Katherine Pratt Balatbat
Partner - Los Angeles
Katherine Balatbat started her legal career in the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. She worked in Skadden’s New York and Los Angeles offices, and in both the corporate and the litigation departments. She worked at Skadden from 1996 until 2003 before joining Valle Makoff.
Ms. Balatbat has a broad litigation practice, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in federal and state courts. She has represented clients in matters involving antitrust, communications, employment, and entertainment law as well as other complex business litigation. With Mr. Valle, Ms. Balatbat has obtained multi-million dollar jury verdicts for her clients and favorable decisions in arbitration. She also has obtained seven-figure settlements in a suit involving wrongful termination and in a suit involving theft of an idea.
In addition to her litigation experience, Ms. Balatbat has transactional experience. She has worked on a variety of corporate transactions, including private placements, public offerings, leveraged buyouts and mergers and acquisitions.
In 2000, Ms. Balatbat received a Special Commendation from the Governor of California and a Certificate of Recognition from the California Legislature. Ms. Balatbat has dedicated many hours to public service and pro bono legal work for individuals as well as non-profit organizations both at home and overseas.
Ms. Balatbat earned her law degree in 1996 from Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in political science from Northwestern University in 1991. Mrs. Balatbat is admitted to the State Bars of California and New York.
Managing Partner – San Francisco/Walnut Creek
Ms. Fenichel’s practice focuses on business and real estate disputes in civil and family law matters. She has extensive experience supervising and conducting complex discovery in federal and state cases and frequently is asked to consult about issues concerning the discovery of electronically stored information (ESI), third-party deposition subpoenas and requests for private and proprietary information. Ms. Fenichel enjoys long-term relationships with many of her clients and provides these clients with on-going risk management services for the duration of their business ventures.
Representative matters include:
- Represented commercial landlords with respect to various leasing issues, including lease terminations, required notices, unlawful detainer actions and breach of contract suits.
- Supervised the implementation of complex marital settlement agreements that involve the division of business interests, sale of jointly-held properties, the transfer or assignment of assets and final accountings.
- Successfully represented multiple owners in the partition of real estate interests and supervised the sale of the partitioned property.
- Supervised the identification, collection, review and production of ESI in numerous civil and family law matters. Hired and managed e-discovery vendors.
- Enforced judgments by garnishing wages, conducting debtor exams, levying bank accounts and forcing the sale of real and personal property.
- Successfully obtained court orders permitting a foreign party to obtain discovery from California parties for use in a foreign proceeding.
- Represented third-party deponents with respect to a variety of subpoena issues, including the protection of private, confidential and proprietary information, the permitted scope of deposition examination and the scope and manner in which documents are produced (including ESI).
- Represented a Florida-based financing company in multi-party federal litigation involving the sale of a fraudulent promissory note. During the 10 years in which the litigation was pending, Ms. Fenichel and Mr. Makoff handled a federal jury trial, two federal appeals, extensive discovery throughout the United States, and a variety of complex judgment enforcement procedures.
- Represented a manufacturing company in a dispute with its founder/former Chief Executive Officer concerning his termination. In addition to employment termination issues, the case involved corporate finance, shareholder dilution, and fiduciary duty issues.
- Represented a media client in various disputes pending in multiple counties with a vexatious litigant.
- Represented two partners in a partnership dispute with other partners concerning the ownership and development of two parcels of real property. Matter involved extensive discovery and forensic review of financial documents.
Ms. Fenichel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology in 1987 from the University of California at Berkeley, and she obtained her law degree in 1994 from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. While at Hastings College of the Law, Ms. Fenichel served as Editor-in-Chief of the Hastings Women’s Law Journal (1993-1994). After graduating from law school, Ms. Fenichel began her legal career under the tutelage of Jeffrey Makoff.
Prior to law school, Ms. Fenichel worked in development for the New England Aquarium in Boston, and she continues to be passionate about animal welfare, the arts and the environment.
Ms. Fenichel is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in the State of California, and she is a longtime member of Queen’s Bench.
Susan L. Klein
Partner - Los Angeles
Susan Klein has represented clients for more than 25 years in a wide range of business, entertainment and employment litigation matters, including partnership and private equity disputes, copyright and trademark actions, fraud and other business torts and securities litigation.
Ms. Klein joined Valle Makoff from The Walt Disney Company where she was Vice President-Counsel in the litigation department. During her more than 18 years at Disney, Ms. Klein handled litigation and related matters involving Disney’s diverse entertainment and media operations which include theme parks and resorts, motion pictures and television shows, consumer products, retail stores, internet offerings and cable networks.
