- Civil Appellate Litigator
Eric Alan Isaacson has decades of experience in federal civil appeals and complex class actions – briefing and arguing dozens of appeals against corporate interests charged with concealing the truth or telling lies. Those appeals often have involved federal securities-law claims, consumer-fraud claims, or antitrust claims, asserted on behalf of behalf of investors and consumers. Some have involved the rights of class members objecting to inadequate settlements or excessive attorneys’ fee awards.
Eric has in addition represented institutional investors and law professors as “friends of the court,” filing amicus curiae briefs supporting the rights of investors and consumers both before the United States Supreme Court and in the lower courts. Working on a pro bono basis, he has represented religious organizations, filing amicus curiae briefs for the California Council of Churches, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and many others – consistently supporting equality under law for all citizens while vigorously defending fundamental principles of religious liberty.
Eric’s experience dealing with federal appeals began shortly after his 1985 graduation from the Duke University School of Law, when he devoted a year to clerking for Judge J. Clifford Wallace of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Eric then worked for three years as a litigation associate with a large Los Angeles law firm, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where his practice focused on trademark and other issues. In 1989 he joined the plaintiffs’ class-action bar, signing on as a San Diego associate with Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, which was then the preeminent firm handling plaintiffs’ side securities class actions. Eric became a Milberg Weiss partner in 1994, with his practice focusing on civil appeals in securities cases and other complex class actions. See, e.g., In re Cavanaugh v. United States District Court, 306 F.3d 726 (9th Cir. 2002); Lone Star Ladies Inv. Club v. Schlotzky’s Inc., 238 F. 3d 363 (5th Cir. 2001); Berry v. Valence Technology, Inc., 175 F.3d 699 (9th Cir. 1999); Parnes v. Gateway 2000, Inc., 122 F.3d 539 (8th Circuit 1997); Warshaw v. Xoma Corp., 74 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 1996); Fecht v. Price Co., 70 F.3d 1078 (9th Cir. 1995); Mangini v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 7 Cal.4th 1057, 875 P.2d 73, 31 Cal. Rptr.2d 358 (1994); Mirkin v. Wasserman, 5 Cal.4th 1082, 858 P.2d 568, 23 Cal. Rptr.2d 101 (1993).
In 2004 Eric became a founding partner of Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP, later known as Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, a leading plaintiffs’ side class-action law firm formed by lawyers who broke away from Milberg Weiss. Here too Eric’s practice focused primarily on federal civil appeals, with Eric most often representing investors and consumers against corporate interests, and occasionally dealing with disputes concerning attorneys’ fee awards. See, e.g., In re Herald, Primeo, and Thema, 730 F.3d 112 (2d Cir. 2013), rehearing denied, 753 F.3d 110 (2d Cir. 2014); In Re Trans Union Corp. Privacy Litig., 664 F. 3d 1081 (7th Cir. 2011); Fidel v. Farley, 534 F. 3d 508 (6th Cir. 2008).
Eric left Robbins Geller to establish his own practice in 2016, the better to focus on his primary passions: representing the interests of ordinary citizens against corporate interests, defending the right of all citizens to fundamental equality under law, and giving a voice to the downtrodden. He practice continues to focus on federal civil appeals, with much of his time devoted to pro bono work on behalf of organizations supporting civil rights and religious liberty.
Over the course of his career, Eric has played an important role in many prominent class actions – including several of the largest ever prosecuted.
Representing The Regents of the University of California as court-appointed Lead Plaintiff in the Enron Securities Litigation, for example, Eric successfully opposed mandamus petitions filed by defendants who had assisted Enron with its financial chicanery, but who asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to prematurely terminate claims against investment bankers and lawyers who had helped to facilitate Enron’s financial misconduct. See In re Barclays PLC, et al., No. 03-20178, In re Vinson & Elkins, No. 03-20185; In re Credit Suisse First Boston Corp., No. 03-20187 (mandamus petitions denied March 11, 2003). As a result, the litigation continued, and settlements with third-party actors who had assisted Enron ultimately totaled over $7 billion. See Kristen Hays, Enron Settlement: $7.2 billion to shareholders, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 9, 2008.
