Practice/Industry Group Overview
Our Firm was founded in 1935 by former Pennsylvania Attorney General William A. Schnader, a stellar litigator who, with one of his early colleagues, Bernard G. Segal, developed the Firm’s vibrant appellate practice in the federal and state appellate courts. One of the foremost appellate advocates of his day, Segal argued scores of appeals throughout the country, including a dozen cases in the Supreme Court of the United States. In the seven decades since its founding, the Schnader Firm has continued to view appellate advocacy as one of its special areas of expertise and has attracted such preeminent appellate litigators as former Third Circuit Judges Arlin Adams and Timothy Lewis.
The work of Schnader’s Appellate Practice Group ranges from run-of-the mill civil, commercial, and criminal appeals to "bet the business" litigation affecting the fundamental workings, and sometimes even the viability, of our clients. We serve both as appellate advocates and as appellate advisors, and frequently are engaged to assist other counsel by providing strategic advice, reviewing briefs, and holding moot courts. In addition, in 2007, we established the Bernard G. Segal Institute for Appellate Advocacy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Firm, which does not represent clients directly but organizes moot courts that include lawyers from both inside and outside the Firm and also arranges for those lawyers to provide strategic advice to other appellate counsel to enhance their presentations. At the trial court level, we regularly apply our analytic and advocacy skills on summary judgment and other significant motions, in post-trial proceedings, and in advising about how best to preserve issues for appeal and to position them for the most effective appellate review.
What Distinguishes Schnader’s Appellate Practice?
Our people. Any successful appellate practice group must be comprised of skilled and zealous advocates, brilliant analysts, accomplished writers, and savvy tacticians, and we have all of those. But we have more. Among our members is a former judge of the federal Court of Appeals, Timothy Lewis. Judge Lewis brings a wealth of knowledge about the practical workings of the appellate system and is an invaluable resource to all of our lawyers and clients.
Our appellate lawyers are nationally recognized in their field. We are members of such prestigious groups as the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers (on which one of our members serves on the Board of Directors) and the American Law Institute. Our attorneys are regularly recognized by the publishers of Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America, and for the past three years, our Practice Group has been recognized as #1 in Philadelphia, PA and in Pennsylvania in Appellate Law by Best Lawyers, with more of our lawyers named "Best Lawyers in America" in appellate law than any other law firm in Pennsylvania.
We serve on appellate rules and practice committees, take leadership roles in bar association groups devoted to appellate practice, lecture frequently on appellate issues, and teach appellate practice courses at law schools. One of our members founded and served as the first president of the Third Circuit Bar Association. Many of us have served as law clerks to appellate judges. We are editors and contributing authors of appellate treatises and articles in numerous publications.
Our recognition as appellate specialists. It is only in recent years that appellate practice has grown in recognition as a specialty. But our Firm has treated it that way from our founding. We view brief-writing — the central element of any appeal — as a matter of prime importance. We always have viewed it that way, going back to the days of William Schnader and Bernard Segal, when lawyers were hired for their special talents in appellate briefing. It is no doubt for that reason that members of our Appellate Practice Group have received the Burton Award (an award presented annually to 20 lawyers in the 500 largest law firms in the United States for excellence in legal writing) on three separate occasions:
- 2004 - Nancy Winkelman received the Burton Award for Legal Achievement for her article, "Just a Brief Writer?" (Litigation, 2003)
- 2007 - Bruce Merenstein and Carl Solano received the Award for the article "Interim Issues Requiring Appellate Review – Pennsylvania’s Collateral Order Doctrine: Lessons From the Barnes Foundation Case And The 30 Years of Jurisprudence Preceding It" (Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly, Vol. LXXVII, No. 4, 2006)
- 2008 - Marc Cornblatt and Bruce Merenstein received the Award for the article "Charities and the Orphans' Court" (Duquesne Law Review, Volume 46, Number 4, Summer 2008)
Perhaps because of our commitment to and experience in appellate advocacy, Schnader lawyers are regularly requested by appellate and other courts to present argument on significant legal issues on behalf of parties who cannot afford to pay for their own attorneys. Indeed, in Tabron v. Grace, we established the legal standard for appointment of counsel in the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, a standard that has since been followed by other federal courts of appeals throughout the country.
