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Donna Marie Melby

Donna Marie Melby Esq.

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Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Business Commercial
Employment Law
Class Action & Mass Tort
Entertainment & Sports
Product Liability
Personal Injury
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Donna Marie Melby, Esq., joins JAMS with 45 years of trial, litigation and counseling experience, inside and outside state and federal courtrooms across the country. Ms. Melby has dedicated a career to successfully representing clients in their most high-profile, sensitive and challenging matters. Frequently recognized as one of the nation’s most accomplished business trial counsel, she has successfully litigated complex cases all over the U.S. and internationally—bringing an impressive depth and breadth of jury and non-jury trial experience, as well as international and domestic arbitration experience. During her tenure as a member of the Employment and Litigation departments of her international law firm and as co-chair of the Employment Law Department in Los Angeles, chair of Global Diversity and head of the Women’s Initiative, her law firm was recognized by The American Lawyer as the Labor & Employment Litigation Firm of the Year.

Ms. Melby was the first woman counsel to advise one of her Fortune 50 public company client’s board of directors on C-suite executive challenges, transitions, organizational change, misconduct and compensation. In addition to her complex litigation practice, including considerable time in the courtroom as lead trial counsel, her work frequently included regular counsel to boards across a diverse range of industries with their most difficult leadership and organizational challenges. Ms. Melby’s depth of experience in the litigation and trial of employee mobility matters; trade secrets; high-level confidential executive/general counsel separations; law firm partnership issues; breach of fiduciary duty; class actions; discrimination, retaliation, harassment and #MeToo claims; Equal Pay Act claims; and issues inside and outside workplaces of all kinds provides her with a broad perspective of both defendants and plaintiffs, uniquely positioning her to lead parties to effective and efficient resolutions of the most difficult disputes.

Ms. Melby actively litigated mass tort cases in the early part of her career, representing pharmaceutical companies in breast implant litigation and in drug-related mass tort litigation. Complex business litigation, breach of contract, whistleblower, qui tam, defamation and unfair competition matters have all also been a part of her active national and international litigation and trial practice.

Ms. Melby’s international arbitration experience includes a precedent-setting Ninth Circuit decision in an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) international arbitration matter that arose as the result of a dispute among multiple former manufacturing corporate partners. In a published Ninth Circuit decision, the Ninth Circuit confirmed jurisdiction of the district court to issue interim injunctive relief pending and in aid of international arbitration.

She settled countless cases on behalf of her clients in mediations and directly with opposing counsel. Most recently, she has settled multiple class actions and other complex disputes as mediator. She received her certification from Pepperdine’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution in 2023. In 2024, she completed the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) Fast Track to Fellowship course at the University of San Diego School of Law.

Ms. Melby has long been recognized as a leader in the legal community. She is a member of the nation’s invitation-only trial bar organizations whose membership includes the most accomplished plaintiff and defense trial counsel. Her legal career reflects a lifetime of commitment to the civil justice system that she feels fortunate to be a part of, including her work as a member of the board and the Executive Committee of the National Center for State Courts; service on the California Judicial Council, including its Executive and Planning Committees; and the Judicial Selection Advisory Council. As part of her community service, she has been a longtime member of the Board of Overseers of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles and the Glendale Community College Foundation Board of Directors.

Representative Matters

  • Business Commercial
      • Co-lead trial counsel in national high-profile hog industry litigation; secured dismissal of nuisance, negligence and environmental tort claims against global meat producers and their contract farmers
      • As lead counsel in international arbitration, obtained a precedent-setting appellate decision in Toyo Tire Holdings of Am. Inc. v. Cont’l Tire N. Am., Inc., 609 F. 3rd 975 (9th Cir. 2010), where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered that a federal district court has the power to issue interim relief pending constitution of an arbitral tribunal; on remand, a U.S. district court judge granted Ms. Melby’s client’s motion for preliminary injunctive relief pending a decision on the merits by an ICC tribunal; this complex business arbitration involved a partnership dispute involving contract claims, breach of fiduciary duty and loyalty claims and other related claims
      • Lead trial counsel on behalf of a food industry clients in a consolidated, multi-plaintiff two-week arbitration brought on behalf of six franchisees who sued the franchisor client with claims alleging breach of contract and misclassification as independent contractors
      • Co-lead trial counsel for plaintiffs in multiple arbitrations initiated by a group of former executive clients involving claims of breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the duty of loyalty, as well as related claims
  • Employment Law
    • Discrimination, Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, Breach of Contract, Whistleblower, Equal Pay Act, Wrongful Termination, Misclassification, Civil Rights

