A Tenacious Trial & Appellate Lawyer

John has won some of the most high-profile litigations in the region in recent years, including the successful defense of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax in Williams v. City of Philadelphia and securing marriage rights for same-sex couples in the landmark decision in Whitewood v. Wolf.

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Honored & Recognized

John was named an “Influencer of Law” by the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2019, one of only 12 business litigators selected. He was also named to the Philadelphia Business Journal's “40 Under 40” list in 2017, among several other honors and awards.

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Speaker & Author

John is a co-author, editor, and advisory board member of three Pennsylvania practice guides for Lexis-Nexis covering pretrial, discovery, and trial issues. His most recent speaking engagements include presentations on deposition techniques and ethical issues for lawyers when communicating with the media.

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John S. Stapleton, a trial and appellate lawyer, focuses his practice on complex business and government disputes and frequently handles high profile and high stakes matters. John takes pride in the diversity of his clients’ businesses and the variety and depth of his experiences.

His clients include financial institutions, real estate companies, retailers, government agencies, and other businesses and individuals. John regularly litigates issues concerning intellectual property rights, especially copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets, tax, restrictive covenants, licensing and other business contracts, partnership disputes, fraud, real estate, RICO, ERISA, government regulations, class actions, and business torts. He practices in the firm’s Philadelphia and New Jersey offices.

Several publications and organizations have honored John. In 2019, he was recognized as an “Influencer of Law” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, and in recent years the Philadelphia Business Journal named John to its “40 Under 40” list, Billy Penn named him one of 16 of Philadelphia’s “next great stars in law” in its “Who’s Next Law” list, and The Legal Intelligencer named him a “Lawyer on the Fast Track.” Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine has recognized him repeatedly, both as a “Rising Star” (2012 – 2017) and as one of the state’s top attorneys (2018 – 2019).

From 2016-2018, John was a leader in the successful defense of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax in Williams v. City of Philadelphia, registering victories at each level of the litigation, from the trial court through the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The case received extensive national attention. In 2011, he argued before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court during its first-ever televised proceedings. An engaging speaker, John frequently presents at legal and community associations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey regarding substantive legal issues and litigation tactics. He is the co-author of several chapters concerning all aspects of discovery and motions for summary judgment in Lexis-Nexis’ Pennsylvania Civil Pre-Trial Practice Guide, and he has been published in both The Legal Intelligencer and the New Jersey Law Journal.

John’s pro bono work is as deep as his commercial litigation experiences, including serving as one of the lead attorneys for the firm in Whitewood v. Wolf, obtaining the landmark ruling striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, representing abused children and youth removed from their homes, obtaining asylum for a Colombian national before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and serving as court-appointed pro bono counsel for various matters before the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. In 2017, the Support Center for Child Advocates named John a “Distinguished Advocate,” for his work representing abused and neglected children since 2006.

Prior to joining Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, John practiced in the litigation department of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York.

John is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

Memberships & Community

ACLU of Pennsylvania, Legal Advisory Committee, 2014 – Present

Volunteers of America/UrbanPromise Legal Clinic (Camden, NJ), Advisory Board, 2018 – Present

Southern New Jersey Advisory Board to Devereux – New Jersey, Chair, 2011 – 2017

Leadership, Inc., Philadelphia Class of 2011

University of Pennsylvania American Inn of Court, Past Member

Representative Business Litigations

  • Secured complete victory for major defense contractor after week-long arbitration regarding allegations that the contractor owed millions in fair market royalties under a patent and license royalty agreement for suite of military training software
  • Secured complete victory for former partner of major international law firm after two-day arbitration against the firm for breach of contract in its attempt to enforce financial penalties for the partner’s departure
  • Represent major defense contractor against multiple sub-contractors for breaches of supply and servicing contracts
  • Defense of investment bank and individuals accused of ERISA and related violations arising from sophisticated tax-advantaged financial transaction worth hundreds of millions of dollars
  • Defense of major food manufacturer and distributor in allegations of breach of contract for supply of turkey meat
  • Brought successful challenge on behalf of Pennsylvania real estate company against major, national home builder for breach of contract, seeking specific performance requiring the purchaser of real estate to close on the contract
  • Represented real estate investment company against New Jersey township and citizen organizations in disputes to invalidate township’s conditions for approvals imposed on $20 million land purchase and development
  • Defense of New York hedge funds and individuals accused of RICO and related violations arising from multi-million dollar defaults on trades on a regional transmission organization’s electricity derivative market
  • Brought successful challenge for California manufacturer of automotive key transponders against Pennsylvania company for copyright and trademark violations arising from infringing software source code and hardware
  • Defense of international technology company in New Jersey products liability suit arising from allegedly defective refrigeration equipment
  • Obtained dismissal on summary judgment for national manufacturer and designer of concrete silo against claims for breaches of contract and negligence
  • Secured dismissal of putative class action against numerous financial institutions arising from a mortgage broker’s alleged Ponzi scheme impacting hundreds of Pennsylvania homeowners
  • On appeal, successfully obtained the complete reversal of a $19 million medical malpractice verdict, which followed a seven-week jury trial in Monmouth County, New Jersey
  • Represent pharmacy in disputes with New Jersey hospital concerning claims for breaches of a restrictive covenant and related disputes
  • Numerous litigations regarding restrictive covenants across numerous industries including financial institutions, brokerage institutions, gaming, and others

