Steve Hirsch helps clients reframe and develop their cases for success in the federal and state appellate courts. That process can begin long before any appeal is filed, with dispositive trial-court motions and significant motions in limine, or during the post-trial motion phase, when issues are being teed up for appeal.
Mr. Hirsch’s core practice beliefs are that writing matters, that briefs should tell a compelling story, and that framing the issue is critical to success on appeal. He has been recognized by legal-writing expert Bryan Garner as one of the best brief writers in the United States, and has been chosen by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to teach appellate brief-writing and oral argument.
Clients represented by Mr. Hirsch have included American Honda, AT&T Wireless Services, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Google, Hummer Winblad, Intel, Qwest, and many prominent law firms and individuals in civil and criminal cases, as well as smaller businesses, governmental entities, crime victims, immigrants, public-interest organizations seeking amicus assistance, and labor unions.
Mr. Hirsch takes an active interest in protecting democratic norms and institutions and voting rights. In 2016, he served as a Regional Director for Voter Protection for the Clinton campaign in Ohio. Beginning in 2017, he has served as a legal consultant to Protect Democracy, helping to represent the organization in numerous matters. He has also done law-reform work in Nepal and taught law in Malaysia.
Mr. Hirsch also is a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School, where he teaches Advanced Appellate Writing.
Robin Antonick v. Electronic Arts Inc.
Robin Antonick, programmer of the John Madden Football video game for the Apple II that was released in 1988, alleged that EA owed him royalties on sales of all Madden Football video games over the last twenty-two years. Antonick claimed that all Madden games since 1990 are derivative works of the game he programmed, and he was therefore owed royalties under a 1986 contract with EA. On behalf of EA, we contended that none of Antonick’s source code, which was written for a more primitive platform and was outdated by the time it was released, was ever used in any subsequent Madden game. Although the jury found in favor of Antonik, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer later entered judgment for EA, reversing the award and strongly discouraging similar suits based on additional versions of the game. Judge Breyer's ruling was affirmed on appeal.
Ziptronix v. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company
We won summary judgment of non-infringement for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd. and its subsidiary TSMC, North America in a long-running patent lawsuit brought by North Carolina semiconductor company, Ziptronix, Inc. Ziptronix had asserted nine patents and more than 500 patent claims directed to TSMC’s manufacturing of semiconductors for use in backside-illumination image sensors used predominantly in smartphone cameras. On behalf of TSMC, we defeated Ziptronix’s claims by arguing that the territorial limits of U.S. patent law prohibited reaching TSMC’s business transactions and manufacturing operations in Taiwan.
Heller Ehrman LLP v. Davis, Wright Tremaine and Foley & Lardner
We won summary judgment for Davis, Wright Tremaine and Foley & Lardner, which were targeted by the Heller Ehrman bankruptcy estate. Law-firm bankruptcy trustees had argued unfinished hourly legal work is an asset that belongs to the failed firm, citing a 1984 California that involved the breakup of the Jewel, Boxer & Elkind firm. However, a federal judge rejected the 'Jewel' doctrine, and ruled Heller Ehrman cannot claim profits earned from hourly rate matters that its former partners brought with them to new law firms. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit certified the issue to the California Supreme Court, which issued a landmark decision holding that dissolved firms do not have a property interest in future fees for unfinished work, delivering a complete victory for our clients.
Suffolk Technologies LLC v. AOL Inc. and Google Inc.
A Virginia federal judge granted our motion for summary judgment on all but one of Suffolk’s patent infringement claims, and issued a Daubert ruling striking the plaintiff’s expert damages opinion in its entirety. Soon after, Suffolk stipulated to invalidity on the last remaining claim. Suffolk had claimed that Google’s Adsense advertising placement technology, which selectively places paid advertisements for a company’s product or service on the Web page of another, used a similar protocol to the one under patent with Suffolk.
Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc.
We represented Google in what Oracle claimed to be a multi-billion dollar patent and copyright war concerning the use of the Java programming language in Google’s Android platform. When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in January 2010, it acquired Sun’s rights to Java. In August of that year, Oracle sued Google, claiming its Android mobile technology infringed Oracle patents and copyrights. We defended Google against all the patent and copyright claims, and also argued that the damage estimates were wildly inflated. Following repeated rounds of motions and briefing, the judge dismissed the bulk of Oracle’s copyright claims, and at trial the jury rendered a unanimous verdict rejecting all claims of patent infringement. Although the jury decided that Google infringed an Oracle copyright on nine out of millions of lines of source code, the case was a sweeping victory for Google, with zero damages. After an appeal by Oracle, the case returned to district court for a trial on fair use. After a two-week trial, the federal jury unanimously found that Google’s use of Oracle’s Java programming language in the Android operating system was a fair use, thereby rejecting Oracle’s claims of infringement in their entirety.
City and County of San Francisco v. Music Concourse Community Partnership
We successfully defended the Music Concourse Community Partnership from two consolidated actions. The actions sought to halt the creation of a $50 million underground parking facility in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. After two bench trials, the court declined to issue an injunction, which the California Court of Appeal affirmed.
City of Hope National Medical Center v. Genentech, Inc.
We represented Genentech in a breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty action. In the first trial, the jury hung 7-5 in favor of Genentech. In the retrial, the jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages. The California Supreme Court reversed the breach of fiduciary duty verdict, thereby throwing out the $200 million punitive-damages award.
Pande v. Chevron
We won a $5.5 million jury verdict against Chevron for wrongfully terminating and retaliating against a female petroleum engineer. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the award.
Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc. et al
We secured a favorable settlement for Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) in this groundbreaking antitrust and right of publicity class action. Current and former student-athletes claimed EA improperly used the athletes’ likenesses and biographical information in its NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball video games.