In 2005, 2006 and 2007, Ms. Klein was named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine. This designation results from an evaluation process based on peer recognition of outstanding professional achievement.
Ms. Klein began her legal career in the Los Angeles office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP where she worked in the litigation department from 1984 until 1988, handling intellectual property, franchise, entertainment, securities, antitrust and general business litigation matters.
Ms. Klein earned her J.D. in 1984 from the University of California at Berkeley (“Boalt Hall”). She received her A.B. degree in Political Science, with distinction, from Stanford University, in 1980.
Active in pro bono matters, Ms. Klein was a member of the Executive Committee and served on the Board of Directors of the Western Center on Law and Poverty and on the Board of Directors of the Women Lawyers' Association of Los Angeles. Ms. Klein also served on the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.
Partner - Los Angeles
Ms. Laser is a seasoned business litigator with extensive expertise in handling all types of business disputes including complex contract litigation, tortious interference and misappropriation of trade secrets litigation, consumer class actions (including ADA, false advertisement and unfair competition claims), real estate, antitrust and other commercial litigation in both state and federal courts. Ms. Laser represents a wide range of clients, which include a national grocery retailer, a publicly-traded real estate firm, a private equity firm, entertainment companies, real estate investors and other businesses and individuals. For over twelve years, Ms. Laser practiced general commercial litigation at O'Melveny & Myers LLP, in its Century City office, and for two years at Boren, Osher & Luftman, LLP. Prior to joining O'Melveny & Myers, Ms. Laser clerked for the Honorable Ferdinand F. Fernandez at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Representative matters include:
- Representing Trader Joe's in various individual and class actions involving unfair business practices, tortious interference, ADA, First Amendment and Prop. 65 claims; second-chairing a jury trial that lead to non-liability verdict named one of the Top 10 Defense Verdicts of 2007 by the Daily Journal.
- Representing Clarity Partners, a private equity firm, and other private equity firms in several litigation matters involving portfolio companies.
- Representing a publicly-traded real estate firm in a variety of disputes with commercial tenants.
- Representing real estate investors in litigations arising from purchases of real estate and real estate based securities and loans; second-chairing a 4-week jury trial that resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict for plaintiffs-investors.
- Representing companies in disputes involving misappropriation of trade secrets and breaches of employment agreements by former executives.
- Representing a major motion picture studio in a class action involving unfair business practices and breach of warranty claims.
- Representing a national bank in an action for wrongful conversion of funds; trying the case as lead counsel and recovering $1 million in damages.
Ms. Laser earned her J.D. from Loyola Law School where she graduated summa cum laude and first in the class of 400 students. While in law school, Ms. Laser was a Fritz B. Burns Scholar, a Dean's Scholar, a member of St. Thomas More Law Honor Society, and Senior Note & Comment Editor of Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. Ms. Laser also earned a Bachelor of Science degree, summa cum laude, in Business Finance from the University of Southern California.
Ms. Laser has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia and speaks fluent Italian and Russian.
- Jennifer Laser and Carla J. Christofferson, Minding The Store: There are clear limits to the rights of activists on private retail property, Los Angeles Lawyer, June 2012, at 28.
- James Bo Pearl and Jennifer Laser, Pricing Conduct Beyond The Safe Harbor, Law360, July 29, 2010.
Jeffrey T. Makoff
Litigation & Mediation Partner - San Francisco/Walnut Creek
Northern California Super Lawyers, Business Litigation
Best Lawyers in America 2018
Jeff Makoff is a trial and appellate lawyer, and negotiator of complex business dispute settlements. He is admitted to practice in all California federal and state courts, in Washington, D.C. and Ohio. He arbitrates before AAA, JAMS and other panels and has been co-lead counsel in Delaware and Texas cases.
Mr. Makoff handles plaintiff and defense cases, and mediator, receiver and litigation trustee assignments. He is experienced in jury trials, court trials, arbitrations and federal and state appeals and writs. He has broad motion experience, including dismissals, summary judgments, anti-SLAPP motions (First Amendment) and trial motions. In corporate control matters, he advises clients on management, control, governance and employment issues in high technology, finance and other industries, and negotiates buyouts and management agreements for corporations/LLCs, partnerships, proprietorships, estates and their stakeholders. He handles many contested corporate and LLC dissolutions and intra-business disputes.
