of briefing on the merits and on our motion to dismiss. The other appeal remains pending in the Ninth Circuit.  For more information see Coleman v. Brown: Court Orders, Reports, Photos, Expert Declarations and Media Coverage.
  • Start Up v. Law Firm: RBGG secured a confidential settlement for its client, a start-up company, for claims that its patent counsel had failed to protect its intellectual property rights by missing a major filing deadline.
  • Castro v. Calicraft Distributors, LLC: We represent the defendants, a craft beer distribution company and its owners, in an action involving copyright and trademark infringement claims, as well as a related unfair competition claim.
  • Lawyer v. Lawyer: RBGG secured a dismissal of a defamation lawsuit against our lawyer client on an anti-SLAPP motion, successfully arguing our client’s speech was protected by the First Amendment. The trial court awarded RBGG and its cocounsel almost $100,000 in fees, which the California Court of Appeal affirmed in full.
  • Pruitt v. County of Sacramento: RBGG represented two men who were the victims of wide-ranging police and prosecutorial misconduct that included their wrongful arrests and detentions. After defeating the County’s motion to dismiss, RBGG secured a settlement of $400,000 for our clients.
  • Knowles v. City of Benicia: We represented a young man who was arrested by Benecia police without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. After the court granted our motion for summary adjudication, RBGG secured a settlement of over $600,000 for our client. See Knowles v. City of Benicia, 785 F. Supp. 2d 936 (2011).
  • Sterling Park v. City of Palo Alto: Following RBGG’s successful representation of our land developer client in the California Supreme Court, see Sterling Park, L.P v. City of Palo Alto, 57 Cal. 4th 1193 (2013), Ms. Ells briefed a writ petition to the Court of Appeal arising out of the trial court’s subsequent denial of summary judgment on a statute of limitations issue. The case then settled for a significant sum.
  • Coleman v. Brown/Plata v. Brown: Ms. Ells was part of the team that litigated this matter through trial and on appeal, which resulted in a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that overcrowding in California’s prisons resulted in cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court affirmed a January 2010 order issued by a three-judge federal court after an extensive trial directing California officials to reduce the State’s severe prison overcrowding down to 137.5% of design capacity. The order was issued after the judges found that overcrowding is the primary cause of ongoing unconstitutional conditions in California’s prisons, such as the system’s inability to provide minimally adequate medical and mental health care for prisoners. See Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011).
  • Armstrong v. Brown: RBGG proved in federal court that California’s prison and parole systems violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by discriminating against prisoners and parolees with mobility, sight, hearing, learning, mental and kidney disabilities. We secured systemwide injunctive relief to end the discrimination, which was upheld on appeal.  See Armstrong v. Wilson, 942 F. Supp. 1252 (N.D. Cal. 1996), aff’d 124 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 1997). We also established that the State is responsible for taking steps to ensure the rights of prisoners and parolees with disabilities are accommodated when it chooses to house them in third-party county jail facilities. See Armstrong v. Brown, 857 F. Supp. 2d 919 (N.D. Cal. 2012), aff’d 732 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2013), cert denied, 134 S. Ct. 2725 (2014); and 622 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2010).
  • American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers:  RBGG has represented ASCAP, the nation’s largest music licensing association, in multiple copyright infringement matters.

Published Decisions

  • Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011)
  • Sharkey v. O’Neal, 778 F.3d 767 (9th Cir. 2015)
  • Armstrong v. Brown, 732 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2013), cert denied, 134 S. Ct. 2725 (2014)
  • Landmark Screens LLC v. Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, 676 F.3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2012)
  • Armstrong v. Schwarzenegger, 622 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2010)
  • Landmark Screens, LLC v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, 183 Cal. App. 4th 238 (2010)
  • Coleman v. Brown, 28 F. Supp. 3d 1068 (E.D. Cal. 2014)
  • Coleman v. Brown, 938 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Cal. 2013)
  • Armstrong v. Brown, 939 F. Supp. 2d 1012 (N.D. Cal. 2013)
  • Knowles v. City of Benicia, 785 F. Supp. 2d 936 (2011)
  • Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, 922 F. Supp. 2d 882 (E.D. Cal. and N.D. Cal. 2009)

Honors & Awards

  • Martindale-Hubbell A-V Rated
  • Northern California Super Lawyers, 2012-2016 Rising Star

Education

  • Columbia Law School, J.D, 2005, James B. Kent Scholar, Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Notes Editor, Columbia Law Review
  • Duke University, A.B., cum laude, 1997

Admissions

  • California, 2006

Professional Experience

  • Law Clerk to the Honorable David O. Carter, United States District Court for the Central District of California, 2005-2006
  • Law Clerk to the Honorable James R. Browning, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 2006-2007

Lisa Ells is a partner at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP. She assists clients in difficult and complex matters involving actual or potential litigation. Ms. Ells maintains a diverse practice, successfully representing clients in a variety of First Amendment, commercial, constitutional law, disability access compliance, attorneys’ fees, legal malpractice, civil rights, and intellectual property disputes.