Class actions, however, are not always the best way for investors and consumer to obtain optimal results. In connection with the WorldCom Securities Litigation, Eric represented pension funds anod other institutional investors who, monitoring the proceedings in the WorldCom securities-fraud class action, had concluded that the better course was for them to opt out of the class-action proceedings and file their own individual actions in state courts across the country.
Some of the cases were removed by the defendants to federal court and transferred to the Southern District of New York, where the district judge overseeing the federal class action dismissed them, ruling that the pension funds should be denied the benefit of a tolling rule for class members who opt out of a class action – because they did not wait for her to rule on class certification before filing their own claims. Eric successfully briefed and argued the pension funds’ appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, pointing out the absurdity of holding that claims may be barred as untimely because they were filed too soon. The Second Circuit agreed with him and reversed the claims’ dismissal. With the pension funds’ right to prosecute their own claims secure, they were able settle on far better terms than they would have received had they participated in the class action. See In re WorldCom Securities Litigation (California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) v. Caboto-Gruppo Intesa, BCI), 496 F.3d 245 (2d Cir. 2007), reversing In re WorldCom Inc. Sec. Litig. (State of Alaska Dept. of Revenue v. Ebbers), 294 F. Supp. 2d 431 (S.D.N.Y. 2003), and In re WorldCom Inc. Sec. Litig. (California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) v. Ebbers), 308 F. Supp. 2d 214 (S.D.N.Y. 2004); Jonathan Weil & Robin Sidel, WorldCom Investors Settle Lawsuits: Investment Banks Will Pay Almost All of $651 Million in Pact Tied to Bond Deals, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 27, 2005. One news service reported that bondholders participating in the class action got only about 20 percent of their claimed damages, while the breakaway investors recovered about 60 percent – about three times as much.
Occasionally, bad actors try to retaliate against those who would hold them to account, as “Trump University” did when former students sued alleging fraud.
In Makaeff v. Trump University, Eric represented a Trump University student who, on asserting class-action claims for fraud, was slapped with Trump University’s counter-claim for a million dollars in damages for her supposed “defamation” of Donald J. Trump’s creation. On appeal to the Ninth Circuit, Eric successfully argued that Trump University was a public figure required by Supreme Court precedent to show actual malice in order to proceed with its counterclaim for defamation. See Makaeff v. Trump University, LLC, 715 F.3d 254 (9th Cir. 2013).
On remand to the district court, Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel accordingly dismissed Trump University’s counterclaim, and awarded the former student $798,000 in fees and expenses for the trouble caused by Trump University’s abusive counterclaim. See Makaeff v. Trump University, No. 10-cv-0940 GPC, orders (S.D. Cal. June 16, 2004 & April 19, 2015). Donald J. Trump and Trump University ultimately resolved the case with an agreement to pay $25 million to settle former students’ class-action claims for fraud.
Eric’s appellate practice has taken him to the United States Supreme Court many times. He has several times participated in the merits briefing of appeals before the high court.
Omnicare v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015)
Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano, 131 S. Ct. 1309 (2011)
Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336 (2005)
Eric has written amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs for many other Supreme Court cases, often on behalf of institutional investors or law professors.
Campbell-Ewald Corp. v. Gomez, 136 S. Ct. 663 (2016) (institutional investor’s brief)
Amgen Inc. v. Connecticut Retirement Plans & Tr. Funds, 568 U.S. 455 (2013) (law professors’ brief)
Janus Capital Group, Inc. v. First Derivative Traders, 564 U.S. 135 (2011) (institutional investor’s brief)
Morrison v. National Australia Bank, Ltd., 561 U.S. 247 (2010) (institutional investors’ brief)
Merck & Co. v. Reynolds, 559 U.S. 633 (2010) (institutional investors’ brief)
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) (law professors’ brief);
Central Bank v. First Interstate Bank, 511 U.S. 164 (1994) (National Association of Securities and Commercial Law Attorneys brief)
Musick, Peeler & Garrett v. Employers Insurance of Wausau, 508 U.S. 286 (1993) (National Association of Securities and Commercial Law Attorneys brief).
Eric has in addition both briefed and argued scores of appeals, personally appearing before eleven of the thirteen United States Courts of Appeals. Many of those proceedings have produced published precedents controlling the decision of future cases.
That Eric has obtained favorable results in any particular case does not mean that he will be able to obtain similar results in another case.
