Stephen G. Larson

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Stephen G. Larson, co-founder of Larson O’Brien LLP, is a former U.S. District Judge and has been a national trial lawyer for high-stakes civil and white collar matters since returning to private practice in 2009. Stephen is also a trusted adviser to senior executives and prominent domestic and international businesses. 

Stephen has over 30 years of trial and appellate experience, and has been lead counsel in scores of jury trials in the federal and state courts and appeals, including before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the California Supreme Court, and the California Court of Appeal. The Daily Journal, California's leading legal newspaper, has recognized Stephen as one of the "Top 100 Lawyers in California" for the past three consecutive years, noting achievements as lead trial counsel in his broad white collar and civil trial practice. 

Stephen's civil practice is broad, having represented individuals and public and private companies of all sizes as plaintiffs and defendants in high-stakes disputes, including intellectual property, real property and land use, complex contract issues, business torts, employment, securities, class actions, and environmental lawsuits. He regularly represents companies in the entertainment, technology, financial services, real estate, healthcare, and energy and natural resources industries. In addition, Stephen is frequently engaged as an arbitrator and mediator in complex commercial disputes.

Stephen's white collar criminal defense practice includes representing businesses in government investigations and prosecutions related to an array of issues, including public corruption, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), domestic and international sanctions issues, the False Claims Act, healthcare laws, and financial controls. Stephen also represents companies, executives, lawyers, doctors, and public figures at all stages of white collar criminal matters from investigations to trial. Stephen's criminal defense practice includes conducting internal investigations for companies, public entities, boards, and committees.  In 2016, Stephen was appointed by the Orange County District Attorney and the Orange County Board of Supervisors to monitor the District Attorney’s compliance with a Blue Ribbon commission’s recommendations related to jail informants.

In 2018, Stephen was awarded the Daily Journal's California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) Award for his trial advocacy in The People of the State of California v. Paul Biane et al., which former California Attorney General Jerry Brown touted as one of the most significant public corruption matters in California history. After an eight month trial, Stephen secured a complete defense verdict for developer Jeff Burum, defeating allegations that three county officials took bribes from Burum in exchange for their approval for a $102 million settlement of a land dispute. 

In 2019, Stephen completed his service as the chair of the Los Angeles County Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety.

Prior Experience

Stephen began his career as a litigation associate at O'Melveny & Myers, before being appointed as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California in 1991, where Stephen served as the Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Division.  As a prosecutor, he led 24 criminal trials, was responsible for 49 appeals before the Ninth Circuit, and received the U.S. Department of Justice Director’s Award for Superior Performance from Attorney General Janet Reno. Stephen also conducted joint training exercises and investigations with foreign law enforcement agencies in Russia, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, the Ukraine, and South Korea. 

Stephen departed the United States Attorney’s Office in 2000 to serve as a Magistrate Judge in the Central District of California.  In 2005, President George W. Bush nominated Stephen to serve as a District Judge. As a federal judge, Stephen adjudicated over a thousand cases and was designated seven times to serve on the Ninth Circuit. Stephen was also a member of the Ninth Circuit’s Jury Instruction Committee responsible for drafting and publishing model jury instructions. Stephen was a founding member of the State Department’s Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan. 

During his nearly 10 years as a federal judge, Stephen presided over a number of high-profile cases, including the “Barbie vs. Bratz” copyright infringement dispute between toymakers Mattel and Bratz, and Siegel v. Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., which determined the ownership of the copyrights to the iconic comic strip Superman. Stephen also presided in United States v. Nazario, a landmark Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act case involving U.S. Marines accused of manslaughter during the Battle of Fallujah; United States v. Duro, in which he blocked the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ decade long effort to close down and expel a major migrant worker camp on the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation; and John Doe v. County of San Bernardino, which resulted in systematic reform of educational and therapeutic services for disabled youths within the county juvenile hall system.

Prior to founding Larson O’Brien LLP, Stephen was chair of the litigation department at a national law firm and a member of its Executive Committee. 

