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Donna Marie Melby

Partner, Litigation and Employment Law Departments
T 1(213) 683-6098
F 1(213) 996-3098
Donna Melby is a nationally recognized business trial lawyer who is a member of the Litigation practice and co-chair of the Paul Hastings Employment Law practice in Los Angeles. She serves as co-chair of the firm’s Global Diversity Committee and as chair of Paul Hastings Women’s Initiative. Paul Hastings’ Employment Law practice has been named Labor & Employment Litigation Firm of the Year by The American Lawyer.

Ms. Melby is a member of the California Judicial Council, the policy making body of the California Judiciary, the largest in the United States. She serves on the Executive and Planning Committee of the California Judicial Council, as well as on its’ Litigation Management Committee. A member of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts for the last six years, she chairs the Lawyers Committee for the Center. Ms. Melby is the sole California lawyer to serve by appointment of the Conference of Chief Justices on the Civil Justice Initiative Project, a national initiative focused on improving the delivery of justice in the civil courts across the United States.

Donna Melby has successfully tried many jury cases to conclusion in the state and federal courts. Her jury trial track record as well as her client results in international and domestic arbitrations across the United States and abroad are recognized by her invitation to and fellowship in all of America’s premier trial lawyer organizations which limit membership to the most accomplished in the trial bar: the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), and the International Society of Barristers. Ms. Melby is past National President, National Vice President and National President Elect of ABOTA, the first and only woman 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.

Consistently recognized by the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the San Francisco Recorder every year as one of California’s “Top Women Lawyers”, as a “Top Employment and Labor” business side litigator, as California’s “Top One Hundred Lawyers”, and by The National Law Journal as one of the most influential lawyers in the United States, Ms. Melby is frequently asked to step in to high profile jury cases just before trial. She has an established record of client successes inside and outside the courtroom. In litigation, trial and in averting high stakes confidential threatened litigation in the most important matters her clients face, she represents Fortune 50 companies and their boards in threatened whistleblower claims by CEO’s, general counsels, officers, and top executive leadership. Class actions, trade secrets, executive mobility, discrimination, corporate organization, civil rights, retaliation, whistleblower, harassment, partnership contract disputes, consumer legal remedies act, and complex litigation, are the focus of her solution oriented practice. Donna Melby is a trusted advisor to boards of directors and the senior executive leadership of the country’s leading Fortune 50 businesses.


Recently, her clients scored major wins in defeating class certification in the state and federal courts with affirmance on appeal. In a case filed in the Central District of California, simultaneously litigated in international arbitration, she won a permanent injunction for her manufacturing client following another win in the Ninth Circuit which established the precedent that injunctive relief is available in the district court pending and in aid of arbitration. In a contract action in 2015, she won six defense verdicts for her food industry client in a consolidated arbitration in Northern California. Complete summary judgment was awarded to her pharmaceutical company client whose senior executive sued for wrongful termination and fraud. A leading trade secrets litigator, Ms. Melby won summary judgment again on an affirmative cross complaint against a claimed whistleblower executive who took privileged information from his former employer and then sued it on multiple employment-related causes of action. She defeated conditional class certification in a hybrid FLSA class action in the Central District of California. She secured dismissal of an antitrust class action and is currently trial counsel in dual antitrust and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing class actions. She won a race discrimination trial in the Los Angeles Superior Courts and is advisor to other food and beverage industry clients on nationwide labeling litigation.