In family and trust/probate proceedings, Mr. Makoff advises on family dispute resolution, fiduciary obligations, Marvin (“palimony”) claims, business litigation, crisis management, business stabilization, complex asset management, division and disposition, compensation (including stock options/units and carried interests), asset-secured settlements, shareholder agreements, strategic legal and succession planning, internal and external communications and risk management. Mr. Makoff frequently assists family law professionals with business fraud investigations, fiduciary duties, business valuations, characterization of business interests, community/separate property apportionment, tort and injury claims that arise from intimate relationships, and with the discovery and analysis of electronically stored business information (ESI).
Mr. Makoff is the author of a chapter in CEB’s 2016 Practice Guide on “Understanding Fiduciary Duties in Business Entities” on the subject of “Fiduciary Duties in Family Businesses and Transactions.” He is the current Co-Chair of the Committee on Business Litigation of the Business Law Section of the California State Bar and a Trustee of the UC Hastings Law School Foundation. Mr. Makoff was trained at the leading international law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom under nationally-renowned trial lawyers Frank Rothman, Bill Masterson, Michael Diamond and James Lyons.
Mr. Makoff received his J.D. in 1985 from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Mr. Makoff received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1981, cum laude, from the University of California at Los Angeles. In 2013, Mr. Makoff completed the week-long “Mediating Disputes” program at the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.
Tim Miller founded the Silicon Valley office of Valle Makoff after 14 years as a litigation partner in the Northern California offices of the international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Mr. Miller has extensive experience litigating complex cases in federal and state courts.
Mr. Miller's practice includes a broad range of business and contract disputes, claims of trade secret misappropriation, claims against officers, directors and trustees asserting breach of fiduciary duty, claims of unfair business practices and unfair competition, business tort litigation, corporate and securities litigation, litigation arising from mergers and acquisitions and shareholder derivative litigation. He also represented special committees and individual members of Boards of Directors in connection with internal corporate and SEC investigations.
Since joining Valle Makoff, Mr. Miller has handled a variety of “business divorce” and other commercial and shareholder disputes, including the representation of:
- a co-founder and minority shareholder of a high tech startup in a dispute with his co-founder and various venture capital funds related to the recapitalization of the company;
- a majority member of a California LLC in a dispute with the minority members regarding his management of the company;
- a minority member of a closely-held California LLC engaged in real estate investment in a dispute with her partners under various operating agreements;
- a 50% shareholder of a closely-held family held business in shareholder disputes with the other shareholders and family members regarding the management and sale of the business;
- JD.com (the Amazon.com of China) in a dispute with Amazon regarding JD.com’s hiring of a former Amazon engineer;
- HP Inc. in confidential commercial disputes;
- a government sub-contractor in connection with breach of contract claims asserted by the prime contractor on a major, high profile contract with the Department of Energy;
- a manufacturer of innovative plumbing solutions in connection with its claims for millions of dollars of indemnification against the former owners of the business under an asset purchase agreement;
- a technology startup in connection with a dispute regarding the client’s acquisition of a business, resulting in a full rescission of the sale following Mr. Miller’s internal investigation;
- the former President and Chief Operating Officer of a retail chain in a dispute with the private equity owners of the company.
While at Skadden, Mr. Miller’s representations included:
- The National Football League in connection with a class action filed by retired players alleging that the players suffer from injuries and addictions resulting from the alleged improper administration of prescription drugs and painkillers during their playing days;
- The current and former independent directors of Hewlett-Packard Co. in connection with shareholder derivative and class actions arising from HP's $11.1 billion acquisition of Autonomy Corporation;
- Computer Sciences Corporation and certain former officers in consolidated shareholder federal class action litigation in the Eastern District of Virginia, arising in part from CSC's contract with the United Kingdom's National Health Service (acting through Connecting for Health) to establish a centralized patient record system in the United Kingdom;
- The former CEO of a publicly traded REIT in connection with claims of trade secret misappropriation by his former employer and to recover millions of dollars in severance withheld by the company he founded;
- A private equity fund asserting claims of fraud, breach of contract and indemnification against another private equity fund in connection with the sale of a portfolio company;
- A Japanese conglomerate in a dispute with its collaboration partner regarding the development of a new siRNA drug;
- The acquirer of Peet's Coffee & Tea in connection with shareholder litigation seeking to enjoin a $1 billion merger transaction;
- NRG Energy Inc. in an original proceeding brought in the California Court of Appeal by a competitor in the electronic vehicle charging market challenging a settlement between NRG and the California Public Utilities Commission pursuant to which NRG would invest $100 million in California's EV charging infrastructure;
- The investment banking division of UBS in connection with claims brought in California state court by private investors in Solidus Networks Inc. dba Pay By Touch;
- A special committee of the KLA-Tencor board of directors in connection with an investigation of past stock option granting practices, and the special litigation committee of the KLA board in connection with related shareholder derivative litigation;
- McKesson Corporation in connection with state and federal shareholder litigation arising from its 1999 restatement, including consolidated federal shareholder class action litigation, federal ERISA class action litigation and individual shareholder actions in multiple federal and state courts;
- The CEO of a company involved in the computerized algorithmic trading of securities in connection with claims of theft and trade secret misappropriation;
- A major investment bank in defense of a trade secret litigation arising from a contest for corporate control involving one of its clients; and
- Golden Eagle Insurance Co. in connection with the seizure by the California Department of Insurance of more than $2 billion in assets and the related insurance insolvency proceedings in the San Francisco Superior Court.