Areas Of Practice
- Federal Appeals 85%
- Securities Litigation 5%
- Class Actions 5%
- Church & State 5%
- California, 1985
- U.S. Supreme Court, 1995
- U.S. District Court Central District of California, 1989
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of California, 1987
- U.S. District Court Northern District of California, 1990
- U.S. District Court Southern District of California, 1989
- U.S. Court of Appeals 1st Circuit, 2009
- U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit, 2004
- U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit, 2001
- U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, 2003
- U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit, 1999
- U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit, 1997
- U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit, 2002
- U.S. Court of Appeals 8th Circuit, 1996
- U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit, 1989
- U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, 1996
- U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit, 1998
- U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit, 2007
- U.S. Court of Appeals Federal Circuit, 2011
- Duke University School of Law, Durham, North Carolina
- J.D. - 1985
- Honors: Order of the Coif
- Ohio University, Athens , Ohio
- A.B. - 1982
- Honors: summa cum laude
- Eric Alan Isaacson, The Roberts Court and Securities Class Actions: Reaffirming Basic Principles, 48 AKRON L. REV. 923 (2015)
- Eric Alan Isaacson, Free Exercise for Whom? -- Could the Religious-Liberty Principle that Catholics Established in Perez v. Sharp Also Protect Same-Sex Couples’ Right to Marry?, 92 U. DET. MERCY L. REV. 29 (2015)
- Eric Alan Isaacson, Are Same-Sex Marriages Really a Threat to Religious Liberty?, 8 STANFORD J. CIV. RTS. & CIV. LIBERTIES 123 (2012)
- Eric Alan Isaacson, Assaulting America’s Mainstream Values: Hans Zeiger’s Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America, 5 PIERCE L. REV. 433 (2007) (review essay)
- Eric Alan Isaacson, Traditional Values, or a New Tradition of Prejudice? The Boy Scouts of America vs. the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, 17 GEO. MASON U. CIV. RTS. L. J. 1 (2006)
- Patrick J. Coughlin, Eric Alan Isaacson & Joseph D. Daley, What’s Brewing in Dura v. Broudo? The Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Review the Supreme Court’s Opinion and its Import for Securities-Fraud Litigation, 37 LOYOLA U. CHICAGO L. J. 1 (2005)
- William S. Lerach & Eric Alan Isaacson, Pleading Scienter Under Section 21D(b)(2) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934: Motive, Opportunity, Recklessness and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, 33 SAN DIEGO L. REV. 893 (1996)
- Eric Alan Isaacson, The Flag Burning Issue: A Legal Analysis and Comment, 23 LOYOLA L.A. L. REV. 535 (1990)
- Eric Alan Isaacson, Goodridge Lights A Nation’s Way to Civic Equality, Boston Bar Journal, Nov. 15, 2013
- Patrick J. Coughlin, Eric Alan Isaacson & Joseph D. Daley, Duped Investors See ‘Dura’ as Diamond in the Rough, Los Angeles Daily Journal, July 5, 2005, p. 8
- Patrick J. Coughlin & Eric Alan Isaacson, Securities Class Actions in the United States, in William G. Horton & Gerhard Wegen, eds., LITIGATION ISSUES IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF SECURITIES: AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE (Kluwer International/International Bar Association, 1997)
- Alan Schulman, Eric Isaacson & Jennifer Wells, Pleading Standards Under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: The Central District of California’s Chantal Decision, Class Actions & Derivative Suits, Summer 1996, at 14
- Patrick J. Coughlin & Eric Alan Isaacson, Commencing Litigation Under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”), in Jay B. Kasner & Bruce G. Vanyo, eds, Securities Litigation 1996 (Practicing Law Institute 1996).
- Omnicare v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, , 135 S. Ct. 1318 , 2015, U.S. Supreme Court
- Makaeff v. Trump University, LLC, 715 F.3d 254, 2013, 9th Cir.
- In re WorldCom Securities Litigation (CalPERS v. Caboto-Gruppo Intesa, BCI), 496 F.3d 245, 2007, 2d Cir.
- Note: Results in one or more cases should not be taken to imply that similar results will be obtained in other cases.