  • Dunlap v. McKesson: Won summary judgment on behalf of McKesson in a suit filed by its former executive
  • Kaewsawang v. Sara Lee: Defeated class certification in the trial court and on appeal in a case filed on behalf of independent distributors of fresh baked goods alleging misclassification as independent contractors instead of employees. Secured dismissal of the antitrust class action claiming vertical and horizontal price fixing.
  • Medal et al v Earthgrains Distribution LLC: Secured 6 defense verdicts in a Breach of Contract Consolidated Arbitration
  • Summary Judgment granted on an affirmative cross complaint for conversion of privileged and confidential information against former whistle blower senior executive alleging wrongful termination, discrimination, and retaliation. Damages on the cross complaint far exceeded potential damage alleged in the complaint by the former executive.
  • In a multi plaintiff race discrimination case, dismissal secured at the pleading stage of one client, with prejudice, dismissal of all disparate impact claims with prejudice and dismissal of additional claims filed on behalf of multiple plaintiffs
  • Silverman v. Glaxo Smith Kline: Defeated conditional class certification in the Central District of California
  • Christopher v. Glaxo Smith Kline: Paul Hastings trial team won summary adjudication in this misclassification class action, which was affirmed on appeal to the Ninth Circuit and thereafter affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in a precedent setting opinion holding that pharmaceutical sales representatives are covered by the administrative exemption and therefore exempt
  • Toyo Tire Holding of Americas Inc. v. Continental Tire North America, Inc., et al.: In an international arbitration which was simultaneously litigated in the United States District Court, Ms. Melby led the Paul Hastings team to victory on behalf of a manufacturer in both the Ninth Circuit and in the United States District Court. In a precedent setting published 2010 decision, the Ninth Circuit agreed with Paul Hastings’ client in holding that interim injunctive relief is available in the United States District Court pending and in aid of arbitration (Toyo Tire Holdings of Americas Inc. vs. Continental Tire North America, Inc., et al., USDC Case No. SACV10-52-JVS-(RNBx)). Paul Hastings won injunctive relief over opposition from four national law firms representing three opposing corporate defendants.
  • Lead counsel in the successful representation of Fortune 50 companies and senior executive leadership in the litigation, trial, and threatened litigation of whistleblower/retaliation (including Sarbanes Oxley and Dodd Frank), trade secret, Title VII, discrimination, harassment and contract cases. Represented and counseled Fortune 50 boards of directors in the confidential negotiation, prevention, and remediation of threatened litigation by president/CEO, general counsel, and senior executive leadership.
  • Defense verdict: race discrimination jury trial
  • Defense Verdict : Trial and Re Trial With Award of Attorneys’ Fees: In two c retaliation jury trials Donna Melby won two defense verdicts in two separate jury trials with post trial attorney’s fees awarded to her clients.

Accolades and Recognitions

  • Order of the Coif, Loyola Law School 
  • Fellow: American College of Trial Lawyers (by invitation) 
  • The Legal 500 
  • Fellow of the International Society of Barristers: Membership limited to 500 (by invitation)
  • 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” (2002 through 2015), Los Angeles Daily Journal: Donna 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. 
  • “Top 100 Lawyers”, Los Angeles Daily Journal: In recent years Donna Melby has been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Lawyers” in the state of California.
  • Top Los Angeles Lawyers (Commercial and Employment Litigation) and Top Women Lawyers: Super Lawyers by Los Angeles Magazine
  •  “America’s Top 500 Litigators”, Lawdragon: In recent years, Donna Melby has been included among Lawdragon’s Top 500 Litigators. 
  • “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 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, Donna 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

Speaking Engagements and 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. 
  • Journalist Law School: Annual Panelist and Speaker at Loyola Law School Journalist Law School 
  • NITA Faculty: Trial School
  • Rutter Group: Civil Procedure Before Trial; Annually at California Judges Program
  • CEB: Voir Dire; Opening Statements and Closing Arguments
  • Masters In Trial: Donna 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

Professional and Community Involvement

  • California Judicial Council; Executive and Planning Committee; Litigation Management Committee (2014-Present)
  • National Center for State Courts: Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Development Chair (2008 through 2014):
  • Chair: Lawyers Committee: National Center for State Courts: 2015
  • 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
  • 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: American College of Trial Lawyers
  • Ms. Melby assisted with the facilitation of a 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 tenth successful year.