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Justin Sarno

Justin R. Sarno

Of Counsel
Justin is certified by The California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a specialist in appellate law.

Justin is a trial litigator, a certified appellate specialist in the state of California, and an elected member of the prestigious California Academy of Appellate Lawyers (CAAL). This distinction is only awarded to a small number of lawyers by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Justin has briefed matters before the United States Supreme Court and argued in the California Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and all districts of the California Courts of Appeal.

With an emphasis on complex problem solving and strategy, Justin defends private and public entities in a broad array of areas, including product liability, mass tort, intellectual property, business and commercial disputes, civil rights, and premises liability. For seventeen years prior to joining DLA, Justin was a trial attorney, defending government officials, private businesses, and public entities in hundreds of federal and state cases from inception to appeal, involving issues such as constitutional civil rights, search and seizure, labor and employment (Title VII, Title IX, and FEHA), anti-SLAPP, class actions, administrative mandamus, Ralph M. Brown Act compliance, firearms forfeiture, redevelopment taxation, inverse condemnation, premises liability, product liability, and defamation.

Justin is the Deputy Geographic Lead in Los Angeles for DLA's Litigation group and a member of the firm's Appellate Advocacy practice.

Bar admissionsCalifornia
CourtsSupreme Court of the United StatesUnited States Court of Appeals for the Third CircuitUnited States Court of Appeals for the Sixth CircuitUnited States Court of Appeals for the Seventh CircuitUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh CircuitUnited States District Court for the Central District of CaliforniaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of California


Below is a list of various published and significant outcomes:


