Elliot L. Bien

Telephone:  (415) 472-1500
Email:  elb@biencounsel.com


Columbia College, A.B. 1967
Columbia Law School, J.D. 1971
Harvard Law School, LL.M. 1972


California (1979),  Ill. (1975), Mass. (1971)
U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth and Tenth Circuits
United States Supreme Court


California Academy of Appellate Lawyers
American Academy of Appellate Lawyers
State Bar of California, Litigation Section
Bar Association of San Francisco,
     Appellate Practice Section
Marin County Bar Association    


Elliot is one of California’s most highly regarded civil appellate specialists.  In January 2024, an executive with Thomson Reuters, the sponsor of the "SuperLawyers" recognition program, told Elliot "you're the first attorney I've come across who has surpassed the 20 years in a row mark!"

A former law professor, Elliot has argued cases in the United States Supreme Court; the California Supreme Court, the Ninth and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeals, and almost all California Courts of Appeal. His appellate experience covers an unusually wide array of legal subjects. (Click here for details)  Before forming an appellate specialty firm in 1990, he was a partner and chair of the appellate department of Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon, a large San Francisco firm.


  • President, California Academy of Appellate Lawyers (2002-2003); member since 1987
  • Fellow, American Academy of Appellate Lawyers (elected 1994)
  • In first group of lawyers certified as appellate specialists by the State Bar of California (1997)
  • Founder and chair (1985-1988), Committee on Appellate Courts of the Bar Association of San Francisco (1985); received Award of Merit in 1987 for contributions to appellate practice
  • AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell since 1980
  • Northern California “Super Lawyer” in appellate practice every year since San Francisco Magazine started program in 2004
  • Best Lawyers in America since 2006
  • Best lawyer in Northern California, “J” Magazine (formerly N.Cal. Jewish Bulletin) (2005)

Representative cases and briefs

  • One of my proudest moments as an appellate lawyer came in January 2018:  reading the 99-page partially published opinion of the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, in favor of our client, the City of Modesto and related agencies. (Click here for Modesto’s opening brief as appellant and here for the full opinion.)  The Court reinstated approximately $100 million in claims against The Dow Chemical Company and another manufacturer for contamination of dozens of dry-cleaning sites around the city, and the soil and groundwater below, by recommending unsafe disposal of perchlororethylene (PCE), a dangerously carcinogenic dry-cleaning solvent, for several decades. (The published opinion is City of Modesto v. Dow Chemical et al., (2018) 19 Cal.App.5th 130.)  The California Supreme Court denied Dow's petition for review despite amicus curiae briefs from eight major industry groups.
  • Represented investors in a limited partnership venture, obtained affirmance of $1.4 million judgment over challenge to proper measure of fraud damages and prejudgment interest; click here for principal brief and opinion
  • Represented Uniroyal (Michelin) Tire Corporation, obtained reversal of $8.4 million compensatory damages verdict for trial court’s refusal to instruct jury on plaintiffs’ comparative negligence in riding in the back of camper truck not equipped with seatbelts; click here for principal brief and opinion
  • Represented Manufactured Home Communities, Inc., the nation’s largest owner of upscale mobilehome parks, obtained published opinion reversing $6 million punitive damages verdict based on statutory construction argument advanced for the first time on appeal; click here for principal brief and opinion
  • Represented major developer, obtained published opinion reversing $1.4 million verdict in partnership dispute for trial court’s improper exclusion of key witness based on court’s criticism of his veracity; click here for principal brief and opinion
  • Represented owners of mobilehome park after adverse Court of Appeal decision on complex preemption issue, obtained review and reversal in California Supreme Court; click here for principal brief and opinion
  • Represented the FDIC in one of its major receiverships, the United States National Bank, obtained published opinion reversing district court’s refusal to rescind contract for sale of controlling interest in airline for breach of tender offer clause; click here for principal brief and opinion

Advocating professionalism

  • Author, “Toward a Community of Professionalism,” 3 Journal of Appellate Practice & Process 475 (Fall 2001) [Click here for text]
  • Author, “A New Way for Courts To Promote Professionalism,” 86 Judicature132 (Nov-Dec 2002     
  • Author, "Officers of a Court Do Not Plagiarize," 27:1 California Litigation 9 (Spring 2014) [Click here for text]
  • Founder and coordinator, California First Appellate District’s Bench-Bar Lunch Series for Professionalism (2004-2008)
  • Helped establish Gerald Brown Inn of Appellate Court, a professionalism project sponsored by the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, in San Diego (2002-2003)
  • Guest speaker, “Zeal and Restraint in Appellate Advocacy,” at the second meeting of the Gerald Brown Inn of Appellate Court (2004) [Click here for text]
  • Guest speaker on professionalism at First District Appellate Project’s training seminar (2005)
  • Panelist on "Appellate Ethics: Candor & Beyond” (Bar Assn. of San Francisco 2006)
  • Panelist on “Ethical Issues and Bias in Litigation” (Marin County Bar Assn. 2001)

