Following 18 years of distinguished service on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California bench and five years as President and CEO of Public Counsel, Judge Margaret M. Morrow has retired and is available as a mediator, arbitrator, and private judge, including special master and neutral appellate and trial assignments.
During her judicial tenure, Judge Morrow developed the Central District Court’s ADR program, overseeing it for 10 years. She also chaired the court’s committee to secure funding for, design, and build a new federal courthouse, which opened in 2016. Before her appointment in 1998, Judge Morrow spent 24 years in private practice, handling a variety of civil trial and appellate litigation matters, mediating cases, and assisting clients with the arbitration process by filing motions to compel, vacate, and confirm. Throughout her career in practice and on the bench, she has been dedicated to finding creative ways to resolve disputes that often cannot be achieved through litigation.
Dedicated to helping ensure access to justice for all and to minimizing the impact of wealth disparities between parties, Judge Morrow most recently served as President and CEO of Public Counsel Law Center, a nonprofit, public interest law firm that serves low-income communities and individuals.
Judge Morrow’s commitment to the administration of justice and the legal community is evidenced by the various roles she played in the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the State Bar of California. She was the first woman president in the State Bar’s history and devoted much of her time on the State Bar Board of Governors and in the leadership of the County Bar to improving our court system and increasing access to justice. One of her many accomplishments was sponsorship of a successful ADR Pledge Campaign directed to lawyers, law firms, and businesses statewide. Judge Morrow also helped draft and lobby the original California court mediation statute and was one of the authors of a bench-bar guide on court-related ADR.
With ADR experience at every level of her professional career, Judge Morrow has been praised by bar associations, lawyers and clients for her class, fairness, intelligence, and integrity. One attorney commented: “Margaret is thoughtful, compassionate, extremely bright, and has dealt with lawsuits, disputes and controversies from many angles, including as a talented and successful big law partner and a highly regarded federal judge. She applies rare insight and problem-solving skills to all aspects of her work and will be outstanding in assisting parties in resolving their cases.”
Civil Class Actions
Consumer Class Actions
Securities Class Actions
Judge Morrow has been involved in a wide variety of cases as both a trial lawyer for 24 years and as a judge for 18 years.
Margaret actively volunteers in the community. In her free time, she enjoys watching sports, reading, and baking. She loves spending time with her dog and granddog and hopes to take up, after 20 plus years away, tennis and piano again soon!
"I have not encountered a smarter or more prepared lawyer or judge in my 41-year career. There certainly won’t be a case that is too complicated for Judge Morrow to unravel and resolve. She instantly steps into the elite tier of top Southern California mediators and arbitrators."
- Partner and Deputy General Counsel of a national law firm
"Margaret is a top-notch judge. She is thoughtful, careful, prepared, and never biased or shows any favoritism. Her decisions are based on law, facts, and issues. She truly has the capacity and intelligence to handle any type of matter. "
- National Trial Chair of a national law firm
• Conducted a lengthy court trial in a breach of contract dispute between a major studio and an Israeli cable television company concerning an exclusive license to broadcast television programming in Israel.
• Adjudicated a bankruptcy debtor's claims against the principal shareholder of the debtor corporation and other entities for conspiracy to fraudulently transfer the debtor's assets, violate California's Bulk Sale Law, and violate California Business and Professions Code § 17200.
• Adjudicated a case filed by a well-known hair care company against a major consumer brands company asserting that defendant had stopped producing the hair care company's product in favor of defendant's competing product and in an effort to avoid paying royalties, and alleging claims for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.
• Adjudicated claims alleging breach of a licensing agreement to use plaintiff's proprietary business models to develop banking software to assist banking institutions comply with complex regulatory risk capital requirements.
• Handled a suit filed by the mother of an injured child for breach of contract to provide medical evacuation services, alleging claims for breach of contract, fraud, false advertising, and violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17200
• Adjudicated a case brought by major print publications alleging that posting copies of their news articles without permission on a website was not a legally protected fair use under the copyright statute.