We also have frequently been retained as counsel for governmental bodies — including appellate courts themselves — when they have become engaged in litigation in the public eye that is expected to be decided ultimately on appeal. Our governmental clients have included the Senate of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and its justices, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the Philadelphia Historical Commission, the Insurance Commissioner of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners. We are honored to have earned the confidence and respect of these official entities and are committed to continuing in the tradition that led them to retain us.
Our innovation. While our dedication to appellate practice goes back to our founding, our approach to today’s cases embraces technological innovation. In 1997, we prepared the first brief and appendix ever accepted by a federal appellate court (the Supreme Court of the United States) in an electronic format — a CD-ROM with embedded hypertext links to cited authorities downloaded onto the disc — that was lodged with our traditional brief on behalf of a group of amici curiae in ACLU v. Reno. We used the technology to illustrate for the Court the then-novel technology of the Internet, which was at issue in that case, and Carl Solano, who spearheaded that effort, has since become a frequent lecturer on the use of technology in appellate practice. Since that early submission, as courts have made electronic filing a routine requirement, we have remained at the forefront of development of rules and protocols that assure that the new technology is used to advance advocacy for our clients, while not creating financial and other impediments to appellate success.
Innovation is not just a matter of technology, however. It is the ability to make use of all of the tools available to an appellate practitioner to achieve the best result for a client. These tools include the full procedural arsenal supplied by judicial rules, protocols, and internal operating procedures. For example, in In re Barnes Foundation, we employed the little-used device of a King’s Bench application to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to assist our client in obtaining a prompt appellate resolution of a dispute that threatened the client with financial ruin if it had run its course on a normal appellate schedule. We are adept at using such devices as the collateral order doctrine and interlocutory review to enable efficient advancement of proceedings to an ultimate result.
Our dedication. Though it often is characterized as a more intellectual form of advocacy, we recognize that appellate litigation still is, first and foremost, litigation. Our clients expect dedicated pursuit of their litigation objectives, and success on their behalf is always our primary goal. Our standing in the courts and among the members of the appellate bar enables us to pursue that goal with credibility. Our record confirms our tenacity. For example, in United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, we successfully overturned on appeal the method used by a government agency to calculate assessments imposed against a regulated utility; when, after that victory, the agency convinced the appellate court that, despite its decision for the utility, the agency could avoid the result by adopting a new assessment method, we overturned that decision by convincing the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that the lower appellate court had erred because it misunderstood its own earlier opinion.
The breadth of our work. We handle matters in all courts and of all types. As a representative sample, some of the decisions we obtained in recent months are listed below. Requests for more information about these cases may be addressed to the lawyer whose name follows the case description.
- Berger v. Weinstein, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 22353 (3d Cir. 2009) — Obtained summary judgment for defendant in real estate dispute in which plaintiff sought more than $86 million in damages, on ground that plaintiff lacked Article III standing to bring claims, and successfully defended summary judgment on appeal. Bruce Merenstein
- CBS Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission, No. 06-375 (3rd Cir. Nov. 2, 2011) — Assisted in the successful representation of CBS Corporation in the matter involving the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show; the Third Circuit reaffirmed and readopted its 2008 decision that rejected a finding of indecency and the accompanying $550,000 fine levied against CBS by the FCC. Nancy Winkelman
- Common Cause of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 558 F.3d 249 (3d Cir. 2009) — Successfully represented Chief Justice of Pennsylvania in obtaining affirmance of decision dismissing challenge to statute providing for salaries of state legislators, executive officials, and judges. Arlin Adams
- Estate of Fridenberg, In re, No. 32 EAP 2010 (Nov. 23, 2011 Pa.) — Obtained reversal of decision that Pennsylvania trial courts are bound by 1951 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision ("rule of Williamson's Estate") forbidding compensation of trustees from a trust corpus if the trust was created before a statutory change permitting such compensation. The reversal by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania was affirmed on further appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Carl Solano
- Fox TV, Inc. v. FCC, 613 F.3d 317 (2d Cir. 2010) — Represented former FCC commissioners as amici curiae in obtaining decision overturning FCC’s policy regarding indecency in television programming. Nancy Winkelman
