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John M. Simpson


John M. Simpson

Washington, DC

T:+1 202 662 4539

John M. Simpson has practiced law in the Washington, DC, office for more than thirty-nine years, with the longest continuous service in that office of any lawyer in the history of the firm.  A graduate of Harvard University, where he was a member of the Harvard Varsity Football Team, and a former infantry officer in the US Marine Corps, Mr. Simpson attended Columbia University Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. Mr. Simpson has been a partner since 1986. Mr. Simpson has handled complex commercial, employment and regulatory cases at all levels of the American legal system. He has conducted numerous jury and bench trials in both federal and state court and administrative hearings before a number of federal and state agencies. He has argued eighteen appeals in the United States Courts of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Fourth, Fifth and Eleventh Circuits, the Supreme Courts of North Carolina and West Virginia and the Texas and North Carolina Courts of Appeals. He is a member of the District of Columbia and North Carolina Bar, the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States and multiple lower federal appellate and trial court bars.

Mr. Simpson is experienced in the conduct of complex, protracted federal court litigation and has a deep background in federal administrative law involving multiple US regulatory programs. Mr. Simpson also has more than thirty-three years' experience in employment law and has handled every type of discrimination claim that is cognizable in federal or state court.  Several of those cases were precedent-setting.  Recently, Mr. Simpson achieved a national profile in the area of animal law and animal rights litigation. Mr. Simpson tried a landmark case under the Endangered Species Act to a defense verdict for the client in a case that received international media attention and in which the court made an explicit finding that Mr. Simpson had "pulverized" the testimony of the plaintiff and lead witness on cross examination. [677 F. Supp.2d 55, 67 (D.D.C. 2009), aff'd, 659 F.3d 13 (D.C. Cir. 2011)]. In that same litigation, Mr. Simpson obtained an unprecedented ruling that the client was entitled to recover attorneys' fees because the court found the plaintiffs' case to be "frivolous," "vexatious," and "groundless and unreasonable from its inception." This ruling, the first in favor of a private defendant under the 44-year old Endangered Species Act, paved the way for the recovery by the client of more than $25 million from the adverse parties, which represented a 100 per cent recoupment of the legal fees expended on the case. This was reportedly the largest lodestar attorneys' fee claim ever made in the US District Court for the District of Columbia and one of the largest fee recoveries ever under the Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC defense fee recovery standard.

Building upon his natural interest in the subject and his experience as a football player at the NCAA level, Mr. Simpson is certified by the National Football League Players Association as a Contract Advisor and is a registered athlete agent at the state level. Mr. Simpson has represented multiple NFL players, inlcluding players on current active/inactive lists.

Mr. Simpson's trial and appellate dockets have given him experience in the following areas:

► Animal law and animal rights litigation and regulatory counseling under federal and state animal welfare laws, including representation of businesses or entities in the entertainment, agricultural, food production, educational and research spaces whose operations involve animals or animal products or services.

►Administrative and judicial enforcement actions, rulemaking proceedings and judicial declaratory judgment cases involving regulatory programs of the US Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Labor and Energy as well as the National Labor Relations Board, Food and Drug Administration, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission.

►Complex business-related torts and claims, including class action litigation, involving RICO, federal wire-tapping laws, state conspiracy and unfair trade practices laws, tortious interference, patent, trademark and copyright infringement, defamation breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

►Claims of disparate treatment and impact discrimination in the workplace and in federally funded programs based on race, gender, mental and physical disability, religion, national origin, age, veteran or service status, sexual orientation, and a variety of retaliation claims. Other issues in the workplace, including overtime issues, child labor, employee privacy, wage payment and collection issues, WARN issues, involuntary servitude and family medical leave.

►Design, implementation and judicial enforcement of pre-dispute arbitration agreements under the Federal Arbitration Act and state arbitration laws covering issues arising out of employment and the provision of medical treatment.

►Legal issues for institutions of higher education, including allegations of discrimination in employment and in federally funded programs, tenure disputes, research fraud, grants for federally funded research, academic and conduct disciplinary actions involving students, medical practice and privileges issues in teaching hospitals, issues arising in intercollegiate athletic programs and issues pertaining to university governance.

►Energy litigation involving deep horizon rights, enhanced recovery techniques on unitized properties, royalty and other rights among working and royalty interest owners, issues involving the refining of gasoline and other petroleum products, take-or-pay disputes involving natural gas producers and interstate pipelines, and natural gas purchase and sale contracts.

►Medical malpractice defense in the areas of psychiatry, psychology, pathology, cytopathology, urology, radiology, general surgery, orthopedics and general medicine.