• Adjudicated a suit in which plaintiff alleged that the Matrix and Terminator movies infringed copyrights in two works plaintiff had created.
• Adjudicated copyright claims related to the Avatar movie.
• Adjudicated claim by a beauty pageant corporation that a former employee and her beauty pageant company infringed its copyrights in pageant materials and misappropriated customer lists, which were purportedly protectable trade secrets.
• Adjudicated claims by a songwriter that various defendants infringed his copyrights in songs he created for the television series "Remington Steele."
CONTRACTUAL CLAIMS RELATED TO COPYRIGHT/RIGHT OF PUBLICITY
• Adjudicated a plaintiff's breach of contract and breach of guaranty claims alleging that she had contracted to sell rights to a novel to a studio, and that obligations under that contract were ultimately assumed by the producer of Gravity.
• Adjudicated a suit filed by a company that inherited the residue of a celebrity's estate, and asserted that it therefore owned the celebrity's right of publicity, against a company that was utilizing the celebrity's image in connection with sales and merchandising efforts; in addition to the extent of the right of publicity, the case raised issues related to determining domicile and judicial estoppel.
• Adjudicated claims by a Los Angeles business that the creator of the Grand Theft Auto video game infringed the business' trademark and trade dress by designing and including a similar-looking business in the game.
• Successfully mediated a dispute between two bottled water companies alleging that one had infringed the other's trademark and trade dress.
• Adjudicated a case brought by a manufacturer of plush toys alleging that another toy company had infringed its copyrights, trademark, and trade dress, and had engaged in unfair competition, misappropriation and false designation of origin by promoting a similar line of plush toys.
• Adjudicated a case filed by an international company, with businesses spanning several industries, which claimed that a gas station in California infringed its trademark and logo.
• Adjudicated a suit filed by the manufacturer/marketer of a trademarked line of fragrances, bath and body care products against a celebrity and a national cosmetics company, alleging trademark infringement because of their use of a confusingly similar mark on fragrances, cosmetics, and skin care products.
• Adjudicated a suit by company holding a patent on a ceramic orthodontic bracket against a competitor also marketing a ceramic orthodontic bracket, involving claims in invalidity and infringement.
• Suit by a company that had licensed patents held by an inventor of a silicone gastric band used in treating morbid obesity and other products related to gastric banding, alleging invalidity of the patents and non-infringement.
•Adjudicated multiple suits between two eyewear manufacturers alleging both invalidity and infringement of patents protecting an eyeglass frame with magnetic members designed to engage corresponding magnetic members on an auxiliary frame such as a non-prescription sunglasses frame.
•Adjudicated an action alleging infringement of a patent covering a method of fireproofing the space between the ceiling and walls of a structure.
• Adjudicated infringement and invalidity claims related to patents held by competitors in the market for interface devices that allow factory-installed remote vehicle stereo controls to be used with after-market replacement stereos.
• Adjudicated class claims brought by the heirs of victims of the Armenian Genocide against various banks alleging that the banks had withheld and/or prevented Armenian account holders from recovering assets deposited with the banks and pleading claims for breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment and negligence, among others.
• Trial judge in a case brought by a bankruptcy trustee on behalf of hundreds of investors against multiple banks, which allegedly conspired with the operator of a Ponzi scheme to defraud investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars, alleging claims for aiding and abetting, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, constructive fraud, negligence and violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17200; the case resulted in a $26 million settlement benefitting victims of the Ponzi scheme.
• Oversaw a suit seeking certification of a nationwide class and asserting that a retailer had violated the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act by printing six digits of consumers' credit or debit cards on receipts; case involved suits brought in California and Illinois, which were transferred and consolidated before me by the MDL panel.