- Gates v. Rohm and Haas Company LLC, 2011 WL 3715817 (3d Cir. 2011) – Successfully represented Firm client, Rohm and Haas Co., on an important issue of federal class action law. The plaintiffs, residents of a small town in northeastern Illinois, sued on behalf of all of the town’s residents, who allegedly were exposed to airborne amounts of a chemical that evaporated from a waste water facility on the company’s property. They alleged that exposure to above-normal levels of the chemical can cause cancer and sought an order requiring that all of the town’s residents receive periodic medical tests to screen for cancer. The Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a decision by the trial court, holding that an action for "medical monitoring" cannot be certified as a federal class action because certification requires that the class members have a predominance of issues in common and there were too many differences in the evidence applicable to each of the town’s residents to satisfy that requirement. Carl Solano
- Guang Lin-Zheng v. Attorney General, 557 F.3d 147 (3d Cir. 2009) — Served as court-appointed amicus on behalf of the en banc court in action for asylum and other relief from removal; court overruled earlier holding that definition of "refugee" in immigration statute extended automatic refugee status to spouses of individuals who were forcibly subjected to coercive birth control measures. Nancy Winkelman
- Hagan v. Rogers, 570 F.3d 146 (3d Cir. 2009) — Obtained reversal of dismissal of plaintiff inmates in action against detention facility officials for failure to address the threat of a contagious skin disease, and obtained vacatur of decision not to certify action as a class action. Nancy Winkelman
- Mary Courtney T. v. School District of Philadelphia, 575 F.3d 235 (3d Cir. 2009) — Obtained reversal of decision that Individuals with Disability Education Act requires school district to reimburse cost of disabled student's psychiatric hospitalization because psychiatric treatment was necessary to enable student to obtain meaningful education. Carl Solano
- Prusky v. ReliaStar Life Ins. Co., 445 F.3d 695 (3d Cir. 2006) — Obtained reversal of summary judgment for defendant in which trial court had invalidated $42 million of life insurance policies. Bruce Merenstein
- Rabatin v. Allied Glove Corp., 24 A.3d 388 (2011) – Successfully represented Firm client, General Electric (GE), before the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which issued a decision affirming the grant of summary judgment in an important asbestos appeal. GE was sued in the Court of Common Pleas for Allegheny County by plaintiff Scot Cameron, who alleged that he contracted mesothelioma from working with GE turbines installed in a U.S. Steel plant. The trial court granted GE's motion for summary judgment based on a construction statute of repose, holding that GE's turbines were permanent fixtures designed by GE and thus covered by the statute. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in GE's favor. Bruce Merenstein and Timothy K. Lewis
- Wayne M. Chiurazzi Law Inc. v. MRO Corp., 2011 WL 3505477 (Pa.Super.) – Secured an appellate victory for Firm client, MRO Corp. on a question of first impression regarding interpretation of the Pennsylvania Medical Records Act; a divided state Superior Court ruled that health care providers can base their charges for providing hard copies of medical records on the maximum charges spelled out in the statute. Carl Solano
- Wayne Moving & Storage of New Jersey, Inc. v. School District of Philadelphia, 625 F.3d 148 (3d Cir. 2010) — Obtained reversal of adverse monetary judgment on claim of unjust enrichment relating to cost overruns on moving services contract; on issue of first impression in federal appellate court, obtained holding that such actions are barred by statue governing Pennsylvania public schools. Carl Solano
- Whitfield v. Radian Guaranty, Inc., 501 F.3d 262 (3d Cir. 2007), vacated and remanded, 128 S. Ct. 2901 (2008), dismissed as moot, 539 F.3d 165 (3d Cir. 2008) — Action for failure to provide borrowers with an adverse action notice as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, upon dismissal of action with prejudice when Supreme Court requested response to petition for certiorari, obtained vacatur of adverse appellate judgment as moot. David Smith
- William A. Graham Co. v. Haughey, 2011 WL 1833238 (3d Cir. May 16, 2011) — Assisted counsel of record in obtaining reversal of district court's order overturning jury verdict for plaintiff in action for copyright infringement; Assisted counsel of record in resolving issue of first impression in court regarding application of statute of limitations to copyright actions. On June 20, 2011, Judge Harvey Bartle, III of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania refused a motion to stay an execution on a judgment of more than $30 million against the defendants while the defendants sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court, clearing the way for the plaintiffs to collect on a jury’s June 2006 verdict. On October 17, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari in the case. Carl Solano
What Distinguishes Schnader?
Our litigation practice. Although Schnader can offer the resources and standing of a large firm, it is primarily a litigation firm. We began as a litigation firm and continue as a litigation firm today. Indeed, litigation is the first thing that comes to mind when outsiders think of the Schnader Firm.
