2020 – Dennis P. Riordan
Dennis P. Riordan is one of the premier appellate litigators in the United States. Over more than four decades, he has argued issues of breadth and importance in criminal and civil cases in state and federal appellate courts across the country.
Before founding Riordan & Horgan with Donald Horgan in 2003, Dennis gained public attention with his thirteen-year battle through state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, to vacate the murder convictions of John Spain, eventually leading to Spain’s release on a federal writ of habeas corpus. In 1985, Dennis gained reversal in the Fifth Circuit of the first “Sanctuary” conviction of a religious worker for assisting refugees fleeing wars in Central America. In 1991, he teamed with former judge and U.S. Solicitor General Robert Bork in the Second Circuit to overturn racketeering and fraud convictions in United States v. Wallach.
In 1989, California Lawyer Magazine named Dennis one of the state’s “Most Respected Lawyers.” In 1996, the San Francisco Daily Journal called him “one of the top criminal appellate specialists in California.” In 2005, while listing Dennis among the top ten lawyers in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle nicknamed him “The Last Hope.” In 2007, the New York Times described Dennis as “one of California’s top appellate lawyers . . . known as a brilliant writer of motions, briefs and jury instructions.” In his book Persons and Masks of the Law, the late Judge John Noonan of the Ninth Circuit cited Dennis Riordan as the single example of a lawyer who could make a difference on behalf of a defendant in a federal criminal appeal.
Dennis also has extensive experience in civil matters. In 2018, he successfully argued in the First District of the California Court of Appeal for the reversal of a $56 million bad faith insurance judgment in Victaulic v. American Home Insurance. As a trial attorney, Dennis recently staved off conviction for a client entrapped in an FBI sting operation, and along with co-counsel, won an acquittal at a federal bench trial for a client charged with violating the CFAA.
Dennis served on the state CALCRIM committee that rewrote California’s criminal jury instructions. He is a graduate of New York University School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar, an Arthur Garfield Hays Fellow, and a member of the Order of the Coif. He has twice been awarded Fulbright Fellowships for the study of law in Spain, and has served as an adjunct professor at both Stanford and the University of San Francisco Law Schools.
2019 – Jon B. Eisenberg
Jon B. Eisenberg has nearly four decades of experience in appellate litigation. He is the author of the leading treatise on California civil appellate practice, The Rutter Group’s “California Practice Guide: Civil Appeals and Writs,” and is a Past-President of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers. Jon has argued a dozen cases in the California Supreme Court and nearly 100 cases in the California Courts of Appeal and the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the District of Columbia Circuit.
Jon’s clients range from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofit entities and to individuals of modest means in pro bono and public interest litigation. He has participated in numerous civil rights cases involving issues such as the right to die, same-sex marriage, sexual orientation discrimination, free speech, national security, and force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees at Guantánamo Bay. His 2006 book “The Right vs. The Right to Die” is a nonfiction account of the Terri Schiavo case, in which he participated as one of the attorneys representing Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo. In 2016, Jon received the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Pamela E. Dunn Appellate Justice Award for his “extraordinary contributions to appellate justice. ”In 2011, he received California Lawyer magazine’s “Attorney of the Year” (CLAY) award in constitutional law for his work on a lawsuit challenging President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. In 2010, he was featured in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal as one of ten “Lawyers Who Helped Shape a Decade.” He regularly appears on the list of the top 100 Northern California “Super Lawyers.”
Jon is a California State Bar Certified Appellate Specialist.
University of California, Hastings College of Law,
University of California, Irvine, B.A. 1974
Hon. Winslow Christian,
California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District (1979-1980)
Hon. Donald B. King,
California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District (1983-1996)
U.S. Supreme Court
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
U.S. District Court, Northern and Central California Districts
Member, California Academy of Appellate Lawyers
Fellow, American Academy of Appellate Lawyers
Special Counsel, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Law Office of Jon B. Eisenberg, 2018-present
Horvitz & Levy LLP, 1996-2006 & 2012-2018
Eisenberg & Hancock LLP, 2006-2012
Farella, Braun & Martel LLP, 1978-1980 & 1982-1984
Boards and Commissions
California Academy of Appellate Lawyers, President 2016-2017
California Appellate Process Task Force (“Strankman Commission”),1997-2000
Alameda County Bar Association, board of directors, 1993-1995
University of California, Hastings College of Law, Adjunct Professor, 2001-2011 (appellate process)
Frequent lecturer in Continuing Legal Education
2018 – Ellis Horvitz
Ellis Horvitz is a visionary and pioneer in civil appellate practice, universally known as “the dean of the California appellate bar.” Ellis’ deep involvement and noteworthy success in California civil appellate practice is widely known. He has briefed more than 80 cases in the California Supreme Court and presented oral argument in more than 50. He coauthored The Rutter Group’s California Practice Guide: Civil Appeals and Writs, now the leading treatise on the subject. He is a founding member of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers, a fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and served on the State Bar Committee on the Appellate Courts from 1972 to 1976. Chambers and Partners USA ranked Ellis as a Senior Statesman from 2007 to 2009.
Beyond his dedication to and mastery of appellate law, Ellis was the first “startup” entrepreneur in the field of civil appeals. He began his appellate practice as a sole practitioner when there was no recognized appellate practice specialty and went on from there to found a firm which is now the largest boutique law firm in the nation dedicated to winning civil appeals.