  • Rodriguez v. Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC (B330891) (2023) – Justin successfully briefed an opposition to a petition for writ of mandate in California's Second Appellate District on behalf of the Los Angeles Dodgers LLC and Sergeant Mark Jackson. The case was brought by a patron who alleged that he was subjected to an unreasonable use of force by an off-duty LAPD peace officer working as private stadium security. On the eve of trial, plaintiff sought leave to amend his complaint to add a Tom Bane Civil Rights Act cause of action (Cal. Civ. Code, section 52.1), which authorizes a mandatory award of attorney's fees. The trial court denied plaintiff's request, and plaintiff filed a writ petition based on the liberal amendment standard in California. The day after the opposition was filed, the Court of Appeal adopted DLA's arguments and summarily denied relief.
  • Gail Metzger, et al. v. Mobil Oil Corporation, (19STCV2771) (2023) – Los Angeles Superior Court (Santa Monica). Drafted and argued successful motion for nonsuit pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 581c in premises liability and product liability action alleging a laborer's exposure to toxic dust at the Torrance Refinery in California. The trial court ruled that plaintiffs had no evidence to prove liability against the landowner/hirer of an independent contractor, pursuant to the California Supreme Court's holding in Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689 and its two exceptions (CACI 1009A and 1009B).
  • Elliott, et al. v. Tyerman, et al. (B312664) (2022) – Second Appellate District, Division 5. In a unanimous opinion, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s partial denial of a special motion to strike (Civ. Proc. Code, sec. 425.16) with respect to causes of action for trade libel/slander and intentional interference with prospective economic relations. The case pertained to a filmmaker’s production of a documentary film regarding Aretha Franklin called "Amazing Grace," which utilized dormant and unused raw footage shot by Academy Award winning director Sydney Pollack. Defendants issued a cease and desist letter, claiming that the filmmaker had no rights in the footage. The Court of Appeal held that while the communication fell within the first prong of the anti-SLAPP statute, a triable issue of fact existed as to whether the communication was protected by the litigation privilege (Civ. Code, sec. 47.) (argued)
  • Debbie L. Viale v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. (2021) 20-16463 – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Summary judgment affirmed in favor of Exxon Mobil Corporation in a case alleging a deceased pipefitter's occupational exposure to asbestos at the Benicia refinery. The Court found that Plaintiffs failed to overcome the presumption of non-liability in favor of Exxon, as the hirer of an independent contractor, articulated in Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 854 P.2d 721, 724. The Ninth Circuit concluded that no exception applied, as there was no evidence that Exxon furnished unsafe equipment, exercised retained control over safety conditions that affirmatively contributed to decedent's injuries, or failed to disclose a concealed condition.
  • Pasadena Republican Club v. Western Justice Center, et al. (2021) 434 F.Supp.3d 861 (C.D. Cal. 2019) – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision certified for publication. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of civil rights claims and summary judgment in favor of the City of Pasadena in an action brought by the Pasadena Republican Club against the City and its lessee, the Western Justice Center, and the Center's Executive Director, alleging First Amendment violations arising from the Center's rescission, on the basis of political and religious viewpoint, of an agreement to rent out a space for the Republican Club's speaking event. Justin filed an amicus brief on behalf of the League of California Cities, arguing that the imposition of liability in this matter would violate, inter alia, the standards set forth in Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs. (1978) 436 U.S. 658.
  • Sabetian v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. (2020) 57 Cal.App.5th 1054 – Second District, Division 7. A decision certified for publication, in which a former oil refinery employee and his wife brought action against American oil companies, alleging that employee contracted mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos while working in facilities in Iran controlled by companies' predecessors, and asserting claims for negligence, premises liability, and loss of consortium on the basis of alleged "guarantees" contained in a 1954 Government Agreement between the Government of Iran and a Western Oil Consortium. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of ExxonMobil, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that ExxonMobil owed no duty to the Plaintiffs, either under a premises liability/negligence theory, or on the basis of a special relationship.
  • Cynthia Huerta v. City of Santa Ana (2019) 39 Cal.App.5th 41 – Fourth District, Division 3. A decision certified for publication, in which the Court of Appeal affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of the City of Santa Ana in an action for dangerous condition of public property. Three young girls were struck and killed by a hit-and-run motorist on Halloween evening in front of Fairhaven Elementary School in 2015, resulting in claims against the municipality regarding a "peculiar condition" of alleged inadequate lighting at a mid-block crosswalk (argued).
  • Anyssa Sanchez v. Brawley Elementary School District (16-55892) (2018) – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Affirmed grant of summary judgment in lawsuit brought by student alleging Title IX violations in relation to single incident of peer-on-peer sexual harassment.
  • JMS Air Conditioning and Appliance Service, Inc. v. Santa Monica Community College District, et al. (2018) 30 Cal.App.5th 945 – Second District, Division 1. A decision certified for publication, in which the Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of petition for writ of administrative mandamus brought by an air conditioning subcontractor on a public works development project at Santa Monica Community College District. The subcontractor claimed that it was the subject of an improper substitution request pursuant to Public Contracts Code section 4100 et seq. The case clarified the proper standard of review (i.e., whether a vested right was implicated), the adequacy of due process protections in the hearing process, and who specifically from the "awarding authority" may validly preside over a substitution hearing pursuant to the language of the Code (argued).
  • Victor Valley Union High School Dist. v. Superior Court (E066110) (2016) – Fourth District, Division 2. Stay of proceedings instituted following writ petition which argued that trial court fatally misapplied primary assumption of risk standards in the context of interscholastic cheerleading.
  • Vance v. Apple Valley Unified Sch. Dist. (E059632) (2015) – Fourth District, Division 1. Affirmed summary judgment in action against school district bus driver relating to allegations of teenage drug overdose following inappropriate sexual relationship with public employee (argued).
  • Jacobson v. Palmdale School District (B239582) (2013) – Second District, Division 4. Obtained reversal of trial court's denial of Anti-SLAPP special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. Drafted appellate brief and presented oral argument before the Court of Appeal (argued).
  • Robert White, et al. v. City of Santa Ana (G045757) (2012) – Fourth District, Division 3. Affirming the trial court's grant of a special motion to strike (Anti-SLAPP) in favor of City of Santa Ana in class action litigation, involving allegations that the City of Santa Ana and City Manager failed to comply with notice provisions of Vehicle Code § 21455.5, regarding its municipal red light traffic camera program (argued).
  • Lindsay v. Kiernan (09-55652) (2010) – Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Affirming entry of summary judgment on behalf of peace officer accused of excessive force through use of X26 taser, on grounds that force applied was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment (argued).
  • McDonald v. Antelope Valley Community College District (2008) 45 Cal.4th 88 – California Supreme Court. Analysis of the court created "equitable tolling" doctrine in the context of a litigant's violation of FEHA's statute of limitations within the context of the litigant's pursuit and then abandonment of an internal grievance procedure with the Community College Chancellor's Office, pursuant to the California Code of Regulations (argued).
  • Southwestern University School of Law
  • B.A., University of California at Los Angeles 2000


  • Certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California in Appellate Law, August 2018
  • Selected by Super Lawyers Magazine and Thompson Reuters as a “Rising Star” in the area of appellate law and municipal defense, 2012-2017

Pro Bono

  • In re Marriage of Regalbuto (B310897) (2022) – Second Appellate District, Division 3. In a unanimous opinion, the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's award of attorneys' fees to a victim of domestic violence, finding that it did not abuse its discretion in awarding fees pursuant to Family Code sections 2030 and 6344 and the provisions of the Domestic Violence Protection Act ("DVPA," Family Code sections 6200-6219). (argued)


Memberships And Affiliations

  • Los Angeles County Bar Association
  • California Academy of Appellate Lawyers (2021)