Mr. Miller has been selected repeatedly for inclusion in The U.S. News & World Report’s Best Lawyers in America for commercial litigation and is listed as a Super Lawyer in Business Litigation for 2018. He writes and speaks frequently on legal and business issues critical to public and private companies.
Mr. Miller received his Juris Doctor degree from the Boalt Hall School of Law (now UC Berkeley Law) in 1991. He graduated Order of Coif and served as an Associate Editor on the California Law Review. Mr. Miller graduated summa cum laude from Whitworth College in 1988 with a B.A. in Philosophy, where upon graduation he was awarded the President's Cup, Whitworth's highest academic honor. He is admitted to the California Bar.
John M. Moscarino
Partner - Los Angeles
John Moscarino represents both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of complex litigation matters in federal and state courts. His practice encompasses such diverse areas as professional malpractice, sports and entertainment, securities fraud, labor and employment, real estate, defamation, intellectual property, unfair competition and related business torts. In addition to his trial practice, Mr. Moscarino has handled numerous appeals. He regularly represents clients in arbitrations and mediations and has served as a mediator himself.
Mr. Moscarino has served as an expert witness in legal malpractice matters.
Mr. Moscarino has written and lectured extensively on a variety of business-related topics. He regularly teaches in the Deposition Skills program sponsored by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA).
Mr. Moscarino is:
- The youngest person on the Los Angeles Business Journal's 1997 list of the "50 Top L.A. Lawyers You Should Know."
- Profiled in the "20 under 40" feature of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journals.
- On the inaugural list of "Southern California Super Lawyers" in 2004 and listed as a "Super Lawyer" every year since then.
- A Charter Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America.
Mr. Moscarino is a graduate of both Dartmouth College and the UCLA School of Law and has been an active fundraiser for both.
- Won a $42 million verdict for his client in a fraud and malpractice case against a Big Five accounting firm arising out of that firm's engagement as an expert witness for the client. The case was aggressively litigated over nine years and generated four published opinions establishing significant precedents. Mattco Forge, Inc. v. Arthur Young & Co., Inc. 52 Cal.App 4th 920 (1997); 38 Cal. App. 4th 1337 (1995); 5 Cal. App. 4th 392 (1992); 223 Cal. App. 3d 1429 (1990).
- Successfully represented a real estate developer in establishing its right to enforce a $15 million liquidated damages provision in a promissory note that was secured by a first deed of trust.
- Represented a large national law firm in a multi-million dollar malpractice case winning dismissal of the case as time-barred under the statute of limitations. The California Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal, resolving a conflict in lower court opinions and adopting narrow construction of the "continuous representation" tolling provisions of the California attorney malpractice statute of limitations. Beal Bank, SSB v. Arter & Hadden LLP, 42 Cal. 4th 503 (2007).
- Represented a large international bank in a $35 million fraud case, ultimately recovering a significant portion of its losses.
- Represented two professional basketball players claiming that their business manager embezzled millions of dollars, winning a financial recovery from four separate defendants, and resulting in criminal conviction of the business manager.
- Successfully defended a real estate developer in an arbitration filed by a land planner who sought a multi-million dollar recovery arising out of the development of the Lake at Las Vegas project.
- Won dismissal on the first day of trial for former owners of a mining company who were named defendants in a securities fraud case.
- Won dismissal of a group of corporations and lawyers in a malicious prosecution case filed by an individual who had been acquitted in a criminal insurance fraud case.
- Won an arbitration for a professional basketball player whose shoe endorsement contract was terminated by the shoe manufacturer for an alleged violation of the morals clause in the contract.
- Represented a bank consulting company in a legal malpractice case brought against a local Los Angeles lawyer and his small law firm arising out of a claim for breach of a royalty agreement. The matter was favorably resolved after the first day of testimony.
