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Sullivan, Kathleen M.

Kathleen M. Sullivan

Los Angeles
Tel: +1 213 443 3000 Fax: +1 213 443 3100
New York
Tel: +1 212 849 7000 Fax: +1 212 849 7100

Kathleen Sullivan is a partner in the Los Angeles and New York offices and is the founding chair of the firm’s national appellate practice.  Formerly Professor of Law at Harvard and Stanford Law Schools and Dean of Stanford Law School, she joined the firm in 2005.  

Kathleen is widely recognized as one of the nation’s top appellate advocates.  She has argued eleven cases in the United States Supreme Court, including Samsung v. Apple, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Burlington Northern v. United States and Granholm v. Heald.  She has also argued many important cases in the federal circuit courts, including Vantage v. Petrobras, Federal Housing Finance Agency v. Nomura, Mattel v. MGA Entertainment, Entergy v. Shumlin and Doe v. Kamehameha Schools.  And her notable victories in state supreme courts include In re Southern California Gas Leak Cases, Sargon v. University of Southern California and Skelos v. Paterson.  

Kathleen focuses on high-stakes appeals, and in her time at the firm, she has overturned more than $3 billion in adverse judgments while also upholding many significant trial victories including several nine-figure damages awards.  In addition to her expertise in constitutional issues, she argues cases in a wide range of subject matters from antitrust, arbitration, banking, commercial contract, insurance and securities law to copyright, trademarks and patents.

Long nationally ranked by Chambers USA, which has called her “tremendously agile” and “a fabulous advocate” who is “quick on her feet and “has great respect” at the appellate level,  Kathleen has received numerous honors, including the American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Chambers USA’s Award For Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession, the New York Law Journal ’s Award for Lawyers Who Lead By Example, and the OAD’s Milton S. Gould Award for Outstanding Oral Advocacy.  Super Lawyers has repeatedly named Kathleen one of the Top Ten lawyers in the New York Metro area, and she has been named a Legend by Lawdragon, a Hall of Fame member by The Legal 500, a Litigation Star by Benchmark, and one the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by  the National Law Journal.

A graduate of Cornell University, Oxford University and Harvard Law School, Kathleen clerked for Judge James L. Oakes on the Second Circuit and practiced law with Laurence H. Tribe before she began her academic and later her business litigation career.

U.S. Supreme Court:

  • Represented Samsung in Samsung v. Apple (2016), the first interpretation of the design patent statute since the late nineteenth century, resulting in vacatur of nearly $400 million in infringement damages.
  • Represented Shell Oil in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (2013), which interpreted the Alien Tort Statute as inapplicable to alleged international law violations that take place abroad.  
  • Represented Pfizer in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth (2011), which held that federal law preempts state design-defect claims against manufacturers of childhood vaccines.
  • Represented Shell Oil in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway v. United States (2009), which barred Superfund “arranger” liability for shippers of useful products.
  • Represented wineries in Granholm v. Heald (2005), which held unconstitutional state bans on interstate wine shipments that favored in-state over out-of-state wine consumers.

U.S. Courts of Appeal:  

