Donna Melby is one of the nation’s premier business trial attorneys. A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Advocates, the International Society of Barristers, the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, and the Litigation Counsel of America, Ms. Melby has an established track record of successfully litigating and trying to conclusion jury verdicts in state and federal courts, international and domestic arbitrations, and court trials across a broad range of complex civil and employment-related cases.
Recognized annually in Best Lawyers in America and for 19 consecutive years by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal as one of the “Top Women Lawyers in California,” Ms. Melby has spent a career winning cases and solving problems for her clients in their most important matters. In 2021 she was again selected as one of California’s “Top Labor and Employment Lawyers” by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal as in the many immediately preceding years; she has repeatedly been recognized as among the “Top 100 Lawyers in California” by the same publications. The National Law Journal featured Ms. Melby as one of the “Most Influential Women Lawyers in the United States”; she has been included as one of the “500 Leading Lawyers in America.” Ms. Melby’s jury trial successes have included her recognition for achieving one of the “Top Ten Defense Verdicts In California” by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal.
A member of the Paul Hastings Employment Law and Litigation Departments, Ms. Melby’s nationwide trial and litigation practice reflects a long term pattern of significant litigation victories. As lead trial counsel over the last approximately 10 years on behalf of a Fortune 50 company, Ms. Melby achieved notable results for her clients in 23 nationwide race discrimination, retaliation, civil rights, hostile work environment, conspiracy, and breach of contract cases in seven different federal judicial districts, opposite 10 law firms. Her clients won a motion dismissing many of the claims, including disparate impact in every case, won severance motions separating the originally misjoined 23 multi-plaintiff litigation into individual actions, won venue motions transferring many of the 23 cases from the Northern District of California to five different federal judicial districts, won anti-SLAPP motions, and repeatedly won fees, costs, and sanctions for her clients. Ultimately she won full summary judgment or, alternatively, obtained literal walkaways by multiple plaintiffs after years of litigation, without monetary payments by her clients. Ms. Melby 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 Judge granted Ms. Melby’s client’s motion for preliminary injunctive relief pending a decision on the merits by an ICC tribunal. As lead trial counsel in multiple class actions, Ms. Melby successfully defeated class certification in state and in federal court on behalf of business clients in multiple industries.
Ms. Melby regularly advises Boards of Directors of Fortune 50 companies, and corporate leadership—CEOs, General Counsels, executives, and law firm partners. Her background as experienced trial counsel provides the broadest perspective and strongest possible foundation for the expeditious, economic, and creative solutions for the most difficult and often high-profile problems her clients face.
For 10 years Ms. Melby served as co-chair of the Paul Hastings Employment Law practice in Los Angeles, chair of the firm’s global Women’s Initiative, and chair of Global Diversity. Paul Hastings’ Employment Law practice has been named Labor & Employment Litigation Firm of the Year by The American Lawyer, most recently in 2021.
Her practice includes class actions, MDL, and complex civil actions, employee mobility, trade secret, whistleblower, race, gender, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation and other discrimination, retaliation, civil rights, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, civil rights, sexual assault, “Me too”, contract, conspiracy, Equal Pay Act, PAGA, defamation, multi district litigation and complex business litigation of all types. She conducts internal investigations for and provides counseling to business, including Boards of Directors, and C Suite executives in the most sensitive matters. Ms. Melby’s background provides the strong foundation necessary for successful dispute resolution, now an integral part of her mediation practice as a neutral.
Ms. Melby was honored to serve a three-year term as a member of the California Judicial Council, the policy-making body of the California Judiciary, the largest in the United States. She served on the California Judicial Council’s Executive and Planning Committee, Litigation Management Committee, PCLC, and other committees. Immediately prior to service on the California Judicial Council, Ms. Melby served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts for six years, followed by three years as co-chair of the National Lawyers Committee for the National Center.
Ms. Melby was appointed by the Conference of Chief Justices as a member of the Civil Justice Initiative Project (CJI), a national initiative focused on improving the delivery of justice in the civil courts across the United States. The CJI authored “A Call to Action,” a white paper approved by the Conference of Chief Justices in 2016.
Ms. Melby is a former national president, national vice president, and national president-elect of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), the first woman elected to serve. She is a past trustee of the ABOTA Foundation and the first female president, vice president, and president-elect of the Los Angeles Chapter of ABOTA.
In 2020, the National Association of Women Judges honored Ms. Melby with its Florence K. Murray Award, an award which NAWJ bestows upon a non-judge who, by example or otherwise, has influenced women to pursue legal careers, opened doors for women attorneys, or advanced opportunities for women within the legal profession. Ms. Melby was inducted into the Warren Burger Society, the highest honor bestowed by the National Center for State Courts in recognition of individuals who have volunteered their time, talent, and support to the improvement of the administration of justice in the state courts of the United States through extraordinary contributions of service and support to the National Center for State Courts. In 2018, Paul Hastings honored Ms. Melby with the Leonard Janofsky Award for legal excellence in employment law. Loyola Law School honored Ms. Melby with its Champion of Justice Award in 2011 and the ACLU of Southern California presented Ms. Melby with its Prisoner’s Rights Advocacy Award for her pro bono work. Ms. Melby has a history of pro bono work including on the Landmine Survivors Network and for the National Association of Women Judges, ABOTA, and ACLU of Southern California.