- Won dismissal of a malpractice claim against a well-known Los Angeles litigation boutique in a malpractice case brought by the firm's former client.
- Represented a large national law firm in an interference with contract case in which the firm was sued for allegedly disregarding a law firm's lien when disbursing proceeds of a settlement. After a few strategically chosen depositions, the case settled for an amount far below the cost of defense.
- Represented a garment manufacturer in a malpractice action against its accountants for failing to detect embezzlement by a bookkeeper. The matter was resolved favorably to the client shortly after an accounting malpractice complaint was filed against the accounting firm.
- Advised the partners in a small Los Angeles law firm on structuring their partnership and the developing a system for dividing profits.
- Successful appeal overturning a seven figure trial court verdict where the client had been previously represented by another law firm. The Court of Appeal not only reversed the judgment, but ordered the judgment be entered in favor of the client, paving the way for a successful attorneys' fee motion.
- Successfully represented a lawyer who obtained an equitable lien on an attorneys' fees award in a civil forfeiture action.
Partner - Los Angeles
David Shukan is a litigator with more than 20 years of experience, specializing in Intellectual Property matters. Before joining Valle Makoff, Mr. Shukan was a partner in the Los Angeles office of Kirkland & Ellis for almost ten years. He has represented plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of matters, from complicated, protracted, high-tech Internet and healthcare patent cases for major companies, to a series of broad injunctions against a wave of knockoff scooters right before a big holiday selling season. In 2005, he was one of the principal drafters of a highly publicized patent settlement that brought his client more than $1 billion. He has handled dozens of trademark and trade dress disputes and assisted in the design of numerous litigation-related consumer surveys, including in one instance a ground-breaking survey on consumer color perception. He has also represented studios, directors, and authors in various entertainment-related matters, including copyright and idea-submission cases, production disputes, and negotiations. Understanding that many Intellectual Property clients have legal needs that extend beyond litigation, Mr. Shukan has also developed an expertise in Intellectual Property transactions, particularly in licensing and confidentiality agreements.
Mr. Shukan was named a Southern California Super Lawyer by Law & Politics Magazine in 2005 and 2006, an annual recognition based upon evaluations from other lawyers. He has also been honored by California Lawyers for the Arts for his commitment to pro bono work in the local artist community. And he has volunteered on occasion as a Judge Pro Tem, presiding over small claims cases in which both parties have agreed to have a temporary judge hear their dispute.
Mr. Shukan began his legal career in 1989 at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where he worked with Jeff Valle on numerous entertainment-related matters.
Mr. Shukan earned his J.D. degree with Honors from the University of Texas in 1989. He graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with a degree in Physics and a minor concentration in Theater.
Apart from his activities as a lawyer, Mr. Shukan sits on the Board of the Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA), a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and providing academic and social programs for highly gifted children. Several times a year he designs and leads puzzle and game workshops for students in IEA programs. Mr. Shukan himself is a long-time puzzle and game enthusiast, having published several crossword and related puzzles, designed board games, and written and competed in, and occasionally won, some of the largest puzzle events in the country.
Jeffrey B. Valle
Partner - Los Angeles
Jeffrey B. Valle is an experienced litigator and former senior partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, one of the nation’s preeminent law firms. Mr. Valle has more than 25 years of litigation experience. He has represented Fortune 500 companies, smaller businesses and high profile individual clients in a wide range of commercial and business disputes. Mr. Valle also specializes in entertainment and intellectual property litigation. He was the co-head of the Skadden, Arps west coast entertainment and intellectual property group. Mr. Valle has successfully conducted many trials, arbitrations and mediations in state and federal courts throughout California. He has an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the organization’s highest rating for attorneys. Mr. Valle was selected as one of Southern California’s 2009 and 2013-2017 Super Lawyers by Thomson-Reuters and he was selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in Intellectual Property and a Top Rated Lawyer in Labor and Employment law by American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell.
Mr. Valle has received numerous awards and commendations, including a Special Commendation from the Governor of California and a Certificate of Recognition from the California Legislature for his highly successful trial work. Mr. Valle also taught a required class on First Amendment Law as an adjunct professor at the University of California at Los Angeles for many years. He is a recognized expert on First Amendment issues and has commented frequently in print and electronic media on various legal issues.
Mr. Valle also has a commitment to public service and pro bono legal work. At Skadden, Mr. Valle headed the firm’s West Coast Pro Bono Practice. He also served as the President of the Board of Directors of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, a public interest law firm, from 1997 to 2003. In 1997, the American Civil Liberties Union awarded Mr. Valle the Pro Bono Civil Liberties Award.