      • Representation of litigation consulting group as plaintiff in litigation involving termination of top-level income producer and allegations of employee raiding, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of duty of loyalty, as well as related claims
      • Lead trial counsel in arbitration alleging breach of contract, misclassification and related claims
      • Settled employment litigation, single plaintiff and class actions in mediations as mediator
      • Lead trial counsel for one of the nation’s largest airlines in more than two dozen multiyear individual cases concurrently litigated in five different federal judicial circuits; summary judgments granted in nearly two dozen of the cases filed by pilots and flight crew alleging failure to promote and systemic racial discrimination, disparate impact, hostile work environment, breach of contract, civil rights violations and retaliation, among other claims; attorneys’ fees awarded following successful anti-SLAPP motions and other proceedings during litigation
      • Lead jury trial counsel in trials with allegations of race and gender discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment and related claims
      • Lead trial counsel in jury trial and second jury retrial after appeal in case alleging religious discrimination, retaliation, failure to promote and hostile work environment, as well as related claims
      • Lead counsel in multiple whistleblower claims
      • Lead counsel in jury trials and in court trials representing public entities in claims of race discrimination and retaliation, as well as related claims

      Employee Mobility and Trade Secrets

      • In a 2023 confidential tech sector arbitration, was co-lead trial counsel representing CTO and current employer against former employer and competitor in employee mobility case involving complex commercial claims related to semiconductor test technology
      • Successfully represented a diverse range of industry clients as lead counsel and counselor in multiple matters involving organizational change at the highest levels, theft of trade secrets (as plaintiff and as defense counsel), and executive transitions, including CEOs, general counsel, COO’s secretary, board members and C-suite positions
      • Represented, litigated, counseled and confidentially resolved multiple cases involving executive transitions, departures, terminations and organizational change, including many with claims of theft of trade secrets and confidential information; claims involved breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the duty of loyalty, breach of contract and theft of trade secrets, as well as related claims
      • Lead counsel to public company boards of directors involving separation of general counsel, secretary and head of government affairs among others
      • Lead counsel to public companies’ board of directors involving organizational change/transitions alleged misconduct of C-suite executives, officers and general counsel
  • Class Action & Mass Tort
      • Successfully settled multiple PAGA/wage and hour class actions as mediator
      • Lead counsel representing clients in multiple wage and hour, PAGA and misclassification cases
      • Lead counsel in alleged misclassification class action (independent contractor status), where client successfully defeated class certification; affirmed on appeal
      • Lead counsel in unfair competition class action alleging vertical price fixing
      • Co-Lead trial counsel on behalf of pharma client in class action alleging misclassification of outside sales pharmaceutical representatives; the U.S. Supreme Court issued precedent-setting decision establishing application of the outside sales exemption to pharmaceutical sales representatives
      • Counsel to food industry client in consumer class action alleging misleading labeling of product
  • Entertainment & Sports
      • Represented talent, managers and talent agents in negotiations for licensing and deals, employment related litigation, threatened litigation and confidential matters
      • Represented studios in employment related litigation
      • Co-counsel in Equal Pay Act individual and class actions
  • Product Liability
      • Lead trial counsel in a federal district court jury trial alleging defects in design and manufacturing and negligence, as well as related claims, resulting in serious personal injuries; defense verdict in favor of client, a manufacturer of outboard motor in a boating accident
      • Represented motorcycle and ATV manufacturers in many catastrophic personal injury cases
      • Represented pharma manufacturers in breast implant litigation and drug litigation
  • Personal Injury
      • Settled personal injury litigation in mediations as mediator including in L.A. Superior Court ADR program
      • Lead trial counsel in catastrophic injury federal district court jury trial on behalf of a manufacturer of outboard motors in a boating accident alleging defects in design and manufacturing and negligence, as well as related claims
      • Lead trial counsel in a catastrophic traumatic brain injury trucking accident; case selected by the Daily Journal as one of the top verdicts for the year
  • Internal Investigations
      • Lead investigator on multiple confidential internal investigation matters involving alleged misconduct of executive-level employees, general counsel, and board members