• Adjudicated a suit brought by a putative class against a for-profit university alleging that it had misrepresented to prospective students that academic units earned there would likely transfer to other educational institutions and pleading claims for violation of the California Education Code; the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, California's False Advertising Law, and California Business & Professions Code§ 17200.
CONSUMER CLASS ACTIONS
• Adjudicated multiple class actions - some nationwide - against various automobile manufacturers, alleging that their vehicles suffered from defects rendering them a safety hazard, and asserting claims under California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act, California Business & Professions Code§ 17200, and the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, among others, as well as similar statutes in other states.
• Adjudicated numerous consumer class actions alleging that various retailers of food products made false, deceptive and misleading claims concerning the health benefits of their products in advertising and on product labels, and asserting claims under California Business & Professions Code§ 17200; California's False Advertising Law, Business & Professions Code§ 17500, and California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act
SECURITIES CLASS ACTIONS AND RELATED SUITS
• Adjudicated a securities class action alleging that a company had concealed from investors its practice of hiring undocumented workers at its factory and its failure to comply with federal reporting requirements, and had misrepresented the results of an ongoing federal investigation into the matter.
• Handled a securities class action alleging that a company that sold various products used in the automotive industry had misrepresented that its business was booming and that it was experiencing and would continue to experience rapidly rising sales and profits.
• Oversaw a securities class action against an automotive marketing services company that assisted dealers and manufacturers with marketing, advertising, and customer relations, maintained three car-buying websites and an automotive research website, alleging that it had materially overstated results, violated generally accepted accounting principles, and lacked adequate internal controls.
• Adjudicated the SEC's action against a technology development company targeting greater ATM and smart card use that alleged issuance of false press releases concerning strategic alliances and licensing agreements that caused its stock price to rise.
• As a lawyer, represented a major national law firm in a suit alleging that it had engaged in sex discrimination in failing to elevate a female associate to partner.
• As a lawyer, successfully mediated claims against a prominent national law school arising from its failure to grant tenure to a female professor.
• As a trial judge, adjudicated hundreds of employment cases alleging wrongful termination, constructive discharge, retaliation, hostile work environment, sexual harassment, ADA failure to accommodate, and violation of the FMLA and CFRA.
• Adjudicated a wrongful termination and whistleblower suit brought by a former public relations executive against his employer after he was indicted for crimes associated with overbilling a government client.
• Conducted a court trial in a wrongful termination in violation of public policy case brought by a marketing executive for a media company who alleged that the company was falsely representing to customers the properties of a new technology.
• Adjudicated a suit brought by a sheriffs lieutenant who was demoted following an unsuccessful run for sheriff and who claimed the demotion was in retaliation for protected First Amendment speech.
• Denied motion to dismiss and conducted pretrial proceedings in a suit by an accounting executive against an entertainment/media company, who alleged that she was pressured to make inappropriate accounting entries, engaged in protected conduct under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and was entitled to whistleblower protections. (The case, which was transferred to another judge before trial, resulted in a $6 million jury verdict for plaintiff.)
• As a trial judge, adjudicated scores of wage and hour putative class actions under the California Labor Code and the Federal Labor Standards Act, as well as associated Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims.
• Adjudicated hundreds of police misconduct cases alleging violations of civil and constitutional rights under of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; many of these cases went to trial.
• Adjudicated claims against a county jail by the family of an inmate who suffered from mental health problems and jumped to his death while incarcerated awaiting trial.
• Adjudicated numerous suits alleging violation of the First Amendment right of free speech, right to petition, and right of association.
• Adjudicated scores of cases involving claims of violation of rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Adjudicated the government's effort to dissolve an almost 20-year-old injunction requiring that it advise Salvadoran refugees of their right to counsel, their right to apply for political asylum, and their right to a hearing prior to removal, as well as claims by the plaintiff class that the conditions in ICE detention facilities that led to entry of the injunction in the 1980s persisted.