Other publications

  • “Legal Rules and Rule Making,” 26 Syracuse Law Review 1195 (Fall 1975)   [Click here for text]
  • “Quick Guide to Civil Appellate Practice,” for the California Judicial Council (1986)
  • “Recoiling from Advance Sheets,” California Lawyer (Feb. 1987)
  • “The Other Half of Appellate Practice,” Barristers Law Quarterly (Dec. 1987)  [Click here for text]
  • “A Swift and Sure Settlement Appeal,” California Lawyer (June 1988)
  • •“On Speed and Quality in Appellate Decision Making,” The Recorder (Aug. 15, 1988) [Click here for text]
  • Chapter 3, “Appealable Orders and Judgments,” California Civil Appellate Practice (C.E.B. 3rd ed., 1997-present)  (originally co-authored with then partner E. Elizabeth Summers, currently with Jocelyn Sperling)
  • “A Call for Honesty about the Mercy Killing Initiative,”  The Recorder (Feb. 21, 1992) [Click here for text]

Law and CLE teaching

  • Instructor, New School for Social Research (1969-1970); course on law and society
  • Instructor, Harvard College (1971-1972); course on bioethics
  • Assistant Professor of Law, DePaul University (Chicago), 1972-1975; courses on bioethics, remedies, family law, law & psychiatry
  • Lectures on appellate evaluation for Bridgeport Continuing Education seminar, “Appellate Law & Practice” (2006 & 2007)
  • Panelist on “Appellate Ethics: Candor & Beyond” (Bar Assn. of San Francisco 2006)
  • Panelist for all-day Rutter Group program, “Appellate Advocacy 2004 – Learn from the Best”  (April & May 2004)
  • Lecture on “Evaluating and Molding the Civil Appeal: Art, Science & Ethics” (Bar Assn. of San Francisco 1996)
  • Boalt Hall School of Law, practitioner/adviser to Appellate Practice course
  • California Continuing Education of the Bar, Federal Practice Institute
  • California State Bar seminars on appellate practice
  • Lecture on appellate evaluation for Casualty Claims Assn. of San Francisco
  • Panelist on appellate advocacy for Hastings College of Trial and Appellate Advocacy
  • Lecture on basics of appellate practice (Marin County Bar Assn.)
  • Lecture on appellate practice for Law Seminars International
  • Private workshops for law firms and claims departments
  • Panelist for ABA Institute on Appellate Practice
  • Led workshop on legal writing for corporate counsel (Signet Series)
  • Panelist on publication and depublication of appellate opinions (Bar Assn. of  San Francisco)

Community service

  • In May 2022, started campaign with the Marin County Law Library and Marin County Bar Association to recruit volunteers to provide free consultations about civil appeals to self-represented litigants, culminating in first session in February 2023.  Developed  and circulated 108-page summary and resources in December 2022 geared for the self-represented.
  • Trustee of the Marin County Law Library (2014-2017)
  • Co-founder (2000) and chair (2000-2014), Marin County Judicial Fairness Committee, a joint project of the Marin County Bar Assn., Marin County Women Lawyers, and the Marin County Superior Court
  • Chairman of Board of Directors (2008-2009), Lifehouse (formerly Marin Assn. for Retarded Citizens); board member since 2002
  • Trustee of the Larkspur School Board, Larkspur and Corte Madera, CA  (1991-1992)
  • National Commissioner, Anti-Defamation League (1990-1996), and president of Northern California Region
  • Conceived and led successful project to raise $1.2 million to purchase dedicated open space in San Rafael, CA  (1983-1986)
  • Pro-bono appellate counsel for Marin County organizations opposing diversion of Buck Trust funds to “major projects” given unmet basic needs (1993-1994)
  • Pro-bono appellate counsel for class action by Holocaust survivors in Skokie, IL, seeking to limit traumatic effect of proposed march by neo-Nazi group (1976-1977)


2013-09-05 modestos opening brief.pdf
2018-01-08 slip opinion.pdf