Honors and Awards
- Recipient of the American Constitution Society San Diego Lawyer Chapter’s third annual Roberto Alvarez Award, awarded at the San Diego Lawyers Chapter’s fifth annual reception
- Recipient of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation’s Hero Award for work on behalf of LGBTQ rights
- Recipient of the Democrats for Equality Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Community Service, awarded at the Democrats for Equality annual Freedom Awards ceremony, San Diego, California
- Recipient of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s President’s Annual Award for Volunteer Service, awarded by the Rev. Dr. William G. Sinkford at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 48th General Assembly in Salt Lake City, Utah
- Recipient of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego’s Unitarian Universalist of the Year Award for Community Service
- Recipient of the California State Bar's Wiley W. Manuel Certificate for Pro Bono Legal Services “for voluntary provision of legal services to the poor
- Recipient of the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program's Distinguished Service Award for service to the indigent community
Professional Associations and Memberships
- American Bar Association
- American Constitution Society
- AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY, SAN DIEGO LAWYER CHAPTER, Board Member, 2009 to Present
- AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY, SAN DIEGO LAWYER CHAPTER, Steering Committee Member, 2008 to 2009
Past Employment Positions
- Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, Founding Partner, 2004 to 2016
- Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, Associate, then Partner, 1989 to 2004
- O'Melveny & Myers , Associate , 1986 to 1989
- United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit , Law Clerk to Hon. J. Clifford Wallace, 1985 to 1986
Pro Bono Activities
- Brief for amici curiae California Council of Churches, et al., supporting same-sex couples’ right to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges, Nos. 14-556, 14-562, 14-571, 14-574 (U.S. June 26, 2015)
- Brief for amici curiae California Council of Churches, et al., supporting same-sex couples’ right to marry in Hollingsworth v. Perry, __ U.S. __, 133 S. Ct. 2652 (2013)
- Brief for amici curiae California Faith for Equality, et al., supporting constitutionality of California’s legislation barring healthcare professionals from subjecting minors to “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts” in Pickup v. Brown, 728 F.3d 1042 (9th Cir. 2013), rehearing denied and opinion amended, 740 F.3d 1208 (9th Cir. 2014)
- Brief for amici curiae California Faith for Equality, et al., supporting right of same-sex couples to marry in Perry v. Brown, 671 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2012)
- Brief for amici curiae Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, et al., opposing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, 658 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2011)
- Brief of California Faith for Equality, et al., opposing standing for opponents of marriage equality, on question certified to the California Supreme Court, in Perry v. Brown, 52 Cal. 4th 1116, 265 P.3d 1002 (2011)
- Brief for amici curiae Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry California, et al., supporting same-sex couples’ right to marry in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (N.D. Cal. 2010)
- Brief for amici curiae California Council of Churches, et al., supporting same-sex couples’ right to marry in Strauss v. Horton, 46 Cal. 4th 364, 377-78, 207 P.3d 48, 93 Cal. Rptr. 3d 591 (2009)
- Brief for Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, et al., supporting same-sex couples’ right to marry In re Marriage Cases, 43 Cal. 4th 757, 773-78, 183 P.3d 384, 76 Cal. Rptr. 3d 683 (2008)
- Brief for Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, et al., opposing Defense Department support for organization discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and religious convictions, in Winkler v. Gates, 481 F.3d 977 (7th Cir. 2007)
- Amicus Curiae briefs for religious organizations supporting civil rights & religious freed, 2005
- FIRST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF SAN DIEGO, Children’s Religious Education Sunday-school teacher, 2004 - Present
- FIRST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF SAN DIEGO, Delegate to Unitarian Universalist Association General Assemblies: 54th General Assembly, Portland, Oregon
- FIRST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF SAN DIEGO, Delegate to Unitarian Universalist Association General Assemblies: 53d General Assembly, Providence, Rhode Island
- FIRST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF SAN DIEGO, Delegate to Unitarian Universalist Association General Assemblies: 48th General Assembly, Salt Lake City, Utah
- FIRST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF SAN DIEGO, Worship Welcome Team, member, 2008 - 2011
- FIRST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF SAN DIEGO, Coming of Age Mentor: Summer 2016 & Fall 2007
- SAN DIEGO FOUNDATION FOR CHANGE, Board Member, 2004 - 2010
- SAN DIEGO FOUNDATION FOR CHANGE, Board President, 2005 - 2008
- SKINNER HOUSE BOOKS, Editorial Board Member, 2016 - Present