David C. Codell

Telephone: 310.273.0306
Facsimile: 310.273.0307
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David Codell's law practice focuses on constitutional and appellate litigation, entertainment litigation, and commercial litigation.  Representing clients in state and federal courts, both at the trial-court and appellate level, Mr. Codell has secured numerous precedent-setting victories.  Mr. Codell has represented major clients in the television, motion picture, recording, and advertising industries in disputes concerning the First Amendment, copyright law, antipiracy and internet issues, idea origination, defamation, rights of publicity, talent contracts, profit participation, employment discrimination, and insurance.  Mr. Codell also has significant experience in class action and securities litigation, as well as extensive experience in appellate litigation, having handled a wide variety of appellate matters involving constitutional issues, business disputes, employment law, land use, securities law, and arbitration.

Mr. Codell received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Harvard College, and his J.D. degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was a Supreme Court Editor of the Harvard Law Review.  Mr. Codell served as a law clerk for Judge David S. Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Before opening his own law office in 2003, Mr. Codell practiced constitutional law in association with Laurence H. Tribe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was a partner at Irell & Manella LLP in Los Angeles, where he practiced in the litigation, intellectual property, and appellate practice groups.  In 2013, Mr. Codell served as Visiting Legal Director and Senior Scholar of Law at the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA School of Law that focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy, and for much of 2014, Mr. Codell served as Constitutional Liigation Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in connection with lawsuits in Utah, Tennessee, Idaho, and Florida seeking marriage equality for same-sex couples.

In addition to his commercial litigation, Mr. Codell has provided pro bono representation to individuals and organizations in numerous cases that have resulted in historic rulings advancing civil rights, and he has been honored for his pro bono work by numerous organizations. Mr. Codell also is a frequent speaker about legal issues at universities and continuing legal education events.

Representative Matters

Business Litigation

  • Represented major television studios in numerous disputes and lawsuits regarding profit participation and talent contracts.
  • Represented motion picture studios, television studios, and television networks regarding copyright issues, including matters involving the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
  • Represented corporate officers and directors in numerous securities lawsuits, including class actions involving financial institutions.
  • Represented a major television network, a television studio, and individual writers and producers in a lawsuit alleging misappropriation of ideas, defamation, and fraud in connection with the creation of a hit television series. Successfully argued at the demurrer stage for dismissal with prejudice of the misappropriation and defamation claims on First Amendment grounds and successfully argued at summary judgment for dismissal of the fraud claims.
  • Successfully defended on appeal a major television network and a television station against claims of "reverse discrimination" by a former news anchor for the station. See Hicks v. KNTV Television, Inc., 160 Cal.App.4th 994 (2008).
  • Successfully defended on appeal a major motion picture actor against allegations of fraud in connection with cast insurance coverage.
  • Successfully represented several LLC members in an appeal involving the scope of an arbitrator's authority. Obtained reversal of the trial court's judgment.

Civil Rights Litigation

  • Successfully represented numerous plaintiffs in litigation in which the California Supreme Court ruled that the state of California must permit same-sex couples to marry and that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation are subject to the strictest level of constitutional scrutiny. See In re Marriage Cases, 43 Cal.4th 757 (2008).
  • Represented Equality California and numerous same-sex couples in litigation upholding approximately 18,000 marriages that were performed in California in 2008 before the enactment of California's Proposition 8. See Strauss v. Horton, 46 Cal.4th 364 (2009).
  • In United States v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013) (invalidating Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act), and Hollingsworth v. Perry, 133 S.Ct. 1521 (2013) (regarding Proposition 8), co-authored a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Williams Institute scholars, the National Women's Law Center, and other leading women's legal groups, explaining that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny by the courts because such laws frequently are impermissibly based on gender-based stereotypes about women's and men's roles in relationships and families. See http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Brief-of-Amici-Curiae-Williams-Institute-Scholars-and-Womens-Legal-Groups-in-U.S.-v.-Windsor-No.-12-307.pdf.
  • Successfully represented Equality California and numerous same-sex couples in trial court and appellate litigation that resulted in repeated rulings in 2005 and 2006 upholding California's domestic partnership statutes against constitutional challenges. See Knight v. Superior Court, 128 Cal.App.4th 14 (2005).
  • Successfully represented a wrongful death plaintiff in a groundbreaking case in which the California Court of Appeal upheld the California Legislature's power to enact legal protections for domestic partners. See Armijo v. Miles, 127 Cal.App.4th 1405 (2005).
  • Provided pro bono representation to high-school students in Orange, California in the first case in the United States in which a court ordered a school district to permit a gay-affirming student club to meet on campus. See Colin ex rel. Colin v. Orange Unified School District, 83 F.Supp.2d 1135 (2000).
  • Represented amicus curiae NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the states cannot criminalize private sexual conduct between consenting adults.

Professional Achievements

  • Southern California Super Lawyer (limited to 5% of the attorneys in the region) for eight consecutive years (2006-2013)
  • Humanitarian Award, presented by Los Angeles synagogue Beth Chayim Chadashim (2013)
  • Liberty Award, presented by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (2008)
  • Coalition for Justice Award, presented by the ACLU of Southern California (2008)
  • Lawyer of the Year, presented by the Orange County Equality Coalition (2008)
  • Equality Advocate Award, presented by Equality California (2006)
  • LGBT Advocacy Award, presented by the ACLU of Southern California (2006)
  • Gay and Lesbian Leadership Award, presented by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund (2005)
  • Defender of Democracy Award, presented by People for the American Way (2000)
In the two marriage cases now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, David co-authored a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Williams Institute scholars and leading women’s legal groups, arguing that laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny by the courts because such laws frequently are impermissibly based on gender-based stereotypes about women’s and men’s roles in relationships and families.