Stephen received his law degree from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, and is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.  Throughout his career, he has taught law school classes in constitutional law, civil rights law, and federal courts, and has conducted law enforcement training at the FBI National Academy at Quantico and overseas on money laundering, asset forfeiture, and U.S. banking regulations.

Representative Matters

  • Secured a complete defense verdict for the Managing Partner of Colonies Partners, LP, a real estate development partnership, defeating allegations that three county officials took bribes from the managing partner in exchange for their approval for a $102 million settlement of a land dispute. 
  • In United States v. Aguilar, one of only a few Foreign Corruption Practices Act (FCPA) cases to go to trial in the past decade, successfully defeated FCPA and money-laundering charges by securing an order vacating the convictions of Ms. Aguilar. 
  • Obtained a $10 million jury verdict and judgment against the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center and in favor of a minor child abused at the defendant's facilities. 
  • Secured a mid-trial dismissal of a federal grand jury's nine-count indictment against a former special agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency accused of conspiring to commit fraud and making false statements to federal law enforcement officers.
  • Represented senior executive of international mining company in FCPA joint investigation by the Justice Department and Eastern District of New York, resulting in no charges being filed. 
  • Successfully represented the states of Arizona and Oklahoma in connection with their efforts to seek recovery following the Volkswagen AG emissions “Diesel Dupe” scandal, obtaining settlements totaling more than $40 million.
  • Secured a dismissal of criminal charges and a civil compromise for an industry-leading industrial materials manufacturer, following an industrial homicide investigation. 
  • Won summary judgment in favor of Taco Bell Corp. in a putative class action alleging $51 million in violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
  • Represented a financial technology company during criminal and civil investigations by several District Attorneys’ offices and the United States Attorney, resulting in no charges being filed.
  • Represented the relator in a qui tam civil False Claims Act matter alleging healthcare fraud, resulting in more than $60 million in recovery.  
  • Won a seven-figure judgment for an attorney in a fee dispute arising from the Indian Trust litigation and settlement, following a trial before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
  • Succeeded in having no charges filed against a doctor following months-long investigation of alleged $30 million in False Claims Act violations.
  • Won three appeals overturning orders granting terminating sanctions in a high-profile wrongful death action against a celebrity drug interventionist, and defeated defendants’ motion for summary judgment after remand.  
  • Represented Arizona voters challenging the constitutionality of unequally populated voting districts created by a state commission, before the United States Supreme Court in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.
  • Obtained summary judgment for a non-profit organization alleged to have aided and abetted fraud and financial crimes.
  • Conducted internal investigations of a retirement pension regarding allegations of executive misconduct.
  • Served as the Independent Monitor of the Orange County District Attorney’s office, following appointment to that role by the Orange County Board of Supervisors. 

SEC's $15.5M win nixed on appeal by firm's clients

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the SEC’s $15.5 million judgment on Aug. 6, 2020 in favor of Larson O’Brien’s clients in SEC v. Yang et al.

Firm’s summary judgment win affirmed on appeal

On Aug. 3, 2020, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the Superior Court of Los Angeles County’s summary judgment order, which Larson O’Brien won for Canyon Water Company and its officers in a complex property and water rights dispute.

Daily Journal

Developer & officials acquitted of bribery can sue

San Bernardino County, its former district attorney, and his staff can be sued by Larson O'Brien client Jeff Burum and former county officials for alleged retaliation and malicious prosecution, a federal judge ruled on July 29, 2020.

San Bernardino Sun

Judge OKs trial against San Bernardino County

A federal judge on July 29, 2020 denied a request by San Bernardino County to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Larson O'Brien client Jeff Burum alleging malicious prosecution in a nearly decade-long public corruption case that ended in his acquittal.

Larson O'Brien Press Release

County loses bid to dismiss Colonies lawsuits

A new ruling by a federal judge leaves San Bernardino County facing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over the politically motivated, 20-year persecution of Larson O'Brien client Jeff Burum and his company, Colonies Partners.