  • Represented C3.Ai in obtaining Third Circuit affirmance of a bench trial win rejecting $68 million in fraud and contract claims involving a stock-for-stock merger (2021).
  • Represented Vantage Deepwater in obtaining Fifth Circuit affirmance of a $722 million arbitration win against Petrobras, the largest arbitration award ever enforced in that circuit (2020).
  • Represented Dow Agrosciences in obtaining a Ninth Circuit decision upholding against environmental challenges the US EPA’s registration of the agricultural herbicide Enlist Duo (2020).
  • Represented United Parcel Service in obtaining a DC Circuit decision invalidating as arbitrary and capricious a postal rate order governing package-delivery competition with the US postal service (2020).
  • Represented defendant in obtaining Ninth Circuit vacatur of criminal sentence in health care fraud case based on sentencing guidelines error (2019), leading to sentence reduction and release on remand. 
  • Represented GFI executives in obtaining Second Circuit affirmance of dismissal of a securities fraud case under Rule 10b-5 involving a press release noting a “unique opportunity to return value” (2019).
  • Represented Town of Oyster Bay in obtaining Second Circuit affirmance of dismissal of claims  involving a contract agreed to by former town officials without town board approval (2019).
  • Represented ON Semiconductor in obtaining Federal Circuit reversal of a $140 million damages judgment after jury trial in the long-running Power Integrations v. Fairchild patent dispute (2018).
  • Represented Vimeo in obtaining Second Circuit reversal, on DMCA safe harbor grounds, of decision allowing record labels to pursue copyright claims against use of pre-1972 sound recordings (2016).  
  • Represented Marvell Technology in obtaining Federal Circuit reversal of most of a $1.54 million patent infringement judgment in a dispute with Carnegie Mellon University (2015).
  • Represented Samsung in multiple Federal Circuit appeals in the Apple v. Samsung “smartphone wars,” obtaining reversal of a $382 million trade dress dilution judgment (2015) and affirmance of denial of preliminary (2012) and permanent (2013) injunctions.
  • Represented Cisco in obtaining Federal Circuit affirmance of a post-trial judgment overturning a $70 million jury verdict in a fraud case brought by Xpert Universe (2015).
  • Represented Shell Oil in multiple Ninth Circuit petitions concerning Shell’s oil and gas drilling in the Alaskan Arctic, obtaining denial of challenges to US agency approvals of Shell’s oil spill response plans (2015), clean-air compliance plans (2013 & 2012) and exploration plans (2012 & 2010).
  • Represented the Federal Housing Finance Agency in obtaining Second Circuit affirmance of a bench trial win awarding $800 million for RMBS securities fraud against Nomura and other banks (2013).
  • Represented Entergy in obtaining affirmance by the Second Circuit of a bench trial decision that federal law preempts Vermont from shutting down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant (2013).
  • Represented AIG in obtaining Second Circuit reversal of a decision allowing RMBS action against Bank of America to be removed to federal court under the Edge Act (2013). 
  • Represented the Federal Housing Finance Agency in obtaining Second Circuit affirmance of an order allowing RMBS securities fraud action to proceed to trial as timely against UBS and other banks (2013).
  • Represented Mattel in obtaining Ninth Circuit reversal of  $172.5 million trade secret misappropriation judgment after jury trial in the long running Mattel v. MGA Barbie-Bratz “doll wars” (2013).
  • Represented defendant in obtaining Second Circuit reversal of federal criminal conviction that had applied Iran trade embargo to family remittances between Iran and U.S. individuals (2011).
  • Represented Johnson & Johnson subsidiary in obtaining Seventh Circuit reversal of decision vacating arbitration award for supposed “manifest disregard of law” (2011). 
  • Represented Johnson & Johnson subsidiary in obtaining Ninth Circuit affirmance of  decision removing patent dispute to federal court in connection with enforcement of foreign arbitral award (2011).
  • Represented Oracle in obtaining Ninth Circuit affirmance of summary judgment in a Rule 10b-5 securities class action (2010).
  • Represented AIG subsidiaries in obtaining Second Circuit reversal of $34 million fraudulent inducement  judgment after jury trial  in reinsurance brokerage dispute (2010).
  • Represented Allegheny Energy in obtaining Second Circuit reversal of $188 million contract judgment and reinstatement of counterclaims in dispute over sale of an energy trading business (2007). 
  • Represented the Kamehameha Schools in obtaining Ninth Circuit en banc affirmance upholding admissions preference for Native Hawaiian children (2006) and dismissal of later similar case (2010).