Ms. Ells is particularly experienced in appellate law. She has briefed numerous appeals, writs, and dispositive motions in the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit and Federal Courts of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal. She has argued before the Ninth Circuit and the California Court of Appeal. Ms. Ells’s appellate matters have addressed constitutional law, commercial real estate and land use disputes, disability access compliance, attorneys’ fees entitlements, and complex statute of limitations and procedural issues.

Ms. Ells has played a key role in some of the most significant civil rights class action cases on behalf of prisoners and parolees in California. She was a member of the legal team that successfully proved after a contested trial that California’s extreme prison overcrowding violates prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights to adequate medical and mental health care, and that required California to take steps to reduce the level of crowding. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling in 2011 in Brown v. Plata. Ms. Ells was also instrumental in securing a Ninth Circuit ruling in 2014 requiring California to take steps to ensure the federal rights of prisoners and parolees with disabilities are accommodated when the state chooses to house them in third-party county jail facilities.

Ms. Ells is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was an Editor of the Columbia Law Review and a James B. Kent and Harlan Fiske Stone scholar, and of Duke University. Prior to joining RBGG, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable James R. Browning of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and to the Honorable David O. Carter of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Ms. Ells has been named a Rising Star by the Northern California Super Lawyers every year since 2012, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Law Foundation.

Prior to establishing her legal practice, Ms. Ells worked for a number of years as a business consultant and as a product manager at a technology start-up company.