Representative Government Litigations

  • Representation of major retailer in several tax liability disputes with New Jersey’s Division of Taxation
  • Currently defend the City of Philadelphia and its implementation of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax
  • Obtained complete dismissal to challenge to City of Philadelphia’s property tax assessment system
  • On behalf of cigar and tobacco distributors and retailers, brought successful challenge to invalidate the City of Philadelphia’s “Blunt Ban”
  • Represent a major outdoor advertising and billboard company against a citizen group’s Constitutional challenge to the erection and maintenance of a digital billboard
  • Defended Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industries against RICO and related claims arising from the Department’s debarment of a contractor for violations of Pennsylvania’s Prevailing Wage Act
  • Defended Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services for alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s Administrative Procedures Act
  • Defended Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State’s certification of electronic voting machines

Representative Pro Bono Litigations

  • Following evidentiary hearing before the District of New Jersey, obtained writ of habeas corpus from a state court conviction and the vacation of client’s 18-year old conviction and sentence.
  • Obtained the landmark ruling striking down Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
  • With the Support for Child Advocates, continuous representation of abused and neglected children since 2006
  • Obtained asylum for a Colombian national before the Board of Immigration Appeals, reversing the adverse determination by the Immigration Judge
  • Represented New Jersey public school teacher in “Donaldson” hearing regarding denied tenure contract
  • Court-appointed pro bono counsel for the United States District Court for District of New Jersey
  • First Judicial District of Pennsylvania Pro Bono Honor Roll, 2006 – present

Honors & Awards

Named an “Influencer of Law” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, 2019

Named one of BillyPenn.com’s “Who’s Next – Law” honorees, 2017

Named one of the Philadelphia Business Journals “40 Under 40,” 2017

Named a “Distinguished Advocate” by the Support Center for Child Advocates, 2017

Named a “Lawyer on the Fast Track” by The Legal Intelligencer and Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 2014

Named by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine as one of the state’s top attorneys as the result of a statewide survey of lawyers (2018 – 2019)

Named by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine as a Rising Star as the result of a statewide survey of lawyers, 2012 – 2017

First Judicial District of Pennsylvania Pro Bono Roll of Honor, 2006 – present

University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Research Editor

University of Pennsylvania Law School, Arthur Littleton and H. Clayton Louderback Legal Writing Instructor

Award Methodologies

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Teaching & Lecturing

Presenter, “Preparing Corporate Employees for Deposition and Trial,” Greater Philadelphia ACC Litigation Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 13, 2018 (with Alan C. Promer and Steven Fram)

Presenter, “Avoid Making Headlines for the Wrong Reasons: Ethical Issues When Making Statements in the Media,” Greater Philadelphia Association of Corporate Counsel In-House Counsel Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 25, 2018 (with Jason A. Levine, Marcel Pratt, and Julia Pudlin)

Co-lecturer, “Deposition Boot Camp,” University of Pennsylvania Law School, January 2016

Faculty Presenter, “Same Sex Marriage Ruling and Workplace Policies,” Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs’ 2015 Annual Pennsylvania Municipal Legal Update, Hershey, Pennsylvania, August 26-27, 2015

Facilitator and Faculty Presenter, “The Art of the Deposition: Taking, Defending and Preparing for Depositions,” Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 4-5, 2015

Faculty Presenter, “Pennsylvania Marriage Equality: A New Dawn,” Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 23, 2014

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Chapter Author, Pennsylvania Civil Pre-Trial Practice and Pennsylvania Civil Trial Practice, Lexis-Nexis, January 2017 (edited by the Honorable Daniel J. Anders and Bobby Ochoa, III)

SCOTUS Ruling Shows Limits of Securities Exchange Act’s Exclusive Jurisdiction Clause: A look at the implications of Merrill Lynch v. Manning,” New Jersey Law Journal, May 20, 2016

“U.S. Supreme Court’s Splintered Decision on State Voter ID Law: More Questions Than Answers,” The Legal Intelligencer & Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Litigation Supplement), July 14, 2008 (with Daniel Segal)

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