Mr. Valle received his J.D. in 1983 from the University of California at Berkeley (“Boalt Hall”). Mr. Valle received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1980 from the University of California at Los Angeles. He was an associate at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker from 1983 until 1986. He joined Skadden as an associate in 1986. He was elected to the partnership in 1991. He was a Skadden partner from 1991 until 2002, when he left the firm and formed Valle Makoff.
Mr. Valle is also a talented jazz pianist. His band, Evolution, plays at clubs and private parties in the Los Angeles area.
Examples of clients Mr. Valle has represented include:
Commerical and Business Litigation
American Medical International
Estee Lauder Companies
Fujita Corporation USA
Global Crossing Ltd.
Greka Energy Corp.
MGM Grand, Inc.
News Corporation, Inc.
Occidental Petroleum Corp.
Petrie Retail, Inc.
Pizza Hut, Inc.
Sumitomo Trust & Banking
Taco Bell Corp.
Tyson Foods, Inc.
American Media, Inc.
Bauer Media L.P.
James L. Brooks
Creative Artists Agency, Inc.
Curtis Circulation Company
Home Box Office, Inc.
Kable Distribution Services, Inc.
Motion Picture Association of America
Miramax Film Corp.
Darren Starr (creator of “ Melrose Place” and “Sex and The City”)
Time Warner Inc.
The Walt Disney Company
Josef D. Houska
Sr. Counsel - Los Angeles
Josef D. Houska's experience is founded on business transactions and estate planning, which developed into handling contested business, intellectual property, conservatorships, Wills, Trusts and probates, and financial abuse matters.
Mr. Houska has served the public interest in many roles. From 2006 to 2008, Mr. Houska was a member of a Financial Abuse Specialist Team, along with the FBI, the District Attorney's office, the Sheriff's Department, Adult Protective Services, the IRS and other entities. From 1999 to 2006, he served as a member of the steering committee for the South Coast Business and Technology Awards Dinner, which raised net proceeds of over $100,000 every year since 2001 for charity.
Mr. Houska received his J.D. in 1990 from the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, receiving the American Jurisprudence Awards in Property and Insurance Law and obtaining an Editorship of the Loyola Law Review. Mr. Houska earned an M.B.A. in 1986 from the University of California at Berkeley ("Hass School of Business"), during which he was selected and served as a Washington Campus scholar in the District of Columbia and an International Exchange Program scholar at the London Business School. Mr. Houska received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1982 from the University of California at Los Angeles. From 1996 to 2006, he was an associate at Hatch & Parent and at Mullen & Henzell. He joined Valle Makoff LLP in 2010 and became Senior Counsel with the firm in January 2012.
Steven M. Ragona
Senior Counsel - Los Angeles
Steven Ragona started his career at Girardi & Keese in Los Angeles, a plaintiffs’ law firm specializing in mass tort cases, professional malpractice, insurance litigation and personal injury. He joined the Los Angeles office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 1997, where he worked until 2003 before joining Valle Makoff.
Mr. Ragona’s practice focuses on complex commercial, insurance and business litigation matters and class action lawsuits. He also has litigation experience in matters involving securities law, intellectual property and constitutional law. Over the years, Mr. Ragona has been involved in matters such as:
- Defeating certification of a nationwide class action lawsuit brought against Farmers Insurance Company challenging their claims handling policies;
- Obtaining dismissal of a California class action lawsuit brought against State Farm Insurance Company challenging their procedures for payment of third party claims;
- Obtaining summary judgment for Bear Stearns in a misappropriation of trade secrets case arising out of a hostile tender offer;
- Representing Ohio Casualty Insurance Company in Proposition 103 rate rollback proceedings before the California Department of Insurance; and
- Successfully representing Cytec Industries, Inc. in a commercial dispute regarding the development and exploitation of composites technology.
Mr. Ragona earned his law degree in 1995 from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, graduating cum laude and order of the coif. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in English literature from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1989. Mr. Ragona is a member of the California and Los Angeles County bar associations.
Senior Counsel - Los Angeles
Ilan Wisnia is senior counsel with Valle Makoff, where he specializes in sports, entertainment, and business litigation. This includes the representation of professional athletes, sports and talent agencies, film studios, and production companies. He has extensive experience in litigating claims before both state and federal courts, as well as the California Labor Board, FINRA, AAA, and JAMS.
