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Law Office of
STEPHEN L. JOSEPH

About Stephen Joseph


Stephen L. Joseph

Stephen Joseph is a highly experienced litigation, corporate, real estate, and government relations attorney who has achieved significant media coverage for his work. He has decades of diverse legal practice to his credit, resulting in a depth and quality of experience that most attorneys cannot match. He represents large and small businesses and individuals seeking creative solutions and outstanding results. He is a member of the California and District of Columbia bars. 

DC LOBBYIST: TESTIFIED IN CONGRESS AND OBTAINED PASSAGE OF BILLS

From 1980 to 1984, he was a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He testified multiple times before Senate and House subcommittees. He was responsible for the passage of two bills regarding ocean energy as a lobbyist on behalf of Westinghouse. The White House threatened a veto one of the bills, but he persuaded the White House not to veto. He also consulted and lobbied on defense procurement and aviation matters.

OBTAINED $24 MILLION NATIONAL DEFENSE STOCKPILE CONTRACT

He obtained a $24 million contract for the Zairian mining company Gecamines to supply cobalt to the National Defense Stockpile.

CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

From 1985 to 1987, he practiced criminal law in the District of Columbia Superior Court. He won his first jury trial in a case that his colleagues said couldn’t possibly be won. The judge commented that he gave the greatest closing argument that he had ever heard. He subsequently chose that wonderful judge to perform his marriage ceremony!

FOUNDED DC GENERAL LAW PRACTICE

In 1987, he co-founded the law firm of Kline & Joseph in the District of Columbia. The firm focused on business and non-business litigation, bankruptcy, and personal injury.

$900,000 INFORMED CONSENT JURY TRIAL VICTORY

Among many other victories while at Kline & Joseph, he won a medical malpractice jury trial against a doctor based on a lack of informed consent. The jury awarded $900,000. Informed consent cases are notoriously difficult to win!

INTERNATIONAL AIRCRAFT BROKERAGE

While practicing law at Kline & Joseph, he also owned and operated a successful international aircraft brokerage company with offices in Washington, D.C. and London, selling multiple cargo aircraft including in particular Douglas DC-8s.

$2.8 MILLION ITT TRIAL VICTORY AFFIRMED BY CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT

From 1989 to 1995, he fought ITT Commercial Finance Corporation in a dispute about the repossession of a  cargo aircraft. He single-handedly won the trial in the California Superior Court, obtaining a judgment for $2.8 million. The case went all the way to the California Supreme Court, where he argued the case. The Supreme Court voted 7-0 to uphold the trial court’s ruling and created an important precedent on commercial repossessions. He won against one of California’s top attorneys, the famous Jerry Falk of Howard Rice Nemerovski, Canady, Falk, and Rabkin.

MISSILE ATTACK CASE: PROVED U.S. GOVERNMENT AT FAULT

In 1988, two Douglas DC-7 aircraft were locust spraying in Senegal under a US Government contract. US Government officials ordered the airline to transfer the aircraft from Senegal to Morocco. While flying over Western Sahara, Polisario rebels fired surface-to-air missiles at both aircraft, causing one to crash, killing the crew of five. The airline asked him to investigate whether the US Government knew about the location of the missiles and failed to alert the crews. He took the case to trial against the US Government in the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. The Board found that US Government officials knew about the missiles and their location and inexcusably “unreasonably failed to communicate” this “valuable” information to the crews. Ultimately, the airline was not awarded compensation because the transfer flight from Senegal to Morocco was not deemed to be part of the contract. Still, he had established what the airline wanted to prove.

MOVED TO CALIFORNIA 1997

He moved to California in 1997, practicing in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles. 

FOUNDED AND LED THE HUGELY SUCCESSFUL BAN TRANS FAT CAMPAIGN

The Oreo trans fat lawsuit-a major success story

In California, he started and led a successful national campaign to ban trans fat. He sued Kraft to ban Oreo cookies because they contained trans fat. In response, Kraft removed trans fat from Oreos and all of its products, and many other companies did too.