 REPRESENTATIVE CASES
  • National Federation of the Blind v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.:  RBGG represents the National Federation of the Blind and blind individuals in a class action in the Northern District of California challenging Greyhound Lines’ failure to ensure that its website and mobile software applications are accessible to blind individuals who use screen-access technology to access content on websites and mobile applications.
  • Cole v. County of Santa Clara: RBGG represents five current and former inmates in a class action on behalf of all prisoners with mobility disabilities to remedy long-standing inaccessibility issues throughout the Santa Clara County Jail system. The complaint was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California on November 14, 2016.
  • California Council of the Blind v. County of San Mateo: The firm represents an association of blind and low-vision persons and two blind individuals in an action challenging the State and San Mateo County’s failure to provide voters with vision impairments the opportunity to equally participate in the County’s absentee voting program, which relies on inaccessible paper ballots.  Plaintiffs seek to vote using software allowing them to read and mark their absentee ballots privately and independently using screen access software on their personal computers, which is already in place in a number of other states.
  • Sharkey v. O’Neal: Ms. Ells briefed and argued this appeal, which secured a unanimous total reversal of a district court order dismissing our client’s ADA damages claims against parole officers who forced him to move to housing that could not accommodate his wheelchair, causing him to repeatedly injure himself. Ms. Ells also established for the first time that the proper statute of limitations for Title II ADA claims in California is three years, rather than the previously assumed two years. See Sharkey v. O’Neal, 778 F.3d 767 (9th Cir. 2015).
  • Landmark Screens v. Morgan Lewis & Bockius: Ms. Ells briefed this appeal, which secured a unanimous reversal in the Federal Circuit of two district court orders dismissing our client’s fraud claim, which arose out of its former lawyers’ failure to timely file a patent application and attempts to cover up the mistake, and capping the potential damages for that claim. See Landmark Screens LLC v. Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, 676 F.3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2012).
  • Coleman v. Brown: Ms. Ells is a key member of the RBGG team that represents a class of the more than 30,000 men and women in California’s prison system with serious mental illness. After a contested trial, the district court held that the prison mental health delivery system violates the Eighth Amendment and ordered systemwide injunctive relief. See Coleman v. Wilson, 912 F. Supp. 1282 (E.D. Cal. 1995). The court determined that the constitutional violations remain ongoing in 2013 after the State attempted to terminate the injunction. See Coleman v. Brown, 938 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Cal. 2013). Through hard-fought litigation over the last two decades, RBGG has secured a number of significant systemic changes on behalf of the class, including, most recently, reforms to policies and practices regarding the use of force against prisoners with mental illness, as well as the overuse and misuse of solitary confinement. See Coleman v. Brown, 28 F. Supp. 3d 1068 (E.D. Cal. 2014). Ms. Ells has briefed numerous appeals, writs, and dispositive motions in the Ninth Circuit in the Coleman matter. Most recently, she briefed two appeals in this matter, one of which was voluntarily dismissed by the State at the close of briefing on the merits and on our motion to dismiss. The other appeal remains pending in the Ninth Circuit.  For more information see Coleman v. Brown: Court Orders, Reports, Photos, Expert Declarations and Media Coverage.
  • Start Up v. Law Firm: RBGG secured a confidential settlement for its client, a start-up company, for claims that its patent counsel had failed to protect its intellectual property rights by missing a major filing deadline.
  • Castro v. Calicraft Distributors, LLC: We represent the defendants, a craft beer distribution company and its owners, in an action involving copyright and trademark infringement claims, as well as a related unfair competition claim.
  • Lawyer v. Lawyer: RBGG secured a dismissal of a defamation lawsuit against our lawyer client on an anti-SLAPP motion, successfully arguing our client’s speech was protected by the First Amendment. The trial court awarded RBGG and its cocounsel almost $100,000 in fees, which the California Court of Appeal affirmed in full.
  • Pruitt v. County of Sacramento: RBGG represented two men who were the victims of wide-ranging police and prosecutorial misconduct that included their wrongful arrests and detentions. After defeating the County’s motion to dismiss, RBGG secured a settlement of $400,000 for our clients.
  • Knowles v. City of Benicia: We represented a young man who was arrested by Benecia police without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. After the court granted our motion for summary adjudication, RBGG secured a settlement of over $600,000 for our client. See Knowles v. City of Benicia, 785 F. Supp. 2d 936 (2011).
  • Sterling Park v. City of Palo Alto: Following RBGG’s successful representation of our land developer client in the California Supreme Court, see Sterling Park, L.P v. City of Palo Alto, 57 Cal. 4th 1193 (2013), Ms. Ells briefed a writ petition to the Court of Appeal arising out of the trial court’s subsequent denial of summary judgment on a statute of limitations issue. The case then settled for a significant sum.
  • Coleman v. Brown/Plata v. Brown: Ms. Ells was part of the team that litigated this matter through trial and on appeal, which resulted in a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that overcrowding in California’s prisons resulted in cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court affirmed a January 2010 order issued by a three-judge federal court after an extensive trial directing California officials to reduce the State’s severe prison overcrowding down to 137.5% of design capacity. The order was issued after the judges found that overcrowding is the primary cause of ongoing unconstitutional conditions in California’s prisons, such as the system’s inability to provide minimally adequate medical and mental health care for prisoners. See Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011).
  • Armstrong v. Brown: RBGG proved in federal court that California’s prison and parole systems violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by discriminating against prisoners and parolees with mobility, sight, hearing, learning, mental and kidney disabilities. We secured systemwide injunctive relief to end the discrimination, which was upheld on appeal.  See Armstrong v. Wilson, 942 F. Supp. 1252 (N.D. Cal. 1996), aff’d 124 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 1997). We also established that the State is responsible for taking steps to ensure the rights of prisoners and parolees with disabilities are accommodated when it chooses to house them in third-party county jail facilities. See Armstrong v. Brown, 857 F. Supp. 2d 919 (N.D. Cal. 2012), aff’d 732 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2013), cert denied, 134 S. Ct. 2725 (2014); and 622 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2010).
  • American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers:  RBGG has represented ASCAP, the nation’s largest music licensing association, in multiple copyright infringement matters.

Published Decisions

  • Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011)
  • Sharkey v. O’Neal, 778 F.3d 767 (9th Cir. 2015)
  • Armstrong v. Brown, 732 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2013), cert denied, 134 S. Ct. 2725 (2014)
  • Landmark Screens LLC v. Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, 676 F.3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2012)
  • Armstrong v. Schwarzenegger, 622 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2010)
  • Landmark Screens, LLC v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, 183 Cal. App. 4th 238 (2010)
  • Coleman v. Brown, 28 F. Supp. 3d 1068 (E.D. Cal. 2014)
  • Coleman v. Brown, 938 F. Supp. 2d 955 (E.D. Cal. 2013)
  • Armstrong v. Brown, 939 F. Supp. 2d 1012 (N.D. Cal. 2013)
  • Knowles v. City of Benicia, 785 F. Supp. 2d 936 (2011)
  • Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, 922 F. Supp. 2d 882 (E.D. Cal. and N.D. Cal. 2009)

Honors & Awards

  • Martindale-Hubbell A-V Rated
  • Northern California Super Lawyers, 2012-2016 Rising Star

Publications