Our lawyers have successfully handled hundreds of appeals in state and federal appellate courts at all levels, including the United State Supreme Court, most of the federal Courts of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal. By combining our strength as trial lawyers with our deep appellate expertise, we are able to shape litigation strategy from the outset with an eye toward ultimate success.
Most of our lawyers served as law clerks to federal judges, including on the Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth circuits, giving us close insight into the judicial decision making process and the intricacies of appellate procedure. We are exceptional written and oral advocates who understand that it is equally important to frame complex legal issues in clear, comprehensible terms and to tell a persuasive story.
Our lawyers have successfully briefed and argued appeals in varied subject matter areas, including civil rights and constitutional law, land use, attorneys’ fees, public employee rights, disability law, privacy law, and torts.
REPRESENTATIVE APPELLATE MATTERS
U.S. Supreme Court
- Brown v. Plata: The Court affirmed a lower court order requiring California to reduce its prison population, holding that the extreme crowding violated our clients’ rights to adequate mental and medical health care under the Eighth Amendment. See Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011)
- Collins v. City of Harker Heights: In this case involving the death of a municipal employee while on the job, the Court significantly clarified the elements and liability standards for many 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims and for municipal liability in § 1983 actions. See Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115 (1992).
- Communist Party of Indiana v. Whitcomb: The Court unanimously declared for the first time that government-mandated loyalty oath statutes contravene the First and Fourteenth Amendments, reversing the lower court ruling and ensuring our client’s right to participate in elector politics. See Communist Party of Indiana v. Whitcomb, 414 U.S. 441 (1974).
- Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan: The Court declined to decide the merits of our client’s constitutional challenge to Ohio’s loyalty oath statute on ripeness grounds. See Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583 (1972).
- Connell v. Higginbotham: The Court recognized the due process rights of non-tenured public employees, reversing a lower court ruling against our client. See Connell v. Higginbotham, 403 U.S. 207 (1971) (per curiam).
- Whitehill v. Elkins: In ruling for our client, a professor, the Court declared most of Maryland’s loyal-security statute unconstitutional, overruling a previous Supreme Court decision upholding that law. See Whitehill v. Elkins, 389 U.S. 54 (1967).
Other Federal Appellate Matters
- Coleman v. Newsom: RBGG represents a class of the more than 38,000 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 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). On November 28, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued two unanimous rulings affirming lower court decisions on behalf of the class. The Court dismissed the State’s appeal of an April 2017 order because the district court had not granted or modified an injunction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1) in requiring the State to comply with prior orders to transfer class members to inpatient care in a timely fashion, nor had it issued a final order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 because contempt proceedings remained ongoing. See Coleman v. Brown, 743 Fed. Appx. 875 (9th Cir. 2018). The Court separately upheld a October 2017 order on the merits, ruling that district court complied with the Constitution and the Prison Litigation Reform Act in holding the State to its twenty-four hour timeframe to transfer patients in mental health crisis to licensed hospital settings, as longer waits “create ‘a substantial risk of serious harm’” in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Coleman v. Brown, 756 Fed. Appx. 677 (9th Cir. 2018) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994)). These appellate victories ensure timely access to critically needed psychiatric inpatient hospitalization for the members of the Coleman class, and the State’s compliance with the inpatient transfer timelines has dramatically improved in the wake of the rulings. For more information see Coleman v. Brown: Court Orders, Reports, Photos, Expert Declarations and Media Coverage.
- Sharkey v. O’Neal: RBGG 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. We 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: RBGG 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).
- Armstrong v. Brown: In a series of appeals, RBGG established that California 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, 732 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 2013), cert denied, 134 S. Ct. 2725 (2014), and 622 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2010). RBGG also established that the Prison Litigation Reform Act’s attorney fee limitation does not limit fee awards for litigation brought under federal disability discrimination laws. See Armstrong v. Davis, 318 F.3d 965 (9th Cir. 2003).
- Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger: RBGG successfully defended on appeal a district court order authorizing ongoing work to ensure a publisher’s First Amendment right to send books and magazines into state institutions, and awarding attorneys’ fees for the same work. See Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, 608 F.3d 446 (9th Cir. 2010).
- Coleman v. Brown: RBGG successfully defended on appeal a district court order requiring California to provide emergency access to inpatient psychiatric care.
- Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger: We successfully defended a district court order holding that federal due process rights concerning admission of hearsay evidence apply to state administrative procedures. See Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger, 599 F.3d 984 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 1626 (2011).
- Holland v. Roeser: We established the principle that holding that Rule 68 offers of judgment do not cut off fees for making a subsequent fee application unless the offer is unambiguous on the issue. See Holland v. Roeser, 37 F.3d 501 (9th Cir. 1994). The firm prepared the successful Petition for Rehearing/Rehearing En Banc that caused the panel to reverse itself.