►Corporate governance and officer and director issues, including litigation before the Delaware Chancery Court, bondholder rights, breach of fiduciary duty, duty of loyalty, faithless employees, self-dealing and corporate alter ego issues.

►Securities issues, including Securities and Exchange Commission investigations, contested tender offers, and private fraud actions under Rule 10b-5, including class actions.

►Federal district and claims court litigation involving federal procurement and other government contract issues.

►Proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board, including representation and unit clarification cases and unfair labor practice charges.

►Litigation under the federal Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts.

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  • Education

    1978 - J.D., Columbia University School of Law
    1972 - B.A., cum laude, Harvard University

    Mr. Simpson was licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia in 1979 and North Carolina in 1988.  He is also admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals; the Supreme Court and all lower courts of North Carolina; the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Federal, and District of Columbia Circuits; the U.S. Court of Federal Claims; the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the United States District Courts for the District of Columbia, Middle and Eastern Districts of North Carolina, Southern District of Texas and District of Colorado.

  • Representative experience
    • Lead counsel representing largest provider of live family entertainment in defense of Endangered Species Act citizen suit spanning more than ten years of protracted litigation and resulting in judgment for defendant, following a six and one-half week bench trial in federal district court that received international media attention; represented same client in oral argument on appeal and obtained a 3-0 affirmance of the judgment.  Following appeal obtained unprecedented ruling that client was entitled to recovery of legal fees as a prevailing defendant under the ESA, ultimately resulting in payment of more than $25 million by the adverse parties which represented a 100 per cent recoupment by the client of its legal fees in defending the case over fourteen years.  Legal fee claim was characterized by the opposition as the largest lodestar claim in the history of the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
    • Lead counsel in federal court jury trial defending entertainment company and executive against claims by animal rights activists for actual and punitive damages and statutory penalties arising under the California Ralph Act, Bane Act and Unfair Competition Law and common law theories of assault and battery.  After a nearly three-week trial, jury returned take-nothing verdict for defense.
    • Lead counsel in the design, implementation and defense in more than fifty cases in federal and state court of separate pre-dispute arbitration programs for an internationally known medical center and university covering claims arising out of employment and the provision of medical treatment.  One of these cases represented the first federal court decision to enforce, under the Federal Arbitration Act, a pre-dispute arbitration provision in a medical malpractice context.
    • Lead counsel for professional sports players' union in defense of employment discrimination action brought by union's former director of human resources.
    • Lead counsel representing group of US sugarcane producers in defense of coordinated federal and state court class actions by sugarcane cutters, involving wage claims under the US Department of Labor temporary foreign agricultural worker regulations and state law, resulting, after six years of litigation, in judgment for the defendants in the federal court action and resolution of the state court actions.
    • Lead counsel on defense team for major university in case alleging gender discrimination in Division I football program, which, after jury trial, resulted in one-dollar actual damage verdict for plaintiff and, on appeal, established for the first time as a matter of law that punitive damages are not an available remedy under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (proscribing gender discrimination in federal programs).
    • Member of team investigating discipline imposed on player by professional sports league commissioner arising out of highly publicized incident of domestic violence.
    • Lead counsel representing consortium of agricultural businesses and trade associations as interveners with the government defending the validity of US Department of Labor wage regulations in actions brought by farm workers and farm worker advocate organizations; after nearly nine years of litigation and three separate appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the validity of the regulations was sustained.
    • Lead counsel defending apple growers in a group of individual and class actions in West Virginia state court alleging breach of contract, violation of state "company store" wage law and violation of contractual work guarantee; following thirteen years of protracted litigation and three appeals to the West Virginia Supreme Court, result was a take-nothing judgment in favor of the defendants.  Clients ultimately recovered all legal fees expended through a separate legal malpractice action against prior counsel which was resolved through a state receivership proceeding involving the prior counsel's liability insurer.
    • Lead counsel defending a treating therapist and major medical institution in a psychiatric malpractice case involving issues of patient stalking; case was tried to a jury in state court twice which resulted in hung juries after two separate, month-long trials and which was ultimately concluded by a 3-0 decision for defendant following an agreed-to arbitration procedure.