Private School System v. Northern California County
We defended a California county and certain of its Supervisors against claims that its land use decision regarding a Christian school violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and aspects of the US Constitution. After a multi-week trial in federal court, a jury resolved the case in our client’s favor, denying the school system's request for tens of millions in damages. The plaintiff appealed, but withdrew their appeal after receiving our appellate brief.
United States v. Theodore John Kaczynski
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit appointed our firm to serve as pro bono amicus counsel to four victims of the Unabomber. The appeal concerned the constitutionality of an order to sell his writings to benefit victims. The court rejected the Unabomber’s First Amendment arguments and authorized an auction plan.
United States v. Importer
We defended at trial and on appeal a prominent Iranian businessman indicted for smuggling $8 million worth of Persian carpets. The case was won on appeal.
The Daily Journal has included the firm's win, undoing class certification in an antitrust suit against Qualcomm, among the Top Appellate Reversals of 2021. Read more
Former president Donald Trump’s claim that the First Amendment shields his conduct leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is legally “spurious” and should be rejected as a federal court considers lawsuits that allege he incited the violence, four prominent First Amendment lawyers and scholars argued Thursday. Read more
April 05, 2021
In an intellectual property case watched by the tech community for more than a decade, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 2 today that Google’s use of the programming language in its Android operating system is fair use. (Google v. Oracle, No. 18-956, U.S. Supreme Court). Read more
March 09, 2018
A dissolved law firm has no property interest in the profits generated by its former shareholders’ work on hourly fee matters pending at the time of the firm’s dissolution. Read more
March 06, 2018
The California Supreme Court ruled this week that failed law firms are not entitled to fees earned on legal matters that are in progress – but not completed – at the time the firm closes its doors. Read more
March 05, 2018
Representing Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Keker Van Nest & Peters secured a win before the California Supreme Court in a case that tested the reach of law firm dissolution agreements Read more
Rachael Meny, Jamie Slaughter and their team removed a major threat to Lyft's business model when they settled a proposed class action lawsuit without classifying drivers as employees. Read more
Steve Hirsch earned the prestigious CLAY award by winning a federal court judgment in the Heller Ehrman bankruptcy that makes it easier for clients to hire lawyers and for lawyers to switch firms. Read more
KVN represented whistleblower Robert C. Baker, who alleged Tennessee-based CHS violated the False Claims Act by presenting fraudulent claims for federal matching Medicaid funds. Read more
Justina Sessions, Steve Hirsch and Rachael Meny win a key victory for a dozen environmental groups working to protect the arctic. Read more
Ziptronix had asserted nine patents and more than 500 claims over TSMC’s manufacturing of semiconductors. Read more
Steve Hirsch and Steven Ragland win another victory on behalf of Davis Wright Tremaine and Foley & Lardner. Read more
A federal judge ruled the Heller Ehrman bankruptcy estate has no claim to profits earned from client business former partners brought with them to new law firms. Read more
The Federal Circuit day affirmed a district court's dismissal of a suit brought by the University of New Mexico's patent arm alleging Intel Corp. infringed a patent for lithographic methods used in semiconductor manufacturing Read more
Mr. Hirsch determined eight of 12 criticisms by Posner were “unwarranted,” but the remaining four had varying degrees of merit. Read more
Steve Hirsch will discuss how the appellant’s reply brief can be the most difficult but most effective argument you make. Read more
The Bar Association of San Francisco honored Steve Hirsch for his outstanding work as co-chair of BASF's Amicus Curiae Committee. Read more
A state appeals court says San Mateo County isn't responsible for $20 million in losses suffered by a dozen school districts in a county-run investment fund that had holdings in Lehman Bros. when it collapsed in 2008. Read more
Steve Hirsch discusses how to frame a question so as to negate his opponent's arguments. Read more
Steve Hirsch argued the online version of an age-old legal question — how to prove that a written communication was actually received and read by its intended target — at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Read more
The firm receives top rankings for bet-the-company, intellectual property, criminal defense, securities, commercial, legal malpractice, and appellate litigation. Read more
During this day-long seminar, Steven HIrsch and other notable faculty will examine the California appellate process by following a hypothetical case from filing of the complaint to review by the Court of Appeal, and petitioning the California Supreme Court for review. Read more
Keker & Van Nest partners were recognized in more than ten categories, including bet-the-company litigation, criminal defense, and intellectual property litigation. Read more
Later this month, U.S. Marshals will auction off "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski's personal effects online. Keker & Van Nest partner Steve Hirsch, who represented four victims in court proceedings, comments on what the auction will mean for Kaczynski's victims. Read more
Steven Hirsch and R. James Slaughter provide pro bono assistance to Conductors Guild. Read more
Steven Hirsch and Susan Harriman are defending Arizona-based Gradient Analytics, a securities research firm accused by Overstock.com of driving down its stock price. Read more
- Moderator, "First District Appellate Symposium: A View from the Bench,” California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District, 2014
- "The Reply Brief: Making It Count," Bar Association of San Francisco, 2014
- "In Practice: Preparing for Oral Argument," The Recorder, 2013
- "Framing (and Winning) your Substantial Evidence Appeal," Daily Journal, 2012, co-authored with Kate Lazarus
- "The Appellate Process in California," Bridgeport CLE, 2012
- Instructor, "Legal Writing Through a Case," Yale Law School
- Three-time panelist on brief-writing at Ninth Circuit’s biannual Appellate Practice Workshop.
- Four briefs published in Bryan Garner’s textbook, The Winning Brief
- Taught appellate advocacy at UC Berkeley School of Law
- Panelist in numerous programs relating to appeals, brief-writing and California law