- Gates v. Deukmejian: We secured a consent decree requiring California to improve medical and mental health care, treatment of HIV prisoners, and conditions of confinement for certain California prisoners. Over the course of four appeals (one unreported), we successfully defended the scope of the remedy, our entitlement to fees for litigation and monitoring, and an enforcement order prohibiting the use of certain riot-control guns on mentally ill prisoners confined to their cells. See Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392 (9th Cir. 1993), Gates v. Rowland, 39 F.3d 1439 (9th Cir. 1994), and Gates v. Gomez, 60 F.3d 525 (9th Cir. 1995). We also litigated a subsequent related appeal that clarified contempt powers in complex injunction cases. See Gates v. Shinn, 98 F.3d 463 (9th Cir. 1996).
- Toussaint v. Gomez: In eight appeals (five unreported) over the thirty-year course of this case concerning the class of prisoners confined to segregation units in four California prisons, we defended multiple aspects of the preliminary and permanent injunctions, as well as the fee awards for fees arising from the monitoring process. See Toussaint v. McCarthy, 926 F.2d 800 (9th Cir. 1990), 826 F.2d 901 (9th Cir. 1987), and 801 F.2d 1080 (9th Cir. 1986).
- EEOC v. Pan American World Airways, Inc: In two related appeals arising out of a federal age discrimination in employment case, the court first determined it had no jurisdiction to review an order rejecting on grounds of inadequacy a settlement sponsored by the EEOC that our clients opposed. The court later affirmed adoption of the nearly $20 million settlement that we crafted after a two-month jury trial, which was the largest ADEA settlement to date. See EEOC v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 796 F.2d 314 (9th Cir. 1986), and 897 F.2d 1499 (9th Cir. 1990).
- The Kent State Cases: We represented the plaintiffs in appeals of several cases arising out of the May 4, 1970 shooting of students at Kent State University, including the civil rights-wrongful death and bodily injury cases that we successfully appealed, retried, and settled. See Krause v. Rhodes, 570 F.2d 563 (6th Cir. 1977), and 671 F.2d 212 (6th Cir. 1982).
- Familias Unidas v. Briscoe: We succeeded in convincing the court to overturn on First Amendment grounds discovery sanctions against our client, a civil rights organization, that refused to disclose its membership list in contravention of a Texas statute requiring it to do so. See Familias Unidas v. Briscoe, 544 F.2d 182 (5th Cir. 1976).
- Marin City Council v. Marin County Redevelopment Agency: We successfully defended in the Ninth Circuit an order rejecting a claim that HUD and our client, a developer, had provided insufficient federally assisted low-cost housing in a Marin County housing development.
- Evergreen v. Foundation Films, Inc. v. Davis: We succeeded on an expedited appeal in the Ninth Circuit involving the motion picture rights to Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
- United States v. Hawthorne: In reviewing our client’s revised sentence after a previous remand order, the court narrowed the scope of the 1961 Federal Criminal Travel Act on constitutional grounds. See United States v. Hawthorne, 370 F.2d 330 (4th Cir. 1966) (per curiam).
California Supreme Court
- Retired Employees Association of Orange County v. Orange County: Ruling in our clients’ favor, the court held that government employers must abide by their contracts for retirement benefits. See Retired Employees Assoc. of Orange County v. Orange County, 52 Cal. 4th 1171 (2011).
- In re E.J.: We brought a challenge to a ballot initiative under California constitutional law. See In re E.J., 47 Cal. 4th 1258 (2010).
- People v. Mroczko: We secured a unanimous reversal of our client’s capital conviction for murder in a decision establishing the rule in California that each indigent criminal defendant presumptively must be represented by his own appointed attorney. See People v. Mroczko, 335 Cal. 3d 86 (1984).
Other State Appellate Matters
- Jay Brome v. California Highway Patrol: RBGG secured a unanimous reversal in the First Appellate District of the California Court of Appeals of a summary judgment order dismissing on statute of limitations grounds retired CHP Officer Jay Brome’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) claims, which arose out of the severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment he faced during his nearly twenty-year career because he is gay. The opinion affirms the importance of applying equitable doctrines— equitable tolling, the continuing violation doctrine, and constructive discharge—to allow employment discrimination and harassment claims to be heard on the merits by a jury. See Brome v. California Highway Patrol, 44 Cal.App.5th 786 (2020).
