Over the past thirty years GMSR partner Tim Coates has briefed and argued more than 250 matters in the state and federal appellate courts, ranging from the California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, as well as the United States Supreme Court. Tim devotes a substantial portion of his practice to representing public entities in a wide variety of matters, including tort liability, land use, inverse condemnation, public utility regulation, labor and employment proceedings, with a particular emphasis on federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has also represented managed care organizations and other healthcare providers in medical malpractice actions, breach of contract and bad faith claims, and regulatory matters under the Medicare and Medicaid Acts.
Among the highlights of Tim's career are his five arguments before the United States Supreme Court, most recently in Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, __U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 710 (2013). Tim had previously argued Messerschmidt v. Millender, __U.S. __, 132 S.Ct.1235 (2012), Los Angeles County v. Humphries, 562 U.S.__, 131 S.Ct. 447 (2010), John Van de Kamp, et al. v. Thomas Lee Goldstein 556 U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 855, 2009 U.S. LEXIS 1003 (2009) and County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991), the latter argument recounted in the article First Arguments at the Supreme Court of the United States, a Collection of Essays for The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process, Volume 5/Number 1, Spring 2003. The title of Tim's essay, I Couldn't Wait To Argue, succinctly summed up Tim's delight with the experience and enthusiasm for appellate advocacy and oral argument in particular. In November 2013, Tim won his sixth case in the United States Supreme Court, this time by summary reversal without oral argument, in Stanton v. Sims, 571 U.S. __, 34 S. Ct. 3 (2013), where the Court held that Tim’s client, a police officer, was entitled to qualified immunity for pursuing a fleeing misdemeanant into a residence.
Based on his repeated success in representing public entities in the United States Supreme Court, Reuters News identified Tim as a “Top Petitioner” and one of the elite 66 lawyers whose appeals were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the Court than were all others filed by private lawyers during the applicable period. http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/scotus/. Tim has also been named a Southern California Super Lawyer in the area of appellate practice from 2007-2016. The Los Angeles Daily Journal included Tim in its list of the Top 100 Lawyers in California for 2009, describing Tim as a go-to lawyer “for a major federal appeal,” and again named him one of the Top 100 Lawyers in 2011, 2012 and 2013 for his continued success in the United States Supreme Court. California Lawyer magazine’s March 2010 issue named Tim as one of the California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year for appellate law. Tim has also been named in The Best Lawyers In America (Appellate Law) (2014-2016).
Tim is a native Californian. He received his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Southern California in 1979 and his law degree from the UCLA School of Law in 1983, where he was a primary editor of the UCLA-Alaska Law Review.
Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council (2013) __U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 710 — GMSR partner Tim Coates was victorious in the United States Supreme Court, convincing the Court to unanimously reverse a judgment against GMSR client the Los Angeles County Flood Control District. The Court held that the Ninth Circuit had erred in holding the District liable for violations of the Clean Water Act based solely on polluted water flowing through portions of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers maintained and improved by the District. The Court found that there could not be a “discharge” of pollutants under the Act based solely on water moving through improved portions of a river into other portions of the same river.
Messerschmidt v. Millender (2012) 565 U.S. ____; 132 S.Ct. 1235 — Tim Coates and Lillie Hsu obtained a 6-3 decision from the United States Supreme Court for two Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies in Messerschmidt v. Millender (2012) 565 U.S. ____; 132 S.Ct. 1235. After a gang member fired a sawed-off shotgun at his ex-girlfriend, the officers obtained a warrant to search for all firearms and gang-related items at a residence where they believed the gang member was staying. The residents sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging the search violated the Fourth Amendment. In a critical decision for law enforcement, the Supreme Court held that the deputies were entitled to qualified immunity and thus could not be held personally liable for civil damages. The Court reasoned that given the circumstances of the crime, the officers could reasonably have concluded that there was a fair probability the suspect owned other illegal firearms besides the one used in the crime and that seizing them was necessary to prevent further assaults on the victim. The Court also reasoned that the officers could reasonably believe gang-related materials would be relevant to prosecuting the suspect. The Court clarified that review of the warrant by the officers’ superior, an attorney, and a magistrate was relevant to analyzing qualified immunity.
Los Angeles County v. Humphries (2010) 562 U.S. ____; 131 S.Ct. 447 — Tim Coates, Alison Turner and Lillie Hsu obtained a unanimous decision from the United States Supreme Court for the County of Los Angeles in Los Angeles County v. Humphries (2010) 562 U.S. ____; 131 S.Ct. 447. In a critical decision for cities and counties, the Supreme Court agreed with Los Angeles County that a municipality cannot not be subjected to declaratory or injunctive relief in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 unless the plaintiff establishes that an injury was inflicted as a result of a policy, custom or practice fairly attributable to the local public entity – the same causation standard that the Supreme Court applies to claims for damages. Mere involvement of a municipal employee is not enough: Relief is not appropriate unless the plaintiff points to some local statute, regulation or widespread practice that local policy makers should know will result in a constitutional violation.
John Van de Kamp, et al. v. Thomas Lee Goldstein (2009) 129 S.Ct. 855 — Prosecutorial immunity for decisions concerning the manner in which the District Attorney’s office implemented policies and training concerning the use of jail house informants and related decisions regarding disclosure of exculpatory information.
County of Riverside v. McLaughlin (1991) 500 U.S. 44 — The Supreme Court reversed a Ninth Circuit injunction against GMSR's client that required warrantless arrestees to be taken before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest, expanding the time period to 48 hours.