- Order of the Coif: Loyola Law School
- Fellow: American College of Trial Lawyers (Vice Chair: Judiciary Committee; Southern California Region Membership Committee; Trial Competition Committee; Judicial Independence Committee)
- Fellow: College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
- Fellow: International Society of Barristers
- Senior Fellow: Litigation Counsel of America
- Warren Burger Society: Induction by the National Center for State Courts (2017)
- Florence K. Murray Award: National Association of Women Judges (2020)
- Leonard S. Janofsky Award for Excellence in Employment Law (2018) Awarded by Paul Hastings
- American Board of Trial Advocates: National President (2005); National President-Elect (2004); National Vice President (2003); National Board of Directors, Foundation Trustee (by invitation)
- American Board of Trial Advocates: Los Angeles Chapter President (2004); Chapter President-Elect (2003); Chapter Vice President (2002); Member National Board of Directors; Member Executive Committee, Los Angeles Chapter (by invitation)
- “Fifty Most Influential Women in the United States”: The National Law Journal
- Best Lawyers in America
- “Top Women Litigators” (19 consecutive years 2002-2019), Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal: Ms. Melby has been recognized every year by the Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of California’s top women litigators.
- “Top 50 California Employment and Labor Lawyers”; Los Angeles Daily Journal: Ms. Melby is regularly included in the list of California’s top employment and labor attorneys and was recognized again on this list in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.
- “Top 100 Lawyers”; Los Angeles Daily Journal: In recent years Ms. Melby has been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Lawyers” in the state of California in 2017 and in preceding years.
- The Legal 500
- “Top Los Angeles Lawyers” (Commercial and Employment Litigation) and “Top Women Lawyers”: “Super Lawyers” by Los Angeles Magazine
- “America’s Top 500 Litigators”: Lawdragon
- “Nation’s Top One Percent”: National Association of Distinguished Counsel
- “Top 10 Jury Trial Defense Verdicts in California”: Los Angeles Daily Journal: recognized one of several jury trials as one of the most significant in California
- “Champion of Justice”: Loyola Law School: In September 2011, Ms. Melby was one of two California trial lawyers presented with the Champion of Justice Award by the Loyola Law School Civil Justice Program for her exemplary service and dedication to the civil justice system and to the legal profession.
- Prisoner’s Rights Advocacy Award: Ms. Melby received the Prisoner’s Rights Advocacy Award from the ACLU of Southern California for her pro bono advocacy and work in successfully litigating the rights of abused prisoners in the County of Los Angeles.
- Rothschild Pro Bono Award: For her pro bono work for the Landmine Survivors Network, Ms. Melby received the Rothschild Pro Bono Award. She remains committed to the pro bono work on behalf of many other clients.
- International Association of Defense Counsel (by invitation)
- Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (by invitation)
- Highest “AV” Rating, Martindale Hubbell
Engagement & Publications
Ms. Melby is a frequent speaker on trial practice (commercial and employment), litigation, employment law, the civil justice system, the courts, and judicial independence at judicial conferences and at bar associations across the United States. Some examples include:
- Journalist Law School: Annual Panelist and Speaker at Loyola Law School and at Journalist Law School on Civil Litigation, Access to Justice, Judicial Independence, and the Civil Justice System
- NITA Faculty: Trial School and Deposition Workshops
- Rutter Group: Civil Procedure Before Trial (annual Speaker on two-day Civil Procedure Workshop)
- Rutter Group: Annually at California Judges Association annual meeting, including "Annual Advanced Civil Procedure Seminar"
- San Diego County Bar Association: "Here and Now: Ethics and Civility in Today’s Profession" (2016)
- National Association of Women Judges (2019): "Me Too In the New Era" Consumer Attorneys of California: "Voir Dire"
- CEB: "Voir Dire"; Opening Statements and Closing Arguments;
- ACI: "Retaliation Claims": A Primer and Best Practices (2017)
- Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL):"Managing the Client with a Crisis Event" (2017)
- RAND Corporation: "Discount Justice: State Court Belt-Tightening in an Era of Austerity"
- Masters in Trial: Ms. Melby has been an invited speaker and mock trial faculty member in more than 35 mock trial demonstrations across the United States and abroad on behalf of the American Board of Trial Advocates’ Masters in Trial programs.
- Trial School Faculty: International Association of Defense Counsel Trial School at Stanford Law School
- Faculty: "ABA TIPS Trial School at the Judicial College," Sparks, Nevada
- Faculty: Loyola Law School Trial Advocacy Class and Volunteer Coach to Trial Advocacy teams
- 19th Annual Women’s Litigators Forum: WLALA
Professional and Community Involvement
- 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: National Center for State Courts (2014–2017)
- Conference of Chief Justices: Civil Justice Initiative Council (2014–2015)
- Board of Overseers: Loyola Law School
- Board of Directors: Glendale Community College Foundation
- Board of Visitors: California Western School of Law
- Foundation Trustee: Foundation of the American Board of Trial Advocates
- Former Adjunct Faculty: Trial Advocacy: Loyola Law School
- Fellow: Litigation Counsel of America (by invitation)
- Resource Board: National Association of Women Judges
- American Employment Law Council (AELC)
- Executive Committee: Litigation section of the Los Angeles County Bar (past) and past member of the Los Angeles County Bar delegation to the State Bar of California. Legal Services Trust Fund Commission of the State Bar of California (past member) and counsel to the Legal Services Trust Fund Commission (past)
- National Trial Competition Judge: Sponsored by American College of Trial Lawyers/Texas Young Lawyers
- Journalist Law School: Ms. Melby was part of the leadership that facilitated the partnership between ABOTA and Loyola Law School, which contributed to the launch and continuing support of the first ever Journalist Law School, which is now in its 14th successful year.