Los Angeles Times

Larson O'Brien defends client on refiled charges

The L.A. County district attorney's office refiled public corruption charges against former assessor John Noguez, top official Mark McNeil, and Larson O'Brien client Ramin Salari.

Larson O’Brien joins Law Firm Antiracism Alliance

The national coalition of law firms aims to create large-scale, coordinated pro bono projects that address systemic racism.

Los Angeles Business Journal

Partners named among “Leaders of Influence”

Partners Stephen G. Larson and Hilary Potashner were selected to the “Leaders of Influence: Litigators & Trial Lawyers” list for 2020.

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

Angela Makabali joins NAPABA leadership program

Larson O’Brien is proud to announce that associate Angela Makabali has been selected to the NAPABA 2020 Leadership Advancement Program.


RICO charge not fit for "Varsity Blues" coaches

Partner Kori L. Bell argued on behalf of Larson O'Brien client Jovan Vavic in a hearing on July 1, 2020 regarding whether conspiracy counts should be dismissed in the "Varsity Blues" case.

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Upland police chief reinstated

Partner Stephen G. Larson's client, Upland Police Chief Darren Goodman, was reinstated to his position on June 29, 2020 following his suspension allegedly due to City Hall politics.

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Stephen Larson represents Upland police chief

Partner Stephen G. Larson wrote a letter to Upland City Council and Mayor Debbie Stone alleging his client, suspended Upland Police Chief Darren Goodman, is a victim of City Hall politics.

Los Angeles Business Journal

Partners named among L.A.'s "Most Influential"

For the fourth consecutive year, the Los Angeles Business Journal has recognized partners Stephen G. Larson and Robert C. O'Brien among the "LA500: Most Influential People in L.A."

Hilary Potashner joins Larson O'Brien

Larson O'Brien welcomes high-profile defense attorney and former Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California

Daily Journal

Stephen Larson named to "Top 100" list for 2019

The Daily Journal recognized partner Stephen G. Larson for third consecutive year as one of the Top 100 lawyers in California.


"Varsity Blues" defendants refer to Bridgegate

The Larson O'Brien defense team for Jovan Vavic filed a brief arguing that the Bridgegate ruling closes the "Varsity Blues" case, along with the lawyers for four other defendants.

Court of Appeal affirms order in favor of client

On June 2, 2020, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the Orange County Superior Court’s order denying attorneys’ fees sought against Larson O’Brien client O Properties, Inc. in a San Juan Capistrano real estate dispute.

Message to the firm

Partner Stephen G. Larson shares his words of strength, sadness, and support with the firm and our community.

Los Angeles Business Journal

Stephen Larson named to “LA500” for 2020

For the fifth consecutive year, partner Stephen G. Larson has been selected as one of the "Most Influential People in L.A."

Larson O'Brien Press Release

Court grants firm's writ of mandate petition

Larson O'Brien's writ of mandate petition on behalf of client Ramin Salari was granted on May 22, 2020, directing the charges to be dismissed.

The American Lawyer

DC Circuit resolves fee dispute in land trust suit

The U.S. Court of Appeals found that a lower court made the right call when it awarded California-based lawyer $2.88 million in fees plus interest.

Firm joins L.A. Represents pro bono initiative

Mayor Eric Garcetti's pro bono initiative is composed of top Los Angeles law firms providing free legal services to residents facing hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

San Bernardino Sun

Judge rules favorably for Colonies Partners

A judge ruled that the former San Bernardino County District Attorney acted in bad faith by deleting text messages and emails sought as evidence in support of Larson O’Brien’s clients during the Colonies Partners corruption case.

Los Angeles Business Journal

Larson & O'Brien among 500 Most Influential in LA

For the fourth year, the Los Angeles Business Journal has recognized Stephen G. Larson and Robert C. O'Brien among L.A.'s Most Influential People.


Chrysler dealers seek $1B for scuttled franchises

A group of former GM and Chrysler auto dealers will make their case in the Court of Federal Claims that the U.S. government owe them $1B for rejecting their franchise agreements.


