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Sullivan, Kathleen M.

Kathleen M. Sullivan

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

Over the past four decades, Kathleen Sullivan has had a rare career as law professor at Harvard and Stanford, dean of Stanford Law School, and commercial litigator at our firm.  The founding chair of the firm’s national appellate practice, she has represented clients in complex litigation matters in jurisdictions across the country from trial court to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Focusing principally on high-stakes appeals, she has argued over 200 cases on a wide range of subject matters ranging from constitutional law (her area of academic expertise) to antitrust, arbitration, banking, contract, insurance, intellectual-property and securities law.  In the appeals she has handled 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.   And her multiple US Supreme Court victories include cases that made significant new law, including Samsung v. Apple, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, and Granholm v. Heald.

Kathleen’s appellate skills and contributions to the practice of law have been widely recognized and honored.  The American Lawyer recently bestowed on her its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.  She previously received lifetime achievement awards as well from Chambers USA and the New York Law Journal.  She has long been ranked as a top appellate advocate by Chambers USA, The Legal 500, Lawdragon, Benchmark Litigation, and Super Lawyers, which has for a number of years ranked Kathleen as number 2 among the Top Ten lawyers in New York.  And her victories have led the American Lawyer Litigation Daily to repeatedly name her Litigator of the Week.   

A graduate of Cornell University, Oxford University (which she attended as a Marshall Scholar) and Harvard Law School (where she won the Ames Moot Court final), 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.  She has won teaching awards at both Harvard and Stanford, co-authored the nation’s leading casebook on constitutional law as well as numerous law review articles, and been elected to membership in the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, the American Law Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

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 Caltech in obtaining Federal Circuit affirmance of a liability judgment for infringement of patents for error correction in data transmissions (2022). 
  • 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 Mirae Asset in a Delaware Supreme Court victory affirming a Chancery Court decision enforcing an ordinary course covenant to allow termination of a $6.8 billion hotel deal (2021).
  • 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 an 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).
  • Appellate Practice
  • Education Practice Group
  • Energy Sector Disputes
  • Entertainment & Media Litigation
  • Insurance & Reinsurance Litigation
  • Trade Secret Litigation
  • Life Science: Mass Torts and Product Liability Litigation
  • 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


  • Forbes America's Top 200 Lawyers (2024)
  • 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 (Nationwide Appellate); Band 1 (Nationwide Intellectual Property:  Appellate)
    • Lawdragon 500: Legend, Hall of Fame 
    • Benchmark: Litigation Star
    • The Legal 500: Hall of Fame (Appellate) 
    • 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