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James J. Brosnahan

Brosnahan, James J.

Senior Counsel

San Francisco, (415) 268-7189


Boston College (BSBA, 1956)
Harvard Law School (LL.B., 1959)

Bar Admissions


James J. Brosnahan – Senior Trial Counsel

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James J. Brosnahan is named among the top 30 trial lawyers in the United States, according to the Legal 500 US. A lion of the trial bar, he is one of the most respected and recognized trial lawyers in the United States. Jim has been practicing trial and appellate law for over fifty years. He maintains an active practice of civil and criminal cases, very often cases that are going to trial or will be argued in Circuit Courts. In addition to his busy practice, he teaches a class on persuasion at UC Berkeley Law. Fascinated by many aspects of the law, Jim has an insatiable curiosity for many types of cases and will fight for justice, within the rules, for any of his clients. He has tried, to conclusion, 150 cases.

Mr. Brosnahan has received numerous awards and recognition throughout his distinguished career. In 1996, he was inducted into the State Bar of California's "Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame" and was awarded the Samuel E. Gates Award by the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2000 for his "significant, exceptional lasting contribution to the improvement of the litigation process."  In 2001, Mr. Brosnahan was named "Trial Lawyer of the Year" by the American Board of Trial Advocates, and the following year, the San Francisco Lawyers' Club honored Mr. Brosnahan with its "Legend of the Law" award.  In 2006, he was named one of America's most influential trial lawyers by the National Law Journal. In 2007, he received the American Inns of Court Lewis F. Powell Award for Professionalism and Ethics to recognize a "lifetime devoted to the highest standards of ethical practice, competence, and professionalism."  In 2011, he received the Judge Learned Hand Award from the American Jewish Committee. He was recently recognized as a 2012 Lifetime Achiever by The American Lawyer which recognizes outstanding professional success and a devotion to public service. He was also a National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) Teacher of the Year.

Mr. Brosnahan has been recommended as a leading lawyer by Chambers USA every year since its launch and has been inducted into the Lawdragon 500 Hall of Fame. He is also ranked by PLC Which Lawyer?, The Best Lawyers in America, The Legal 500 US, Benchmark Litigation, The Lawdragon Top 3000, The Best of the Best USA Litigation, Euromoney’s Expert Guides, and the top ten in Northern California Super Lawyers since its launch in 2004.

Mr. Brosnahan is active in professional activities and is a past president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, whose Volunteer Lawyers Service Program he founded. He was also a National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) Teacher of the Year.

Mr. Brosnahan has served as special counsel to the California Legislature's Joint Subcommittee on Crude Oil Pricing, the lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference and Chairman of the Delegation. Mr. Brosnahan also serves as Master Advocate on the faculty and member of the Board of Trustees of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

Mr. Brosnahan authored the "Trial Handbook for California Lawyers." 

Selected Press Coverage: 
  1. "Lifetime Achievers," The American Lawyer, September 2012.
  2. "Lions of the Trial Bar," ABA Journal, March 2009.
  3. "Brosnahan Still Fighting After 50 Years:  Veteran Trial Lawyer and MoFo senior partner has lost only 11 of 142 trials, is as busy as ever," Daily Journal, 6/25/09.
  4. "Top 10 Northern California Super Lawyers 2009," Super Lawyers,  2009. 
  5. "The Right to Counsel in Civil Cases:  If Not Now, When?", The Recorder, 4/18/2008.
  6. "The Man Who Hates Injustice," Super Lawyers, 2006.
  7. "The One That Got Away," California Lawyer,  January 1993.
    "End Game" originally published in the January 1993 issue of California Lawyer.
    Reprinted with permission. © 2010 Daily Journal Corporation, San Francisco, CA.
  8. "Who Gets the High-Profile cases?", California Lawyer, 2007.
  9. "Labor Woes Going Global," The Recorder, 2005.

Recipient of:
  1. 2012 Lifetime Achiever by The American Lawyer
  2. BASF Award of Merit on behalf of the Civil Gideon Task Force 
  3. AJC Learned Hand Award
  4. American Inns of Court Lewis F. Powell Award for Professionalism and Ethics
  5. Champion of Justice award from the Civil Justice Program at the Loyola Law School
  6. University of Virginia Justice William Brennan Award
  7. Lawyers Club of San Francisco inaugural "Legends of the Law" award
  8. California ABOTA "Trial Lawyer of the Year"
  9. American College of Trial Lawyers, Samuel E. Gates Award
  10. The Wiley E. Manuel Foundation's Community Service Award
  11. National Institute for Trial Advocacy Faculty Award (1991)
  12. National Jewish Fund, Tree of Life Award (1991)
  13. National Institute for Trial Advocate Award (1990)
  14. William O. Douglas Award (1988)
  15. Father Moriarty Central American Refugee Recognition (1987)
  16. American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award
  17. Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Legal Services Award (1985)
Release for Innocent Man
Obtained the release of a man wrongly convicted of arson and murder seventeen years ago.
Large Verdict for Hospital
January 2013 - Obtained a $32M decision for the Marin General Hospital against Sutter Health.
Defense of Technology Company
Successful defense of a former chairman of the board and technology company charged with securities civil fraud allegations after a 6 week jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. Achieved a complete defense verdict with jury out 3 hours.
Criminal Defense
Successful defense of Laotian American charged with the attempted overthrow of the Laotian government.
Patricia Dunn
Dismissal of all charges against Patricia Dunn, former chairperson of the board of Hewlett Packard Corporation.
Defense of Altera Corporation
Successful defense of the Altera Corporation in a patent case involving reprogrammable computer chips. Federal District Court, San Jose.
Defense of 3M in Breast Implant Litigation
Successfully defended a highly respected innovative product manufacturer in the first breast implant product liability jury trial in California. The plaintiff's science was excluded on motion and a non-suit was granted at the end of plaintiff's opening statement.
Representation of El Paso in California Energy Litigation
Lead counsel and chief negotiator in defense of the El Paso Corporation in all of its California litigation during the energy crisis.
Iran-Contra Prosecution
Associate member of Office of Independent Counsel: Iran-Contra. Lead prosecutor in U.S. v. Caspar Weinberger.
Oakland Raiders v. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Successfully defended the City of Oakland and County of Alameda in the Oakland Raiders litigation and lead defense counsel for the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum and an individual defendant in a five-month jury trial.
Defense of John Walker Lindh
(USDC, Eastern District of Virginia) Obtained dismissal of all terrorism-related charges against John Walker Lindh in a leading case regarding the United States legal war on terrorism.
Edward Pressman, civil and criminal litigation
Obtained successful result in civil and criminal cases for producers of the movie, The Crow.
USA v Steven Elias Psinakis
Successful defense of Steve Psinakis on charges of Interstate transportation of explosive materials.
California Supreme Court Argument for Redistricting Commission
February 2012 - Obtained successful unanimous opinion in the California Supreme Court on behalf of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission establishing all of the congressional, senate and assembly districts in the state.
AMLAW Lifetime Achievement Award
Listen to acceptance speech of The American Lawyer Lifetime Achievement Award

“One of the greatest trial lawyers in the country.”
(Chambers USA 2013)

NACDA Top Ten Ranking 2014
Top 100 Lawyers
LAWS Top 100 Criminal Law Firm