James Brosnahan

Morrison & Foerster LLP - San Francisco
425 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 268-7189

James J. Brosnahan regularly undertook complex cases that were about to go to trial. He has tried, to conclusion, 150 cases. The cases have ranged from anti-trust to wire fraud and from patent litigation to white collar crime and murder. Mr. 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, Mr. Brosnahan is one of the most respected and recognized trial lawyers in the United States. Mr. Brosnahan has more than 50 years of experience in both civil and criminal trial work.

Mr. Brosnahan has received numerous honors and awards 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, he 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 inaugural “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 recognized as a 2012 Lifetime Achiever by The American Lawyer which recognizes outstanding professional success and a devotion to public service. Mr. Brosnahan has been recommended as a leading lawyer by Chambers USA every year since its launch. He is also ranked in 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 10 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.

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. Brosnahan also serves as Master Advocate on the faculty and member of the Board of Trustees of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. He authored the “Trial Handbook for California Lawyers.”


"Top Trial Attorney James Brosnahan Reflects on Over 50 Years of Law Practice," Laws.com (April 30, 2013).
"The Super Lawyers of 50 Years Ago," California Litigation Magazine (2013).
"Lifetime Achievers," The American Lawyer (September 2012).
"Lions of the Trial Bar," ABA Journal (March 2009).
"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 (June 25, 2009).
"Top 10 Northern California Super Lawyers 2009," Super Lawyers (2009).
"The Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: If Not Now, When?", The Recorder (April 18,2008).
"The Man Who Hates Injustice," Super Lawyers (2006).
"The One That Got Away," California Lawyer (January 1993).
"End Game," California Lawyer (January 1993).
"Who Gets the High-Profile cases?", California Lawyer (2007).
"Labor Woes Going Global," The Recorder (2005).


California Lawyers Association Bernard E. Witkin Award (2019)
American Bar Association Pickering Award (2019)
American Board of Trial Advocates’ Donald E. Bailey Civility and Professionalism Award (2018)
Justice Wiley W. Manuel Pro Bono Award (2018)
Bar Association of San Francisco’s Award of Merit on behalf of the Civil Gideon Task Force (2015)
The American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achiever Award (2012)
American Jewish Community’s Learned Hand Award (2011)
American Inns of Court’s Lewis F. Powell Award for Professionalism and Ethics (2007)
Loyola Law School Civil Justice Program’s Champion of Justice Award (2005)
University of Virginia’s Justice William Brennan Award (2003)
Lawyers Club of San Francisco inaugural Legends of the Law Award (2002)
California American Board of Trial Advocates’ Trial Lawyer of the Year Award (2001)
American College of Trial Lawyers’ Samuel E. Gates Award (2000)
State Bar of California’s “Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame” (1996)
National Jewish Fund’s Tree of Life Award (1991)
National Institute for Trial Advocacy’s Faculty Award (1991)
National Institute for Trial Advocate’s Award (1990)
William O. Douglas Award (1988)
Father Moriarty Central American Refugee Recognition (1987)
American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award (1987)
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Legal Services Award (1985)
The Wiley E. Manuel Foundation's Community Service Award


Recipient of the California Lawyers Association Bernard E. Witkin Award (2019)
Listed in The Best Lawyers in America (1983-2019) as a leader in the fields of Bet-the-Company Litigation, Criminal Defense: White-Collar, Litigation - ERISA, Litigation - Securities, and Personal Injury Litigation - Defendants. Notably, Mr. Brosnahan has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 1983.
Named one of America's Top 100 Civil Defense Litigators (2018)
Named one of America's Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys for Northern California (2017)
Named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators for Northern California (2017)
Listed by The Legal 500 US (2017) as a leading lawyer in White-Collar Criminal Defense
Listed in The Trial Lawyer's 2017 "The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100"
Named a leading lawyer by the Irish Legal 100 (2017)
Listed by Chambers USA for White-Collar Crime and Government Investigations (2005-2018), Trial Lawyers (2009-2017), and General Commercial Litigation (2005-2009)
Listed in Best Lawyers Business Edition (2016) as a leader in the fields of Bet-the-Company Litigation and Criminal Defense: White Collar Law
Listed by Benchmark Litigation as a Litigation Star in 2008-2013
Listed by The Best of the Best USA Litigation 2013
Named among the top 30 trial lawyers in the United States by Legal 500 US (2012)
Named a leading lawyer in the 2011 PLC Which Lawyer? Yearbook for Dispute Resolution
Listed in The Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers (2005-2008) and 3000 Leading Lawyers (2010)
Listed by the National Law Journal as one of the "Top 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" (2006)
Recognized by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys as one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Northern California
Inducted into the Lawdragon 500 Hall of Fame.
United States Lawyer Rankings 2006 List of the Nation's Top 10 Criminal Defense Lawyers
The San Francisco Magazine listed him in the top 10 of Northern California's SuperLawyers since its launch in 2004.
Listed in the top 10 of the top 100 most influential lawyers in California by the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the San Francisco Daily Journal since 1998
The third member inducted into the State Bar of California's "Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame"
One of only fourteen attorneys featured in the book America's Top Trial Lawyers: Who They Are & Why They Win, by Dr. Donald E. Vinson
In 1994 the National Law Journal listed Mr. Brosnahan in "Profiles in Power: The 100 Most Influential Lawyers"
In 1990, he was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 10 best trial lawyers in the country and in 1980 by the San Francisco Examiner as one of the five best attorneys in San Francisco.


Criminal Defense.
Obtained the release of a man wrongly convicted of arson and murder seventeen years ago.
Defense of Technology Company.
Successful defense of a former chairman of the board and technology company charged with securities civil fraud allegations after a six week jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. Achieved a complete defense verdict with jury out three hours.
Criminal Defense.
The successful defense of Laotian American charged with the attempted overthrow of the Laotian government.
Patricia Dunn.
Dismissal of all charges against Patricia Dunn, former chair 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.


"The Good Judge," Syracuse Law and Civic Engagement Forum, 12/19/2017
"United States Attorney Cecil Poole: A Personal Remembrance of an Inspirational California Lawyer," California Supreme Court Historical Society, Spring/Summer 2017
"Justice Gorsuch and the Failure of the Senate," ACSBlog, 4/18/2017
"My Strangest Day in Court: Scuffle On A Courtroom Floor," Law360, 4/14/2017
"Is Gorsuch A Positivist?," Law360, 2/3/2017
"OPINION: The US Supreme Court in 2017," Law360, 11/17/2016
"Ten Ways to Increase Your Persuasion Skills," California Litigation, Volume 29, 11/1/2016
"10 Things to Look For This Supreme Court Term," Law360, 10/7/2016
"High Stakes: Shaping the Post-Scalia Supreme Court," Law360, 8/19/2016
"A Trailblazer," California Legal History, Volume 10, 11/12/2015
Let's finally send Gideon to civil court," Daily Journal, 12/15/2014
"The Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: If Not Now, When?," The Recorder, 4/18/2008
"Oral Argument in the Supreme Court," California Litigation, Volume 5, Number 2, Winter 1992

Appellate + Supreme Court
Patent Litigation
Antitrust Law
Product Life Cycle
Investigations + White Collar Defense
Securities Litigation
Commercial Litigation + Trial

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