Stephen Joseph is a litigation, corporate, real estate, and government relations attorney who has achieved major media coverage for his cases.
He has decades of diverse legal practice to his credit, resulting in a depth and quality of experience that younger attorneys simply cannot match. He represents large and small businesses and individuals seeking creative solutions and outstanding results. When appropriate he collaborates with experienced attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco based on the type of matter presented.
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 obtained a $24 million contract for a client to supply cobalt to the National Defense Stockpile. He also consulted and lobbied on defense procurement and aviation matters.
From 1985 to 1987, he practiced criminal law for two years in the District of Columbia Superior Court.
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. Among many other victories at the firm, he won a medical malpractice jury trial against a doctor based on lack of informed consent. The jury awarded $900,000. Informed consent cases are notoriously difficult to win!
While practicing law at Kline & Joseph, he also owned and operated an aircraft brokerage, selling multiple cargo aircraft.
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. In 1995, 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.
In 1988, two DC-7 aircraft were using for 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 the Western Sahara, Polisario rebels fired surface-to-air missiles at them, 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, but he had established what the airline wanted to prove.
He moved to California in 1997, practicing in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles.
In California, he started and led the successful national campaign to ban trans fat. He sued Kraft to ban Oreo cookies because they contained trans fat, which resulted in White House intervention. Kraft removed trans fat from Oreos and all of its products. A Wall Street Journal editorial called him the "Cookie Monster."
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.
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.
He created "America's First Trans Fat-Free City" in Tiburon, California. New York City 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, largely as a result of his efforts.
He worked in conjunction 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.
He held the world's only Zero Trans Fat Cooking Oil Contest which was filmed by CBS 60 Minutes (although not yet aired).
Trans fat was banned nationwide in 2018, largely as a result of his campaign, meaning that his advocacy has achieved the ultimate success!
In 2007, he won the Levian award for his activism. This is an annual award by zerobreastcancer.org.
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 may 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.
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 U.S. by distracted driving, including many teenagers who have no appreciation of the danger. The case was not successful although the California Court of Appeal did approve of the merits of the cause in its opinion when it stated: "Plaintiffs' quest to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving is a noble one."
He presently represents major real estate developers and owners in Los Angeles as well as numerous businesses and individuals in litigation and transactional matters.
He has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, Fox, and multiple times on CNBC. He was interviewed by Anderson Cooper 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. He was vilified by Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report. He has appeared numerous times on CNBC. He has been interviewed dozens of times on TV and radio stations in the US, Canada, Britain, France, South Korea, and other countries.
His career has been profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and also by the NY Times, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, California Lawyer, and the ABA Journal.
In 2003, a photograph of him was the world's most e-mailed photo on Yahoo for three days (before Google became prominent).
He is a member of the California and District of Columbia bars.