Stephen P. Berzon

(415) 421-7151 ext. 303
sberzon@altshulerberzon.com

Education
B.A., Cornell University
J.D., Harvard Law School

Clerkships
Hon. Alvin B. Rubin, United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana

Stephen is a Founding Partner of Altshuler Berzon LLP and currently serves as Special Counsel to the firm. His practice has consisted primarily of major litigation in the areas of labor and employment, environment and public health, campaign and election, and constitutional law. He has practiced both at the trial and appellate levels and has argued groundbreaking cases benefiting workers, their unions, and the environment before the United States Supreme Court, the California and Hawaii Supreme Courts, and federal circuit and district courts throughout the country. He has testified before U.S. Senate and House Committees and California Senate and Assembly Committees, and has helped develop key legislation involving civil rights, education, unemployment insurance, environmental protection, food safety, at-risk children, union organizing, and injunctions in labor disputes.

Stephen has been a member of the Ninth Circuit’s Advisory Committee on Rules and Internal Operating Procedures, the national Board of Directors of the American Constitutional Society, and the Board of Directors of the national AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee. He is currently on the Executive Committee of the Northern District of California Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He is a member of the Advisory Group of the Clean Slate Project of the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program.

Before starting Altshuler Berzon, Stephen was a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow at the Contra Costa Legal Services Foundation in Richmond, CA and at the National Housing and Economic Development Law Project of the University of California, Berkeley Law School. He then practiced with the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County in Oakland and he served as the Legal Director of the Children’s Defense Fund, a public interest organization in Washington, D.C. before returning to California in 1977. He was also Chair of the City of Berkeley Police Review Commission and a member of the Board of Directors of the Urban Strategies Council.

Stephen received the Voting Rights Award from the ACLU of Southern California in 2002 for his work on voting rights litigation. In 2009, he was named a California Lawyer of the Year by California Lawyer Magazine in the area of Civil Rights, and in 2012, he received the Social Justice Service Award from Santa Clara Law School. He also received a Peggy Browning Award in 2020. He is currently listed in The Best Lawyers in America for labor and employment law, and in San Francisco Magazine’s Northern California Super Lawyers in the appellate practice area.

Stephen delivered the 2014-2015 Preiskel-Silverman Lecture at Yale Law School, entitled “Fixing Wealth Inequality: How Lawyers Can Be Part of the Solution.” He is currently co-teaching a seminar at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law entitled Impact Litigation: Strategic Considerations.

Representative matters:

  • Obtained unanimous Supreme Court decision striking down statute that enabled employers to cut off unemployment benefits to eligible recipients pending appeal.
  • Secured injunction requiring Louisiana and California to pay federal court civil rights attorney’s fee awards, despite the refusal of state legislatures to appropriate the necessary funds.
  • Restored, after a six-week jury trial, tens of millions of dollars of retiree health insurance benefits that had been terminated following the shutdown of Idaho’s largest private employer.
  • Obtained a decision prohibiting the federal government and employers from using nonimmigrant business (B1) visas to circumvent the requirement that temporary, nonimmigrant, foreign workers not undercut the prevailing wage.
  • Obtained a nationwide injunction against a Department of Homeland Security regulation that would turn Social Security Administration “nomatch” letters into an immigrationenforcement tool without authorization from Congress.
  • Obtained a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction prohibiting an airline from interfering with its pilots’ rights to organize and to free expression under the Railway Labor Act.
  • Secured a Sixth Circuit decision reversing a 30-year old judicial rule capping attorneys’ fees in civil rights cases.
  • Obtained decisions from the Fourth Circuit and the Northern District of Ohio holding that an agreement under which an employer agrees to remain neutral in union organizing campaigns in return for the union’s agreement to limitations on such campaigns does not violate Section 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
  • Defeated an attempt to hold a union liable under RICO and state tort law for ostracism allegedly directed against strikebreakers.
  • Obtained judgments against 18 growers and a growers’ association prohibiting them from illegally financing an “employee committee” to defeat union organizing drives.
  • Secured an order requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to strictly apply the Delaney Clause’s prohibition against cancercausing substances in processed foods.
  • Defeated efforts by billboard and alcohol industry to overturn an ordinance prohibiting billboards advertising alcoholic beverages in residential neighborhoods and in proximity to schools and playgrounds.
  • Obtained dismissal of a class-action product-defamation suit brought by apple growers against environmental group for having publicized the public health hazards of the growth regulator Alar.
  • Secured injunction requiring California to resume paying unemployment compensation to almost 400,000 unemployed workers following a budgetary impasse between the Legislature and the Governor.
  • Secured injunction requiring the Governor of California to expand tenfold the list of carcinogenic chemicals subject to the California Toxics Initiative.
  • Obtained a court order requiring the replacement of prescored punch card voting machines in California prior to the 2004 Presidential election.
  • Compelled the Department of Labor to restore $200 million in wrongfully withheld Trade Act benefits to thousands of unemployed autoworkers and steelworkers.
  • Obtained order enjoining the Department of Industrial Relations from spending taxpayer funds to implement a new methodology that would drastically cut prevailing wage rates, where the Legislature had refused to appropriate funds for that purpose.