Massive media coverage

The Oreo lawsuit achieved massive TV and other media coverage. A Wall Street Journal editorial called him the “Cookie Monster.”

FDA labeling of trans fat

As a result of the Oreo lawsuit, the White House ordered the FDA to put trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label.

The McDonald’s trans fat lawsuit-settled for $10.5 million

He sued McDonald’s in a class action because of the trans fat in its fries, which resulted in a $10.5 million nationwide class action settlement (including legal fees). Following the lawsuit, McDonald’s removed the trans fat from its fries. 

Appointed to American Heart Association trans fat panel

He was a member of the American Heart Association (“AHA”) trans fat panel, serving with the CEO and COO of the AHA and some of America’s top nutritionists.

Created “America’s First Trans Fat-Free City”

He created “America’s First Trans Fat-Free City” in Tiburon, California. He got every restaurant to switch to trans fat-free cooking oil, and no consumers noticed the difference! He proved that the fearmongering by the restaurant associations was baseless.

The New York City trans fat ban

New York City officials noticed the success of the first trans-fat-free city in Tiburon and asked him to do the same in New York City. He worked with the New York City health department to make New York City’s restaurant’s trans-fat-free. Soon after that, New York City banned trans fat in restaurants, mainly due to his efforts.

The California trans fat ban

He worked with California Assembly Member Tony Mendoza for the passage of AB 97 to ban trans fat in California. Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law.

The Zero Trans Fat Cooking Oil Contest

He held the world’s only Zero Trans Fat Cooking Oil Contest, which was filmed by CBS 60 Minutes for a segment by Leslie Stahl (although not aired). 

The nationwide trans fat ban-total success!

Trans fat was banned nationwide in 2018, mainly due to his campaign, meaning that his advocacy has achieved the ultimate success!

Winner of the Levian award

In 2007, he won the Levian award for his activism. This is an annual award by zerobreastcancer.org.

“THE HIGHEST-PROFILE ADVOCATE FOR THE PLASTICS INDUSTRY IN THE WORLD”

After the successful conclusion of the trans fat campaign, he became the principal attorney in the United States, representing the plastic bag industry, which employs thousands of people and generates billions of dollars. His main concern was to prevent misinformation about plastic bags.

The editor of Plastics News wrote that he might have been “the highest-profile advocate for the plastics industry in the world.”

Time Magazine published an article about him calling him “The Patron Saint of Plastic Bags.”

He sued numerous cities and counties to force them to prepare Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) before banning plastic bags. One of the cases went to the California Supreme Court, which ruled for the first time that businesses had standing to demand EIRs based on commercial impacts. The court also ruled that large cities and counties must prepare EIRs before banning plastic bags.

THE DISTRACTED DRIVING CASE AGAINST APPLE, GOOGLE, MICROSOFT, AND SAMSUNG

He sued Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung for unfair business practices for failing to provide any warnings whatsoever about distracted driving. These companies tacitly approve of their customers using their phones and apps while driving. Over 3,000 people are killed, and over 400,000 are injured each year in the US by distracted driving, including many teenagers who have no appreciation of the danger. The case was not successful. However, the California Court of Appeal did approve of the purpose of the case in its opinion. It stated: “Plaintiffs’ quest to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving is a noble one.”

PRESENT PRACTICE

He presently represents major real estate developers and owners in Los Angeles as well as numerous businesses and individuals in litigation and transactional matters.

EXTENSIVE MEDIA COVERAGE

He has appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Fox, and multiple times on CNBC. Anderson Cooper interviewed him on CNN. Jay Leno mentioned him in two monologues on the Tonight Show. David Letterman talked about him on the Late Show. He was the subject of a debate on ABC’s The View. Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report vilified him. He has been interviewed dozens of times on TV and radio stations in the US, Canada, Britain, France, South Korea, and other countries.

In 2003, a photograph of him was the world’s most e-mailed photo on Yahoo for three days (before Google became prominent).

His career has been profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and by the NY Times, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, California Lawyer, and the ABA Journal.