- California Renters Legal Advocacy & Education Fund, et al. v. City of Huntington Beach: In May 2022, RBGG’s client, California Renters Legal Advocacy & Education Fund (CaRLA), a non-profit housing organization, achieved a landmark settlement with the City of Huntington Beach to resolve violations of California’s Housing Accountability Act (Gov’t Code § 65589.5, formerly known as the “Anti-NIMBY Law”). The controversy arose when the city council disapproved a proposed 48-unit mixed-income apartment building that complied with all applicable planning and zoning regulations, based on pretextual concerns about “health and safety” that the city council manufactured after the fact in response to the threat of litigation. RBGG was retained to represent CaRLA on three consolidated appeals in the California Court of Appeal arising from key trial court rulings in the matter. RBGG’s team promptly defeated Huntington Beach’s supersedeas petition and request for immediate stay of the trial court’s orders in favor of CaRLA. RBGG then briefed a motion to dismiss the consolidated appeals for lack of jurisdiction, which was pending when the parties reached the settlement.
- Lawyer v. Lawyer: We successfully defended on appeal a substantial fee award arising out of an order dismissing a defamation lawsuit against our lawyer client as a SLAPP.
- Gober v. Ralphs Grocery Company: RBGG secured a unanimous affirmance of our clients’ entitlement to a substantial award for workplace harassment, including a punitive damages award. See Gober v. Ralphs Grocery Co., 137 Cal. App. 4th 204 (2006).
- Davis v. California Department of Corrections: We successfully defended a multimillion-dollar fee award, including a 1.25 multiplier, under the Unruh Act.
- Greene v. Dillingham Construction Company: Our firm secured a unanimous affirmance of a million-dollar fee award for plaintiffs’ counsel in a workplace racial harassment case, and remanding for consideration of a multiplier. See Greene v. Dillingham Constr. Co., 101 Cal. App. 4th 418 (2002).
- Weeks v. Baker & McKenzie: As appellate and fees counsel, we convinced the court to uphold a judgment awarding our client damages, including $3.5 million in punitives, as well as fees after a ground-breaking sexual harassment trial. See Weeks v. Baker & McKenzie, 63 Cal. App. 4th 1128 (1998).
- Rebney v. Wells Fargo Bank: We successfully represented classes of banking customers in two appeals, the first of which found objectors to two settlements concerning bank checking account fees lacked standing to appeal and, largely in dicta, found no fault with the settlement, and the second of which upheld the award of attorneys’ fees after the settlement. See Rebney v. Wells Fargo Bank, 200 Cal. App. 3d 1117 (1990), and 232 Cal. App. 3d 1344 (1991).
- Lucas Valley Home Owners Association v. County of Marin: We succeeding in securing a reversal under constitutional and zoning law of an order invalidating a conditional use permit issued to our synagogue client, the real-party-in-interest Chabad of Marin. See Lucas Valley Home Owners Ass’n v. County of Marin, 233 Cal. App. 3d 130 (1991).
RBGG has also authored briefs as Amici Curiae in the United States Supreme Court, multiple Courts of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court in some of the most significant cases of the day.
- In re Gadlin, 10 Cal. 5th 915, 2020 WL 7690154 (Cal. 2020). RBGG represented a group of social science scholars to provide information to the California Supreme Court regarding the harmful effects of criminal justice policies that lump all sex offenses together without regarding to actual risk of future dangerousness. The Court ruled that the State of California had acted unlawfully in excluding persons of the sex offender registry from parole consideration hearings required by Proposition 57.
- California by and Through Becerra v. Azar,— F. Supp. 3d. —, 2020 WL 6733641, at *1 (N.D.Cal., 2020). RBGG represented a group of national disability rights organizations as amici curiae in this challenge to the Trump administration’s rule prohibiting persons who receive Medicaid-funded in-home supportive services from authorizing payroll deductions for payment of union dues.
- Amici Curiae Brief on Behalf of LGBT Bar Associations in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-168; Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, No. 17-1623; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. E.E.O.C., No., 18-107: In July 2019, RBGG filed an amicus brief in three cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status. The brief, which was filed on behalf of the National LGBT Bar Association, the National Trans Bar Association, the LGBT Bar Association of New York, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, and the LGBT Bar Association of Los Angeles, urges the Court to recognize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status as forms of impermissible sex discrimination. The brief also urges the Court to reaffirm that employers may not discriminate on the basis of sex to appease customer prejudice.
- Amici Curiae Brief on Behalf of Former Representative Tony Coelho in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 16-111: In October 2017, RBGG filed an amicus brief on behalf of former U.S. Representative Tony Coelho, a principal author of the ADA, and a coalition of ten disability rights organizations. The brief asks the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act is not subject to federal constitutional religious or free speech exceptions which would allow places of public accommodation to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The brief urged the Court to consider the implications of such exceptions on enforcement of the ADA and similar state and local disability rights laws, marshalling examples of cases in which discriminators asserted these defenses.
