James M. Wagstaffe

James (Jim) M. Wagstaffe handles a diverse range of litigation matters. His practice focuses on complex litigation, professional and governmental representation, will and trust disputes, legal ethics, and First Amendment matters. Jim is also the author of The Wagstaffe Group Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial, published by Lexis Nexis. In addition, Jim is recognized as an authority and frequently is consulted by other law firms and clients alike on complicated civil procedure, attorneys’ fees and trial practice issues.

Jim currently serves as a member Chair of the Federal Judicial Center Foundation Board, appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. For more than 30 years, he has been responsible for development and delivery of various annual forums, seminars, webinars, and workshop sessions directed at educating federal judges and their respective clerk staffs on civil procedure and other aspects of federal law.  In 2017, he was selected as California Lawyer Attorney of the Year for his successful representation of The State Bar of California in a high-profile privacy trial. In addition, Jim has been consistently named one of the Top 100 Super Lawyers in Northern California.



Jim’s reputation as litigator is exemplified by his frequent retention in high stakes cases where his strategic and procedural expertise is particularly invaluable. Jim has recently tried multiple jury trials resulting in multi-million dollar verdicts for the firm’s clients. These include:

  • The successful 2017 federal whistleblower jury trial against Bio-Rad producing a $14.6 million judgment. This is the largest Dodd-Frank jury verdict in history.
  • A 2017 jury trial verdict in a defamation action filed in San Luis Obispo County. It was the largest verdict of this type in the County for several years.
  • Obtaining a $5 million judgment jury verdict in San Francisco for a law firm partner suing for breach of contract.

Jim also has extensive experience trying court trials and arbitrations before retired judges. These include:

  • The successful defense of a Trustee sued for over $100 million by disgruntled beneficiaries.
  • An across-the-board trial victory for the State Bar of California in the high-profile Sandercase invoking the rights of Bar applicants to maintain privacy as to demographic and racial data.
  • Successfully defending the Golden State Warriors in litigation seeking $55 million arising out of a dispute involving its Arena lease.
  • Obtaining success for plaintiffs on an anti-SLAPP motion in case against City of Vallejo brought by couple who were wrongfully accused of having faked their kidnapping.

Jim’s practice includes substantial work on virtual world issues, including electronic discovery, related legal ethics questions, and Wi-Fi technology. He was the successful lead attorney in the seminal e-discovery case, Qualcomm, Inc. v. Bathchelder et al., 327 Fed. Appx. 877 (Fed. Cir. 2008). Several years ago he began representing the Australian government in high profile litigation involving the patent for indoor wireless technology. See Microsoft Corp. v. Commonwealth Scientific and Indus. Research Organisation, 297 Fed. Appx. 970 (Fed. Cir. 2008).

The State Bar of California has looked to Jim for over 15 years to handle its most challenging cases, including those raising serious constitutional issues. For example, Jim successfully argued the high-profile in re Garcia case before the California Supreme Court. In Warden v. State Bar of California, 21 Cal.4th 628 (1999), Jim also represented the Bar in a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs alleged the exemptions from the MCLE (continuing education) program were unconstitutional. The matter went up to the California Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Bar.

Jim is considered one of the most sought after First Amendment/defamation lawyers in the country. He has represented broadcasters, newspapers, magazines, celebrities and public officials, as well as a host of others – both as plaintiff and defendant. He has been the lawyer on many of the leading anti-SLAPP cases in California and has tried more defamation cases to trial than perhaps any attorney in the state. Jim’s First Amendment and media experience is exemplified by his successful defense of The New Yorker Magazine in the libel trial Masson v. New Yorker, 832 F. Supp. 1350 (N.D. Cal. 1993), aff’d 85 F.3d 1394 (9th Cir. 1996). More recently, Jim obtained an injunction for airline pilots to exercise their free speech rights to commentate at Midway Airport. Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association v. City of Chicago, 186 F.Supp.3d 836 (N.D. Ill. 2016).


In addition to his leadership as a trial lawyer, Jim is highly active in the firm’s appellate practice. He handles appeals in both state and federal courts, representing clients seeking to affirm a favorable trial court decision as well as those whose goal it is to obtain a reversal. Jim has established an enviable track record on appeal and has led the way in a number of groundbreaking decisions. For example, Jim has successfully argued many cases in the California Supreme Court including the recent anti-SLAPP statute victory in Baral v. Schnitt (2016) and In re Garcia (2014).

In addition, Jim has numerous recent appellate victories for governmental parties including achieving a total victory in a multimillion dollar takings case for the City of San Rafael MHC v. San Rafael, 714 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 2013) obtaining an affirmance of a civil rights dismissal, Douglas v. Town of Portola Valley, (9th Cir. 2012) 468 Fed. Appx. 728, and a CEQA victory for the City of Redwood City in Wilson & Wilson v. City Council of Redwood City, (2011) 191 Cal. App. 4th 1559.

In Kremen v. Cohen, 337 F 3d 1024 (9th Cir. 2003), Jim secured a sweeping victory from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a landmark decision with far reaching implications in all areas of domain name registration and Internet infrastructure. Similarly, in Theofel v. Farey Jones, 359 F.3d 1066 (9th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 813 (2004), Jim succeeded in obtaining a reversal of the district court’s dismissal of his clients’ lawsuit in a published decision that established new boundaries on subpoenas aimed at email communications.

Businesses, individual, and government entities and agencies, and notably, other lawyers, are among the many clients who seek out Jim to represent them at trial and on appeal. See, e.g., Lintz v. Lintz, 222 Cal.App.4th 1346 (2014) (leading case in state on testamentary capacity); In re Apple, Device Address Book Litigation (2014) (appointed lead attorney in nationwide class action); In re Cathode Ray Tube Antitrust litigation (2013) (attorneys for Dell Computer in national class action). In his almost three decades of appellate experience, Jim has represented parties and amici on appeal in matters involving constitutional and civil rights claims, defamation cases, environmental/CEQA, probate disputes, securities fraud, and consumer rights, just to name a few.


In addition to Jim’s courtroom experience, Jim has authored and co-authored a number of publications, including The Wagstaffe Group Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial, published by Lexis Nexis in 2017. Selected other legal publications are listed below. Jim also authored Romancing the Room (Random House) — a spirited step-by-step guide to effective public speaking — and was a contributing author with Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Larry King, and Ira Glass, among others, to The Expert’s Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do(Clarkson Potter 2004).

Jim is committed to sharing his knowledge and experience with judges, lawyers and students alike. Jim has served as an instructor at the Federal Judicial Center’s annual “New Judges Workshop” since 1990, educating newly-appointed federal judges on all aspects of federal procedure. Throughout the year, Jim has been asked to present, moderate and participate in panel discussions and seminars throughout the country with other judges and lawyers on current topics of interest to the legal community. In conjunction with the Practising Law Institute, Jim was the Chair of the 2013 California Trial Evidence program in October, 2013. The program was a day-long legal educational program focusing on the recent case law and statutory developments in the law of trial evidence.

In addition, Jim is an adjunct professor in constitutional law and civil procedure at Hastings College of the Law and in Media Law at San Francisco State University. He has also taught the Practical Speech Communication course at Stanford University for over 35 years.


University of California, Hastings College of the Law, J.D. 1980

Stanford University, B.A., with distinction in Communications, 1977