Live Nation, others cut loose from IP fight

U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez granted Live Nation's motion to dismiss producer Darryl Payne's copyright claims


Larson added to "Varsity Blues" defense team

Larson O'Brien counted among elite firms that make up the "Varsity Blues" defense team

Automotive News

Dealers finally get their day in court

Larson O'Brien set to begin two month trial of Chrysler dealers' claims in Court of Federal Claims

Daily Journal

Larson O'Brien hired in college admissions scandal

Ex-judge, Stephen G. Larson, hired to represent water polo coach in college admissions scandal

Pasadena Star News

Larson O'Brien wins $10 million jury verdict

Jury finds Rose Bowl Aquatic Center at fault in molestation case, awards family millions

Daily Journal

Larson again listed on list of Top 100 lawyers

For the second consecutive year, The Daily Journal named Stephen G. Larson to its prestigious list of the Top 100 lawyers in California

Benchmark Litigation

Benchmark Litigation honors Larson O'Brien LLP

Stephen G. Larson and Robert C. O'Brien have been named among Benchmark Litigation's California Litigation Stars for 2019

The American Lawyer

DC Circuit resolves fee dispute in land trust suit

The U.S. Court of Appeals found that a lower court made the right call when it awarded California-based lawyer $2.88 million in fees plus interest.


Eleven lawyers depart Arent Fox to open boutique

Eleven lawyers have jumped ship from Arent Fox to start a litigation boutique in Los Angeles. Larson O'Brien will focus on high stakes matters, including commercial litigation, internal investigations, appellate work and international arbitration.

The New York Times

Larson O'Brien secures $65 million settlement

Prime Healthcare Services, one of the nation's largest hospital systems, agreed to pay $65 million to settle allegations of Medicare overbilling in California

Los Angeles Business Journal

Larson and O'Brien named on "Top Litigators" list

The Los Angeles Business Journal has recognized Stephen G. Larson and Robert C. O'Brien on its list of Top Litigators in Los Angeles

San Bernardino Sun

Bribery case ends with final charges dismissed

Colonies bribery case ends with all charges dismissed against last defendant Jim Erwin.

San Bernardino Sun

3 of 4 Colonies defendants found not guilty

Three of the four defendants in the San Bernardino County Colonies corruption case were found not guilty of all charges after a marathon trial that lasted nearly eight months.


Koren ("Kori") Bell Joins Larson O'Brien

Larson O'Brien LLP Welcomes Veteran Trial Lawyer Koren Bell as Partner and Dana M. Howard and K. Darcy Elgin as Associates

Los Angeles Business Journal

Larson & O'Brien among most influential in L.A.

Founding partners Larson & O'Brien were again named on the Los Angeles Business Journal's list of the 500 most influential people in Los Angeles

San Bernardino Sun

Colonies Partners files federal lawsuit

Colonies Partners LP filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against San Bernardino County District Attorney and former state Attorneys General, seeking $80 million in damages following a bungled bribery case.

Daily Journal

Larson and Phillips receive "CLAY Award"

Stephen G. Larson and Jonathan E. Phillips were selected for the prestigious CLAY Award for California Attorneys of the Year

Larson appointed to L.A.'s Blue Ribbon Commission

Los Angeles County Supervisor has appointed Larson O'Brien partner, Stephen G. Larson, to the county's newly-formed Blue Ribbon Commission on Public Safety.

The Daily Journal

Larson named on Daily Journal's Top 100 List

Larson O'Brien LLP partner Stephen G. Larson Named to Daily Journal Top 100

The Daily Journal

Back to the Courtroom

Larson O'Brien partners left big law to focus on building a broad but potent litigation boutique


    University of Southern California Gould School of Law

    Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service, B.S.F.S.


    District of Columbia
    U.S. Supreme Court
    U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    U.S. Court of Federal Claims
    U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    U.S.D.C. Central District of California
    U.S.D.C. Eastern District of California
    U.S.D.C. Northern District of California
    U.S.D.C. Southern District of California
    U.S.D.C. District of Columbia