Joseph J. Santarone Jr.

Chair, Public Entity & Civil Rights Practice Group
Chair, School Leaders' Liability Practice Group
Senior Counsel

Joe is a member of a firm wide, multidisciplinary group – Marshall Dennehey COVID-19 Task Force – created to address and support your real-time legal and business concerns in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe serves as the chair of the Public Entity and Civil Rights practice group as well as the School Leaders' Liability practice group. In this capacity, he is responsible for the activities of some 25 attorneys firmwide. The focus of Joe's practice has been in the defense of police officers, municipalities, school districts, public officials, and both private and public sector employers. He has tried in excess of 100 jury trials to verdict in federal court in the areas of civil rights and employment litigation.

Additionally, Joe serves as the supervising attorney for Professional Liability in the Philadelphia office. He has handled numerous professional liability claims, often at the request of the professionals who finds themselves a defendant. In addition to trying many cases to verdict in both federal and state courts, Joe has defended matters at administrative, public hearing and AAA Arbitrations.

In 1976 Joe graduated from LaSalle University and began work as a probation officer for the City of Philadelphia. While working full time, Joe attended the Widener University School of Law where he graduated with honors in 1985. He has been with Marshall Dennehey his entire legal career.

Significant Representative Matters

Successfully defended a Bucks County Township against claims of age discrimination as a reason for dismissal brought by its former Human Resources Director. The plaintiff had sought back pay, bonuses, actual damages, punitive damages, attorneys fees and injunctive relief. The Judge granted summary judgment in favor of the Township and dismissed the plaintiff's case.

Represented a Chester County School District in Federal Court in a case arising out of repeated sexual assaults by a 15 year old student against a 10 year old.  Plaintiff’s demand never went below $5 million.  Summary Judgment in favor of the School District.  

Defense verdict in a discrimination case before the U.S. District Court of Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff's termination from employment was, in part, based on the statements of women in the shelter where plaintiff worked whose identities could not be disclosed and did not testify. We argued that the decision makers' state of mind was what was relevant and that the statements of the women in the shelter were not hearsay since they were not offered for the truth of the matter asserted. The plaintiff appealed and the case was affirmed by the 3rd Circuit. 

Obtained a defense verdict for Montgomery County and the District Attorney. A Montgomery County detective sued the District Attorney following his termination for poor job performance. The initial granting of Summary Judgment by the Eastern District of Federal Court was reversed by the 3rd Circuit and remanded for trial. The court found the reasons for the termination were not a pretext for unlawful discrimination. 

Successfully defended three different civil rights suits where police officers shot suspects in the back, where it was later learned the suspects were unarmed. 

Defense verdict in jail suicide case where the entire suicide was caught on video tape and played before the jury. 

Successfully defended school district in IDEA case for alleged failure to provide special education for female high school student. 

Defense verdict for County in wrongful termination and defamation case where health department employee was discharged, E. coli outbreak and Commissioner identified her in pubic newscasts. 

Defense verdict for a County brought by employee claiming his termination was based on race. 

Defense verdict for private employer where plaintiff alleged age and sex discrimination. 

Defense verdict for numerous police officers involved in arrest of a minister who suffered a heart attack after alleged excessive force. The plaintiff turned down a significant offer to settle before the lengthy trial resulted in complete exoneration for the officers. 

Successfully defended and argued in the 3rd Circuit, which affirmed in favor of the officers, in significant case where criminal defendant, with no prior record, spend 11 months in jail on charges of killing his parents before the charges where dropped. Case is often cited on issues of probable cause. 

Grant of Summary Judgment, which was affirmed by 3rd Circuit, in case where a teacher was arrested for stealing supplies but later cleared. The 3rd Circuit opinion is cited by many courts regarding the issues of reliance by police on eye witnesses for issues of establishing probable cause. 

Classes/Seminars Taught

Municipal & Civil Rights Issues In School Litigation, School Claims Services LLC, December 12, 2014

Case Study: Police Matter Resulting in Dealth Following Repeated Deployments of a TASER, Delaware Valley Insurance Trust, June 2013

ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and Its Impact on Employers and EPL Insurers, USLI, November 1, 2011

What is Hearsay, City of Philadelphia Law Department, February 1, 2011

Exposure in Education Cases Related to Due Process and Bullying, Allied World/Darwin Insurance, August 1, 2010

Published Works

"Supervisory Rule Concerning Motions Based On Qualified Immunity Imposed," Lawyers Journal, 2003-09-05 

"Third Circuit Rules Plaintiff Failed To Follow Pennsylvania Procedure For Petitioning Grand Jury Files," Defense Digest, Vol. 9, No. 4, 2003 

"Third Circuit Imposes Supervisory Rule Concerning Motions Base On Qualified Immunity," Defense Digest, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2003 

"Township Not Primarily Liable for Settlement of Personal Injury Case Involving Township Employee," Defense Digest, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2001 

"Direct Evidence Not Required in Age Discrimination Cases," Defense Digest, Vol., 6, No. 5, 2000 

"Student-On-Student Sexual Harassment: The Next Liability Minefield For School Districts," Defense Digest, Oct. Vol. 5, No. 5, 1999 

"Third Circuit's Limitation On ADA 'Regarded As' Claims Is Short Lived," Defense Digest, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1998 

"If 3rd Circuit Decision Stands, Fewer ADA Claims Can Be Filed," The Legal Intelligencer, December 3, 1997 

"Third Circuit Decision Will Cut Down ADA Claims," Defense Digest, Vol. 3, No. 6, 1997 

"Superior Court Cuts Award in Sexual Harassment Case," Defense Digest, Vol. 3, No. 3, 1997 

"Sex-Based Shift Assignments: Employers May Use Common Sense (Co-Author),” Defense Digest, Vol. 2, No. 7, 1996 

"Employment Discrimination Claims: Arbitration Under Collective Bargaining Clauses (Co-Author)," Defense Digest, Vol. 2, No. 6, 1996 

Admissions
Pennsylvania
1986
U.S. District Court of New Jersey
1986
U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania
U.S. District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania
U.S. District Court Western District of Pennsylvania
U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit
Education
Widener University School of Law (J.D., cum laude, 1985)
La Salle College (B.A., 1976)
Honors & awards
- Civil Rights Law, 2015-present
Pennsylvania Super Lawyers
2013-2020
Associations & memberships
American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA)
Defense Research Institute
Montgomery County Bar Association
Pennsylvania Bar Association
Pennsylvania Bar Institute
Philadelphia Bar Association
Philadelphia Lawyers Club
Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA)
Widener University School of Law National Advisory Council
Year joined
1987