• Adjudicated an Alien Tort Claims Act case alleging racial discrimination and environmental harm, as well as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from the activities of a mining company in Papua New Guinea; the case raised important questions of jurisdiction of US courts, and was heard by the Ninth Circuit twice and ultimately by the Supreme Court.
• One member of a three-judge panel that adjudicated a Voting Rights Act case challenging the lines drawn in the 2000 decennial redistricting; the decision affirmed on direct appeal by the Supreme Court.
PERSONAL INJURY/PRODUCTS LIABILITY
• As a lawyer, tried a case alleging that plaintiff had lost portions of his hand due to defects in a paper pulp processing machine and the manner in which it was installed in a factory.
• As a lawyer, tried a case alleging that plaintiff had lost portions of his hand due to defects in a paper pulp processing machine and the manner in which it was installed in a factory.
•As a trial judge, tried a case involving products liability and wrongful death claims that asserted defendant's beard trimmer was defective, and caused a flash fire that ignited a 16-year-old's clothing and body while shaving, resulting in his death.
• Tried a personal injury case asserting that a child was injured as a result of the negligent design of a ride/attraction at a theme park.
• Conducted a court trial in a personal injury action filed by a longshoreman injured in an automobile accident at the Port of Long Beach after his vehicle collided with a vehicle driven by a Customs and Border Patrol officer.
• Oversaw a case involving claims that certain drugs manufactured by a pharmaceutical company caused osteonecrosis of the jaw.
• Adjudicated a couple's products liability and related claims against the manufacturer of a paper converting machine after the husband was injured while working with the machine.
• Adjudicated a case brought by an inmate against a prison facility alleging that, due to the facility's negligence and failure to take protective measures, he contracted Valley Fever.
• While in practice, authored numerous coverage opinions pertaining to claims under comprehensive general liability policies, including bodily injury and property damage claims as well as personal and advertising injury claims; similarly provided coverage opinions pertaining to professional errors and omissions policies and directors' and officers' policies.
• As a lawyer, successfully secured coverage on appeal for parents and children after children were molested by one of the owners of a nursery school on the basis that the policy afforded coverage to the co-owner of the school as an individual.
• As a trial judge, adjudicated a dispute between insurance carriers regarding their duties to defend and indemnify a suit brought by the owners of more than one hundred single-family dwellings for damages resulting from alleged construction defects.
• Conducted a court trial of a bad faith case brought by insureds who were denied coverage for destruction of their home based on the insurer's conclusion that arson was involved.
• Adjudicated a representative action for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant, and violation of Business & Professions Code Section 17200 brought by a plaintiff who alleged she had been denied benefits under a group disability policy issued to her employer.
• Conducted a court trial of an action brought by an insurer alleging that its agent failed to disclose and misrepresented material facts regarding an application for jeweler's block insurance, which resulted in the insurer having to pay policy limits following a theft at the insured's premises.
• Adjudicated a case brought by estranged former spouses, who were both employees of an insured company, alleging that the company' s insurer had a duty to defend a slander suit brought by the former wife after statements by her former husband that she was responsible for severe cash flow problems at the company and had stolen company property.
• As a lawyer, handled multiple matters involving malpractice claims against lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, architects and engineers.
• As a lawyer, represented a Big 8 accounting firm in multiple multimillion-dollar lawsuits alleging malpractice in connection with audits and other services.
• As a lawyer, was retained in malpractice and other cases to provide expert testimony concerning ethical standards governing lawyers.
• Handled a suit by nonprofit entities challenging a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers that allowed construction of a new shipping terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.
• Adjudicated a CERCLA suit alleging that property that had been leased and used for petroleum production for decades was contaminated and that past owners were responsible for the necessary clean-up, as were upstream operators whose activities had caused stormwater to deposit lead on the property.
FALSE CLAIMS ACT
• Adjudicated an FCA and related claims under the statutes of 29 states charging that the manufacturers and distributors of durable medical equipment filed false Medicare claims concerning equipment prescribed by physicians for an off-label purpose.