- Amici Curiae Brief on Behalf of NCLR in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S. Ct. 2292 (June 26, 2016): In January 2016 RBGG filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and a coalition of 13 other LGBT, racial justice, and health equity organizations asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down draconian restrictions on abortion providers enacted by the State of Texas in 2013 which, if upheld, would have led to the closing of most abortion clinics in the state. The brief urged the Court to carefully scrutinize the state’s asserted justification for the law, just as the Court has done with other laws that infringe upon fundamental freedoms. The Supreme Court struck the law down.
- Amici Curiae Brief on Behalf of Deaf Advocacy Organizations in Ivy v. Morath, 137 S.Ct. 414 (2016): RBGG submitted a friend of the court brief on August 30, 2016 on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf and six other deaf advocacy organizations urging the Supreme Court to recognize that a state-mandated driver education program must be operated and regulated by the state in a manner that is accessible to deaf individuals and in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. SCOTUS vacated the judgment and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case as moot on 10/31/16.
- Amicus Briefs on Behalf of Survivors of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts: RBGG has submitted multiple friend of court briefs urging the Supreme Court to recognize sexual orientation as a suspect classification under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the recent marriage equality cases. See Obergefell v. Hodges, __ S.Ct. __ (2015); Hollingsworth v. Perry, 133 S. Ct. 2652 (2013), and United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013). We also submitted briefs in support of California and New Jersey laws enacted to protect minors from the serious harms caused by “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), the dangerous “therapies” purportedly designed to “treat” homosexuality. See Pickup v. Brown/Welch v. Brown, 728 F.3d 1042 (2013), and King v. New Jersey, 767 F.3d 216 (2014).
- Amicus Briefs Concerning the Alien Torts Statute: RBGG submitted “friend of court” briefs on behalf of legal history professors in the Eleventh Circuit and two federal district courts in support of the plaintiffs’ claims that the defendants aided and abetted human rights violations in various international locations. The briefs urge the courts to recognize that the presumption against extraterritoriality in Alien Tort Statute (ATS) claims does not apply to claims against U.S. corporations.
- Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada: RBGG submitted an amicus brief in the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of military law scholars in support of the plaintiffs’ claim that the defendants committed human rights violations in Bolivia. The brief urges the court to recognize command responsibility for the defendants under U.S. and international law.
- Ibrahim v. Department of Homeland Security: RBGG submitted an amicus brief on behalf of a Muslim organization in support of a challenge to aspects of the federal “No-Fly List” under the First and Fifth Amendments. See Ibrahim v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 669 F.3d 983 (9th Cir. 2012).
- Degelmann v. Advanced Medical Optics, Inc.: Our firm submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Consumers Union of the United States supporting rehearing en banc of a decision finding certain class claims brought under California’s Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law were preempted. See Degelmann v. Advanced Med. Optics, Inc., 659 F.3d 835 (9th Cir. 2011).
- Perdue v. Kenny A.: We submitted a friend of court brief on behalf of a nationwide group of private law firms urging the Court to continue to permit enhancements of fee awards above the “loadstar” amount in appropriate civil rights cases, which it did. See Perdue v. Kenny A., 559 U.S. 542 (2010).
- County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court (Atlantic Richfield): We submitted a brief on behalf of amici law professors specializing in legal ethics in favor of allowing public entities to hire private attorneys on contingent fee bases to bring public nuisance cases. See County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court (Atlantic Richfield), 50 Cal. 4th 35 (2010).
- In re Joshua S.: We submitted a brief on behalf of various amici civil rights organizations in support of the plaintiffs’ right to collect attorneys’ fees under California’s private attorney general fee statute for her successful effort to establishing the validity of second parent adoptions in which the same-sex partner of a birth mother adopted the mother’s child while the mother remained a coparent. See In re Joshua S., 42 Cal. 4th 945 (2008).
- Beard v. Banks: We submitted a brief on behalf of publishers, reporters, librarians, retailers, and other disseminators of books, newspapers, and magazines, in support of a First Amendment challenge to a Pennsylvania prison policy that denied certain prisoners access to any newspapers, magazines, and photographs. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521 (2006).
- Schindler Elevator Corporation v. City and County of San Francisco: RBGG submitted a brief in the California Court of Appeal on behalf of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, minority contractors, and business associations encouraging the court to uphold an affirmative action provision in the San Francisco Administrative Code seeking to increase participation by minority- and women-owned subcontractors in City contracting.
- City of Burlington v. Dague: We submitted a friend of court brief on behalf of not-for-profit legal services organizations, private law firms, and sole practitioners from throughout the United States urging the Court to permit enhancements of fee awards above the “loadstar” amount in appropriate cases pursuant to environmental fee shifting statutes. See City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557 (1992).