In addition, Mr. Wisnia has a strong commitment to public service, and has worked on a variety of pro bono matters. This includes working with Public Counsel to represent a homeowner who had been fraudulently induced into entering into a predatory home loan, as well as working with Bet Tzedek to defend a mother and her children from being wrongfully evicted.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Wisnia worked at Lions Gate Entertainment, where he focused on international film distribution.
Mr. Wisnia earned his law degree in 2006 from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in International Relations from Tufts University in 2001. Mr. Wisnia is a member of the State Bar of California and is admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
Recent Litigation Experience
- Representing a professional basketball player accused by a marketing company of breaching a joint venture agreement;
- Representing a professional basketball player accused by a sports television network and television producer of breaching an agreement to participate in an online reality series;
- Representing a professional basketball player accused of being part of a ponzi scheme;
- Representing a film studio in bringing a trademark infringement suit against individuals who had registered federally trademarked names as their own in various state and county government offices;
- Representing a sports agency in bringing suit to recover unpaid fees owed by a former client; and
- Advising various studios and television networks as to possible copyright infringement claims against an online entity that hosts links to the location of infringing television and film content.
Patrick T. Freeman
Associate - San Francisco/Walnut Creek
Mr. Freeman earned his J.D. in 2015 from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Rhetoric in 2009 from the University of California, Berkeley. While at Hastings, Mr. Freeman received CALI Excellence Awards in Legal Writing and Research and Cyberlaw. He also was an editor for the Hastings Law Journal and a mediator for the Civil Justice Mediation Clinic. Mr. Freeman also served as an extern to the Honorable Jon S. Tigar in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
Mr. Freeman joined Valle Makoff as an associate in 2015 and has trained extensively with senior trial attorney Jeff Makoff and other partners of the firm. Mr. Freeman has experience in trial and appellate litigation, handling plaintiff and defense cases in complex business, commercial and contract lawsuits, and business-related issues in family proceedings. He has broad motion experience, including summary judgments, and discovery and trial motions. Mr. Freeman also has experience in contested corporate and LLC dissolutions and intra-business disputes involving control and management issues. He also assists family law professionals with business litigation and complex discovery issues, “Marvin” claims, and spousal fiduciary duties.
Mr. Freeman has been involved in matters such as:
- Obtaining reversal on appeal of directed verdict and key evidentiary ruling in a San Francisco hedge fund partner compensation and tort case
- Defeating contested writ petition (after Palma notice)
- Obtaining favorable summary judgment decision against multi-million-dollar contract claim
- Obtaining favorable decision to avoid involuntary dissolution of LLCs valued at over $20MM
- Litigation and settlement of complex contract claim regarding stock purchase agreement with technology company
- Litigation and favorable settlement for homeowners of claims by unlicensed contractor
- Litigation and settlement (following two-day mediation) for defendant of commercial claims arising from a personal relationship (called “Marvin” claims under California law)
- Litigation and settlement of “Marvin” claims for plaintiff
- Litigation and settlement of marital dissolution involving property division and compensation issues (including stock options/units)
- Settlement of trademark dispute with apparel manufacturer
- Asset-secured settlement (through acquisition) of LLC control and management dispute involving technology company
- Buyout agreement resolving LLC control and management dispute involving finance-related company
- Buyout agreement resolving LLC control and management dispute involving real estate development company
Mr. Freeman is a member of the State Bar of California and is admitted to practice in all California state courts, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Thomas D. Haley
Associate - Silicon Valley Office
Mr. Haley joined Valle Makoff after practicing for five years in the general litigation group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Mr. Haley's practice experience includes a broad range of complex commercial, securities, and class action lawsuits. Mr. Haley has been involved in matters such as:
- Obtaining dismissal of a putative class action lawsuit asserting claims under the Securities Exchange Act against a major telecommunication and wireless equipment company;
- Obtaining dismissal of claims under the Federal Wiretap Act against a Fortune 500 technology company following controversy surrounding mobile device software known as Carrier IQ;
- Obtaining a favorable settlement on behalf of the co-founder and former CEO of a publicly traded REIT after the company refused to make severance payments; and
- Obtaining a favorable settlement on behalf of an internet startup of a variety of claims asserted by an industry heavyweight arising out of the client's alleged scraping and distribution of ads posted on the plaintiff's service.
Mr. Haley received his law degree in 2010 from The University of Chicago Law School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pomona College in 2007. Mr. Haley is admitted to practice in the States of California and New York.