• Adjudicated an FCA case charging that the contractor on an SBA-backed contract fraudulently promised to perform at least 15% of the cost of the contract, not including the cost of materials, using its own employees.
Neutral, Judicate West (2022-Present)
President/CEO, Public Counsel Law Center (2016-2021)
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Central of California (2015-2016)
Judge of the United States District Court for the Central of California: Developed and for 10 years oversaw the court’s ADR program and chaired the court’s committee to secure funding for, design, and build a new federal courthouse, which opened in 2016 (1998-2015)
Partner, Arnold & Porter; General civil trial and appellate litigation, including a wide range of civil appeals, corporate and business disputes, and arbitration-related litigation, including motions to compel, vacate and confirm (1996-1998)
Founding Partner, Quinn, Kully, & Morrow; General civil trial and appellate litigation, head of firm’s appellate practice which included all types of civil appeals, arbitration, motions to compel, and mediation (1987-1996)
Partner, Kadison, Pfaelzer, Woodard, Quinn & Rossi; General civil trial and appellate litigation with an emphasis on business and contract disputes, professional malpractice, insurance coverage, and product liability (1974-1987)
Education & Professional Affiliations
J.D., Harvard Law School, cum laude (1971-1974)
B.A., Bryn Mawr College, magna cum laude (1968-1971)
Pepperdine/Strauss Institute, ‘Mediating the Litigated Case’ Training Course (2022)
American Arbitration Association, Addressing the Challenges of Demanding Arbitrations; Part I, The Pre-Hearing Landscape; Part II, The Hearing Phase, The Award and Beyond (2022)
State Bar of California, President: Launched a successful ADR Pledge Campaign directed to lawyers, law firms, and businesses throughout California and participated in preparing an ADR primer for California attorneys (1993-1994); Member, Board of Governors: Participated in drafting and lobbying California’s original court mediation statute and helped author a bench-bar guide on court-related ADR (1990-1993)
Los Angeles County Bar Association, President (1988-1989); Oversaw the adoption of Litigation Guidelines governing practice in LA Superior Court and the Central District of California; Barrister’s Section, President (1982-1983); Member, Board of Trustees (1981-1989)
Legal Services Corporation, Member, Rural Legal Task Force (2021-Present); Member, Leadership Council (2021-Present)
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Member, Access to Justice Implementation Advisory Committee (2021-Present)
American Bar Association, Member, House of Delegates (1990-1992); Member, Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (1989-1991); Director, Young Lawyers Division (1984-1985)
Association of Business Trial Lawyers, Member of the Board of Governors (1982-1984, 1998-2000) and Annual Seminar Chair (1984); Seminar Panelist (1991, 1992, 1994)
Inner City Law Center, Homeless Resources Center Board Member (1991-1992); Constitutional Rights Foundation, Board Member (1995-1999); Public Counsel Board of Directors (1984-1986)
Achievements & Awards
Beacon of Justice Award, Friends of the L.A County Law Library (2022)
Public Service Award, National Association of Women Lawyers (2019)
Jim Robie Award for Professionalism and Civility, Los Angeles County Bar Association Litigation Section (2017)
Impact Award, Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association (2016)
Judge of the Year Award, Association of Southern California Defense Counsel (2011)
Outstanding Jurist Award, Los Angeles County Bar Association (2010)
Shattuck-Price Award, Los Angeles County Bar Association (1997)
Bernard E. Witkin Amicus Curiae Award, Judicial Council of California (1995)
Ernestine Stahlhut Award, Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (1994)
President’s Award, California Association of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (1994)
Pro Bono Advocacy Award, Western Center on Law and Poverty (1992)
Maynard Toll Award, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (1990)
Daniel O’Connell Award, Irish American Bar Association (1989)
Certificate of Appreciation, Los Angeles County Commission for Women (1988)