The excellence of our litigators is reflected in, among other achievements, their membership in such prestigious organizations as the American College of Trial Lawyers and International College of Trial Lawyers. Four of our attorneys were recognized in the 2011 edition of The Best Lawyers in America for "Bet-the-Company Litigation." Ralph Wellington, one of our long-time litigators who also served as the Firm’s Chairman from 1998 to 2010, was recognized in an independent survey of Fortune 1000 companies as one of 78 attorneys selected worldwide for providing superior client service. Dennis Suplee, who also has served as the Firm’s Chairman, was selected by Lawdragon in the Spring of 2006 as one of the 500 leading litigators in the United States, and in 2009 as the Philadelphia lawyer of the year for "Bet-the-Company" Litigation.
Our litigators have a proven track record. We are willing to try cases — not just to prepare them and then tell the client to settle. While other firms say that, our track record proves it.
At the same time, we take ADR seriously. We have been extensively involved in the resolution of disputes through ADR throughout the United States and abroad. The Firm has long been an active member of the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, and our attorneys have served as neutrals and advocates in arbitrations, mediations, mini-trials, and settlement proceedings in a wide variety of matters in federal and state courts, the Court of International Arbitration, and private forums. Several of our attorneys are members of the American Arbitration Association and, in that capacity, serve as arbitrators, mediators, or advocates in a broad range of commercial and construction disputes.
Our pro bono tradition. Schnader’s pro bono tradition dates back to its founding, and is largely attributable to Bernard Segal’s passionate devotion to the ideal of access to justice for all. Schnader’s lawyers routinely meet the ABA’s standard of averaging 50 pro bono hours per lawyer each year.
We are routinely appointed by the courts in which we practice as pro bono counsel in cases raising important legal issues. Just by way of example, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has appointed Schnader lawyers as pro bono lawyers in dozens of cases involving such issues as prisoners' civil rights, the Hague Convention, and immigration issues.
The Firm’s dedication to pro bono work confers important benefits upon all of its clients. First, our litigation lawyers get earlier opportunities to stand on their own feet, trying cases and arguing appeals. Second, because such cases rarely settle, trial and appellate court judges come to know our lawyers, and regularly compliment the Firm, both in courtrooms and public forums, for our service to the courts in taking on pro bono matters.
Our commitment to equal opportunity. One of Schnader’s fundamental priorities is the recruitment‚ retention, and promotion of attorneys of diverse backgrounds. Our Firm embraces diverse cultures‚ ethnicity‚ gender‚ religious preferences‚ sexual orientation, and disabilities‚ and we foster an atmosphere that is supportive of this diversity. Our Diversity Committee‚ chaired by our Chief Diversity Officer Albert S. Dandridge‚ III‚ a senior partner in the Philadelphia office, continually assesses the diversity-related practices‚ culture, and programs in our network of offices.
Schnader is a founder of‚ and an active participant in, the Philadelphia Minority Job Fair, and one of the original signatories to the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Statement of Goals for Increasing Minority Representation and Retention. Further‚ Schnader is a founding member of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group ("PDLG")‚ a city-wide organization that focuses on minority recruitment and retention. The PDLG is comprised of about a dozen major law firms and five corporate legal departments committed to fostering the participation of a diverse group of lawyers in the greater Philadelphia region in order to make the profession stronger‚ more productive, and better equipped to address the challenges of the 21st Century.
Women at Schnader play an integral part in the leadership and management of the Firm. Three women have served a total of six terms (of three years each) on our Executive Committee. Nancy Winkelman is the co-chair of our Litigation Services Department and chair of the Hiring Committee, as well as the immediate past co-chair of our Appellate Practice Group and immediate past chair of the Pro Bono Committee, and Deena Schneider chaired our Appellate Practice Group before Ms. Winkelman. Chris Carty, a current Executive Committee member, is Managing Partner of our New York Office. A number of our women attorneys have been recognized for their professional achievement. Both Liz Ainslie and Nancy Winkelman have been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year from 2006 to 2011. Both have also been named among "America's Top 50 Women Litigators" in Pennsylvania by The National Law Journal and as "Pennsylvania Super Lawyers." Liz Ainslie was also recognized in Women of Influence‚ a special supplement published by American Lawyer Media.