    • Lead counsel representing a major medical research institution in a series of medical malpractice cases over a period of eight years involving the use of an experimental procedure in the cytopathological diagnosis of certain cancers and which also involved handling parallel investigations by a federal congressional subcommittee, the Food and Drug Administration and the state board of medical examiners.  Cases were concluded through a single and novel arbitration/settlement procedure.
    • Lead counsel in an internal investigation for a major medical institution regarding a surgical event that generated an emotionally charged controversy that attracted national media attention.
    • Co-lead counsel for defense in federal jury trial (and on appeal) of a private action under the federal wiretapping statute and state tort law theories brought by an employee against an employer alleging unlawful workplace surveillance and seeking $12 million in actual and punitive damages, which ultimately resulted in judgment for the defendant employer.
    • Co-lead counsel for defense in federal jury trial of a case alleging assault, battery and false imprisonment against a prominent figure in the entertainment industry in which the plaintiff had claimed $110 million in actual and punitive damages and which resulted in take-nothing verdict for defense that was affirmed unanimously on appeal.
    • Lead counsel (as an associate) for major integrated oil company in appeal resulting in affirmance of district court judgment for client; represented one of the few judgments against the US government in litigation under the crude oil pricing regulations of the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973.
    • Member of defense team representing major rental car company in Texas state court in defense of breach of contract and other claims by franchisees seeking more than $400 million in damages, that spanned nearly ten years and that was tried before a jury to a take-nothing judgment for the defendant on the plaintiffs' claims and a $10 million verdict for defendant on its counterclaim.  On appeal, handled the appellate briefs that resulted in affirmance by the intermediate court of appeals and refusal of a writ of error by the Supreme Court of Texas.
    • Member of defense team in largest civil enforcement action brought against a single major oil company by the United States under the federal petroleum price and allocation regulations, seeking recovery of more than $ 2 billion in alleged overcharges in eight-year long protracted litigation.
  • Admissions
    • District of Columbia Bar
    • North Carolina State Bar License
  • Rankings and recognitions
    • Who's Who in American Law
    • Who's Who in America
    • Washington D.C. & Baltimore's Top-Rated Lawyers, litigation, LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, 2012 - 2013
    • Washington, D.C. Super Lawyer, civil litigation, Thomson Reuters, 2013, 2015- 2017
    • Legal Lion, Law360, May 2014
    • Legal 500 US, Dispute Resolution- General Commercial Disputes, The Legal 500, 2017
  • Publications
    • Co-Author, American Bar Association, A Practitioner's Guide to Class Actions, (2d Ed. 2017).
    • "Proposed Law Would Fundamentally Change Employment Arbitration," Norton Rose Fulbright Client Briefing, December 14, 2017.
    • "Fulbright & Jaworski Partner John Simpson on Ringling Brothers Victory Over Animal Rights Groups," Corporate Crime Reporter,  Vol. 28, No. 27, July 7, 2014
    • "Compromised Plaintiff Was the Elephant in the Courtroom," The National Law Journal, June 16, 2014
  • Speaking engagements
    • "Animal Activists in the Courtroom and Media: Current Trends and Lessons Learned," Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums, Washington, D.C., February 2017.
    • "Circus Elephants in the Courtroom:  Reviewing the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® $25.4 Million Victory Over Animal Activists," Safari Club International, Wildlife Law CLE, Las Vegas, Nevada, February 2016.
    • "Anatomy of a Landmark Animal Rights Case," Animal Law Symposium, Massachusetts Society for Medical Research, Boston, Massachusetts, December 2014
    • "Insights Gained Along the Way to the $25 Million Landmark Settlement Paid by HSUS and the ASPCA to Feld Entertainment," National Animal Interest Alliance, Orlando, Florida, November 2014
    • "Why We Serve," Harvard Veterans Alumni Organization, Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 2014
    • "Observations from the Front Lines," National Animal Interest Alliance, Orlando, Florida, November 2013
    • "Taking on Activists in the Courtroom," Animal Agricultural Alliance Stakeholders Summit, Arlington, Virginia, May, 2013
    • "Watch Your Back," MeatingPlace, August 2010
    • "Navigating the Road Ahead: E-Discovery and Information Management Workshop," Moderator, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., Washington, D.C., October 2006
    • "Defending Arbitration Agreements in Medical Negligence Cases," Second Annual Health Law Symposium, Austin, Texas, June 2006
  • Memberships and activities
    • American Bar Association
    • District of Columbia Bar
    • North Carolina Bar
    • National Association of College and University Attorneys
    • Lawyers Committee, National Center for State Courts
    • Certified Contract Advisor, National Football League Players Association
    • Licensed Athlete Agent, District of Columbia
    • Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs
    • Sports Lawyers Association
    • Military service (1972-75):  Rifle Platoon Leader, 81 mm Mortar Platoon Commander, Company Executive Officer, Company Commander, Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division.  Certificate of Commendation, Commanding General, First Marine Division.
    • Columbia University School of Law Board of Visitors (1995 - 2009)
    • Columbia Law School Alumni Association of Washington D.C., Board of Directors (1995 - 2007)
    • Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program
    • Salvation Army