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Fellow, College of Labor and Employment Counsel (CLEC)
  • American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL)
  • Regent, 2023—2024
  • Chair, Judiciary Committee, 2022–2023
  • Member, Judicial Independence Committee, 2020–2023,
  • Former Member, Trial Competition Committee
  • American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA)
  • National President, 2005
  • National President-Elect, 2004
  • National Vice President, 2003
  • National Board of Directors, 1996–2024
  • National Foundation Trustee, 2004
  • Los Angeles Chapter President, 2004
  • Chapter President-Elect, 2003
  • Chapter Vice President, 2002
  • Member, National Board of Directors
  • Member Executive Committee, 1996–2024
  • Fellow, International Society of Barristers (ISOB)
  • International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC)
  • California Judicial Council
  • Executive and Planning Committee, Litigation Management Committee, PCLC Committee 2014–2017
  • National Center for State Courts
  • Board of Directors Executive Committee and Development Chair, 2008–2014
  • Chair Lawyers Committee, 2014–2017
  • Civil Justice Initiative Council (member by appointment by Conference of Chief Justices), 2014–2015
  • Chancery Club
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL)
  • American Employment Law Counsel (AELC)
  • Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC)
  • Association of Southern California Defense Counsel (ASCDC)
  • Board of Overseers, Loyola Law School
  • National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ)
  • Resource Board
  • Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America
  • Board of Directors, Glendale Community College Foundation
  • Foundation Trustee, Foundation of the American Board of Trial Advocates, 2004
  • American Employment Law Counsel (AELC)
  • Former Faculty, Trial Advocacy, Loyola Law School
  • Former Faculty, National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)
  • Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America (LCA)
  • Resource Board, National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ)
  • Former Executive Committee, Litigation Section of the Los Angeles County Bar (LACBA)
  • Former Member, Delegation to the State Bar of California, Los Angeles County Bar (LACBA)
  • Former Member, Legal Services Trust Fund Commission, State Bar of California
  • Former Counsel, Legal Services Trust Fund Commission, State Bar of California
  • National Trial Competition Judge, American College of Trial Lawyers/Texas Young Lawyers
  • Facilitator and Co-Founder, Journalist Law School (partnership launch), ABOTA and Loyola Law School
  • Faculty, TIPS Trial School
  • Faculty, IADC Trial School
  • Faculty, ABOTA Masters in Trial
  • Faculty, ACTL National Trial Competition

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Lee B. Wenzel Civility Award, Los Angeles Chapter, ABOTA, 2023
  • Order of the Coif, Loyola Law School
  • Warren Burger Society Inductee, National Center for State Courts (NCSC), 2017
  • Florence K. Murray Award, National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ), 2020
  • Leonard S. Janofsky Award for Excellence in Employment Law, Paul Hastings, 2018
  • Fifty Most Influential Women in the United States, The National Law Journal, 2007
  • Best Lawyers in America, 2006–2024
  • Top Women Litigators, Los Angeles Daily Journal and San Francisco Daily Journal, 2002–2019
  • Top 50 California Employment and Labor Lawyers, Los Angeles Daily Journal, 2015–2021.
  • Top 100 Lawyers, Los Angeles Daily Journal
  • The Legal 500
  • Top Los Angeles Lawyers (Commercial and Employment Litigation), Top Women Lawyers, Super Lawyers, Los Angeles Magazine
  • America’s Top 500 Litigators, Lawdragon, 2023 and selected prior years
  • Top 10 Jury Trial Defense Verdicts in California, Los Angeles Daily Journal, 1992
  • Champion of Justice, Loyola Law School, 2011
  • Prisoner’s Rights Advocacy Award, ACLU of Southern California
  • Rothschild Pro Bono Award, Landmine Survivors Network, Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP
  • Highest AV Rating, Martindale Hubbell

Selected Representative Publications/Speaking

  • “A Call to Action,” Conference of Chief Justices, 2016
  • Rutter Group: California Judges Association
  • Rutter Group: Civil Procedure Before Trial
  • NCSC and Conference of Chief Justices (post-COVID courts discussion with chief justices)
  • CEB: Voir Dire
  • Women’s Litigation Forum
  • Speaker, National Association Of Women Judges Annual Meeting on Workplace Issues, 2019

Background and Education

  • Paul Hastings, 2006–2024
    • Partner, Employment and Labor and Litigation Departments, 2006–2024
    • Former Chair, Women’s Initiative
    • Former Chair, Global Diversity
    • Former Co-Chair, Employment and Labor Practice, Los Angeles
  • Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, 2002–2006
    • Partner
  • J.D., California Western School of Law, 1978
    • Loyola Law School 1977–1978 Visiting Student Third Year
  • B.A., University of California Santa Barbara, 1972
  • Certification, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, 2023
  • CiArb, Fast Track to Fellowship Training, University of San Diego School of Law, 2024


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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