Nuritsa S. Ksachikyan
Associate - Los Angeles
Ms. Ksachikyan joined Valle Makoff after nearly ten years of practice at O'Melveny & Myers specializing in e-Discovery and complex litigation discovery. Ms. Ksachikyan has experience managing large teams of attorneys in processing, reviewing and producing millions of documents for complex litigation cases, including securities, intellectual property, RICO, conspiracy, and antitrust matters. Ms. Ksachikyan has coordinated the work of various service providers and technology-assisted review vendors. She is proficient in a broad range of e-Discovery hosting and review tools including, inter alia, EED, iConect, Concordance, Ringtail, Attenex, Xerox, Discovery Radar, Kroll Ontrack, Stroz Friedberg and Relativity.
Ms. Ksachikyan is also licensed to practice before the US Patent & Trademark Office and has represented clients in patent prosecution and other intellectual property matters.
Ms. Ksachikyan's practice also includes pro bono work. She has represented clients in Holocaust Reparations programs. And, for more than five years, Ms. Ksachikyan managed a pro bono program, including co-authoring the course manual, which provides mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) seminars to attorneys representing immigration detainees at bond hearings before the immigration courts. Ms. Ksachikyan has participated in annual roundtable discussions with the Los Angeles Immigration Court judges and leading pro bono service providers in the community, on increasing pro bono representation in the courts.
Ms. Ksachikyan received her J.D. in 2002 from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. She received a Bachelor of Sciences Degree in Physiological Sciences, with a minor in Armenian Studies, in 1999 from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Ms. Ksachikyan is fluent in written and spoken Armenian, and is a member of the Armenian Bar Association.
Associate - San Francisco/Walnut Creek
Ms. Makoff practices in the areas of commercial litigation and fiduciary duties, especially related to management and control of private and family business enterprises, business buyouts and the management and disposition of complex assets, related negotiations and trial practice.
Ms. Makoff received her J.D. in 2017 from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. She graduated from Hamilton College with a Bachelor of Arts in 2012 (Public Policy) and attended St. Paul's School (New Hampshire). Ms. Makoff was an editor of the Cardozo Law Review with a published Note, Judicial Dissolution Under New York's Limited Liability Company Laws: Should Breaking Up Be This Hard to Do?, 38 Cardozo L. Rev. 1541 (2017). During law school, Ms. Makoff served as an extern for the Honorable Arthur F. Engoron at the New York County Supreme Court and had a summer position with the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Prior to law school, Ms. Makoff worked as a case clerk at Clyde & Co. U.S. LLP in San Francisco and at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in New York City.
Ms. Makoff is admitted to practice law in California.
Associate - Los Angeles
Julie J. Roback began her career at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, where she worked from 1994 until 1998. From 1998 until 2000 she was an associate at Diamond & Ostrow LLP. She is currently an associate with Valle Makoff.
Ms. Roback has more than 15 years of business, commercial and labor litigation experience. Over the years, Ms. Roback has been involved in matters such as:
- Obtaining a $2 million arbitration award on behalf of Taco Bell Corp. in a breach of contract dispute;
- Obtaining a settlement on behalf of Ernst Paul Lehman Patentwerk, a model train manufacturer, in a false advertising and breach of contract lawsuit;
- Defending City National Bank in a lawsuit alleging sex and race discrimination; and
- Defending Pacific Shore Funding in a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
Ms. Roback received her J.D. in 1994 from Loyola University School of Law, Chicago, Illinois, where she received two American Jurisprudence Awards and finished in the top ten percent of her class. Ms. Roback received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991 from the University of Michigan.
Of Counsel - San Francisco/Walnut Creek
Peter Clapp has broad experience in all aspects of business reorganization and bankruptcy. From 1983 – 2004, he was a member of the corporate reorganization department at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, in the firm’s New York and Los Angeles offices. At Skadden, he represented debtors, creditors, and other participants in complex chapter 11 cases and in the full range of litigation that arises under the Bankruptcy Code.
After leaving Skadden, Mr. Clapp served for two years as General Counsel and Secretary to a $100 million manufacturing-distribution company, responsible for all commercial, IP, real estate, employment, and other legal matters.
Mr. Clapp has published articles on the duties of directors of financially troubled companies, the treatment of pension and retiree claims in bankruptcy, bankruptcy reform legislation, and other matters. He graduated magna cum laude from Hastings College of the Law in 1982, where he was Note and Comment Editor on the Hastings Law Journal. His B.A. is from Columbia University, where he majored in Asian Studies.
Mr. Clapp is an adjunct instructor at JFKU Law School (corporate and partnership law; contract drafting and interpretation) and at St. Mary’s College (business law).