State Supreme Courts:

  • Represented Southern California Gas Co. in obtaining California Supreme Court affirmance of decision that tort plaintiffs cannot recover downstream indirect economic damages from a gas leak (2019).
  • Represented AIG subsidiary in obtaining Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts reversal of a decision allowing statutory treble damages on accrued interest on a judgment (2017).
  • Represented Flint Hills Resources in obtaining a Alaska Supreme Court reversal reinstating as timely contractual indemnification claims involving sulfolane at a North Pole oil refinery (2016).
  • Represented AIG subsidiary in obtaining West Virginia Supreme Court vacatur of the remainder after post-trial remittitur of a $58 million judgment after jury trial in insurance coverage dispute (2013).
  • Represented Excess Casualty Reinsurance Association in obtaining New York Court of Appeals reversal of  $391 million judgment against reinsurers, reinterpreting “follow the fortunes” doctrine (2013).
  • Represented the University of Southern California in obtaining California Supreme Court reversal of decision allowing unreliable expert lost profits testimony and establishing new Sargon standard (2012). 
  • Represented Governor David Paterson in obtaining New York Court of Appeals reversal of decision barring governor from appointing lieutenant governor to fill a vacancy in that position (2009).
  • Harvard Law School
    (J.D. Cum Laude, 1981)
    • Won Ames Moot Court Competition (best team, best brief and best oralist in final round)
  • Oxford University
    (B.A., 1978) 
    • Marshall Scholar
    • First Class Honours, P.P.E.
  • Cornell University
    (B.A.with distinction in all subjects, 1976)
    • Phi Beta Kappa (Junior year)
    • Telluride Scholar
    • College Scholar
  • The State Bar of New York, 1982
  • The State Bar of Massachusetts, 1988
  • The State Bar of California, 2006
  • United States Supreme Court, 1985
  • United States Courts of Appeals:
    • First Circuit
    • Second Circuit
    • Third Circuit
    • Fifth Circuit
    • Seventh Circuit
    • Ninth Circuit
    • Tenth Circuit
    • Eleventh Circuit
    • District of Columbia Circuit
    • Federal Circuit
  • United States District Courts:
    • Central District of California
    • Northern District of California
    • Southern District of California 
    • District of Massachusetts
    • Eastern District of New York
    • Northern District of New York
    • Southern District of New York
    • Eastern District of Texas 
  • United States Court of Federal Claims 
  • Stanford Law School:
    • Dean and Richard E. Lang Professor of Law, 1999-2004 
    • Professor of Law, 1993-1998
    • Stanley Morrison Professor of Law 1998-2012
  • Harvard Law School:
    • Professor of Law, 1989-1993
    • Assistant Professor of Law, 1984-1989
  • Law practice with Harvard Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe, 1982-1984
  • Law Clerk to the Hon. Judge James L. Oakes:
    • United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, 1981-1982


  • American Lawyer Lifetime Achievement Award (2021)
  • Chambers USA Award For Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession (2017)
  • New York Law Journal Award for Lawyers Who Lead By Example: Lifetime Achievement (2015)
  • OAD Milton S. Gould Award for Outstanding Oral Advocacy (2011).  
  • Repeat recognition:
    • Chambers USA:  Band 1 (Appellate)
    • Lawdragon 500: Legend 
    • Benchmark: Litigation Star
    • The Legal 500: Hall of Fame  
    • Super Lawyers (New York Metro): Number 2 (2019-2023); Top 10 (2017-2023); Top 100 (2015-2023); Top 50 Women (2010-2023) 
    • Daily Journal: Top 100 Lawyers in California
    • IAM Patent 1000: The World’s Leading Patent Professionals  
    • The Best Lawyers in America: Appellate Practice and Commercial Litigation 
    • National Law Journal: The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America
    • American Lawyer: Litigator of the Week
    • Who’s Who Legal: Commercial Litigation
  • Constitutional Law (20th ed., Foundation Press 2019) (with N. Feldman & previously G. Gunther)
  • New Federalist Papers (W.W. Norton 1997) (with A. Brinkley & N. Polsby)
  • Two Concepts of Freedom of Speech, 124 Harvard Law Review 143 (2010)
  • The Justices of Rules and Standards, 106 Harvard Law Review 22 (1992)
  • Unconstitutional Conditions, 102 Harvard Law Review 1413 (1989)
  • Elected Member, American Academy of Appellate Layers
  • Elected Member, American Law Institute
  • Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Elected Member, American Philosophical Society