Polly J. Estes
With 29 years of experience in state and federal courts, Polly has successfully tried numerous bench and jury trials in such diverse areas as class actions, freedom of speech and freedom of religion, securities fraud, tax regulation, riparian rights, eminent domain, professional liability, and high-dollar insurance bad faith. But it is in the appellate arena where Polly really shines. She has spent 15 years of her career working for state and federal appellate courts, where she helped judges evaluate the merits of more than 500 civil, criminal, and administrative appeals. On a daily basis, Polly defended her analysis through oral presentations, extensive memoranda and proposed dispositions, often working under intense time pressure. After debating the merits of cases with judges at all levels of the judiciary for more than two decades, Polly knows how to persuade both judges and juries successfully. She knows how judges think, what questions they want answered, and the time constraints they face.
Polly’s expertise has been recognized by the California State Bar. She is Board Certified as an expert in Appellate Law.
Before starting Estes Law Group, Polly served as the Chief Law Clerk to the Honorable Carlos T. Bea on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for eight years. As Judge Bea’s Chief Law Clerk, Polly supervised and trained the other law clerks and externs, a position she loved because it was essentially “teaching the best law school class ever.” She was also the chief editor and “problem solver,” often called in to help the Judge and other clerks think through complex problems. She also helped evaluate cases for en banc calls and wrote speeches for the judge, all while handling a full load of cases herself.
While at the Ninth Circuit, Polly participated in all aspects of the appellate process, including drafting bench and en banc memoranda, opinions, dissents, orders, and memorandum dispositions. These cases spanned all areas of federal law, including securities fraud, antitrust, class actions, environmental, social security, and immigration, to name just a few. She also handled several state law areas through diversity jurisdiction, such as insurance law and contracts.
Polly also served as a staff attorney in the Motions Unit at the Ninth Circuit for more than three years, a position which allowed her to work with each of the judges on the court. As a motions attorney, Polly orally presented dozens of cases each month to a panel of three judges, explaining the case and the proposed disposition she had drafted. She handled emergency motions, which often required her to call judges at home after hours so they could work through the emergency together on an expedited basis. This position gave the judges on the court an opportunity to get to know Polly and to know how her mind works. It also gave Polly a vast amount of experience in presenting cases to the judges. She is therefore comfortable in oral arguments, which gives her a strong advantage over opposing counsel.
Polly also has state court experience, having served as a briefing attorney to The Honorable Catherine Stone at the Texas Court of Appeals for the Fourth Judicial District, and as an extern to The Honorable Lloyd Doggett at the Texas Supreme Court.
In addition to working for courts, Polly worked for six years for two prominent national law firms—Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal (now Dentons). While at these firms, Polly handled a number of trials and appeals, most notably high-exposure bad faith insurance trials and appeals for State Farm, USAA, and Allstate. She was often brought in to handle the appeal when another firm lost at trial. Polly won each of these appeals.
Polly has extensive experience writing amicus curiae briefs in courts around the country to help shape the law that affected the firm’s clients. Polly kept an eye on cases throughout the country and when one presented the appropriate facts, she brought it to her client’s attention and then wrote an amicus curiae brief on their behalf to assure the law developed in their favor.
Polly worked her way through college and law school. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado cum laude, with a double major in Marketing and International Business, and a minor in International Economics. She received many honors during her time there, including Phi Beta Kappa and the Golden Key Honor Society. She earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Texas at Austin, where she served as an editor on the Texas International Law Journal and a recipient of the Robert S. Strauss Presidential Scholarship. She studied at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the University of London through Duke’s study abroad program.
Polly is admitted to practice in California (2000), Texas (1993), the Northern District of California, the Western District of Texas, the Ninth Circuit, and the Fifth Circuit. She is a member of the San Francisco, Fifth Circuit, and Ninth Circuit Bar Associations, and the Texas State Bar College.
Polly’s publications include: A Legal Theory of the Use of Experts in Insurance Claim Adjustment, Vol. 23 No. 5 Ins. Litig. Rep. 140 (2001); Preservation of Error: Filing a Lawsuit Through Presentation of Evidence, 30 St. Mary’s L.J. 997 (1999); Homeowner’s Insurance: Coverage and Liability, Texas State Bar’s Advanced Ins. Law Course (1997); Handling Extra-Contractual Claims (Defense Perspective), U.T. Ins. Law Inst. (1996).
Sample Trials and Appeals in Private Practice
Chmait v. Radwan (Cal Ct. App. 2021) Breach of contract appeal. One of a series of cases for a client facing an FTC investigation where Polly successfully stopped the FTC from recovering any damages.
Lewis v. Delta Airlines, Case No. 18-16911 (9th Cir. 2020). Polly successfully defended a large judgment against the airline for employment discrimination.
Hecny Brokerage Servs., Inc. v. Sopko, et al., Case Nos. A149111 & A1515741 (Cal. Ct. App. 2020). Appeal involving theft of trade secrets in the shipping business.
In re Cathode Ray Tube Antitrust Litig., Case No. 16-16379 (9th Cir. 2019). Class action lawsuit worth more than $1 billion. Polly raised the winning issue to have an adverse judgment against a number of states overturned. The case is currently back in the trial court.
Advanced Building and Metal Fabrication, Inc. v. California Highway Patrol, Case No. 17-16668, (9th Cir. 2019). Polly successfully defended the denial of a summary judgment based on qualified immunity filed by CHP Officers and other state employees. The case is currently back in the trial court where the client asked Polly to take over for former trial counsel.
Bernardo v. Johnson, U.S.S.Ct. No. 15-1138 (2019). Polly wrote an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court for several prominent law professors at the request of Neal Katyal (former acting Solicitor General) in support of a petition for a writ of certiorari in an immigration case.
Jones v. County of Los Angeles, Case No. 12-55995 (9th Cir. 2018). Polly wrote an amicus brief in support of the UCLA Medical Center in an action filed by the parents of a child whom the doctor suspected of beating the child. The client was so happy that they asked Polly to help the client directly on the petition for rehearing en banc, which was resolved in UCLA’s favor.
State of California v. Valero Energy Corp., Civil Action No. 17-cv-3786 (WHA) (N. Dist. Cal. 2017). Antitrust trial where Polly was part of the team that was brought in to represent the Attorney General of the State of California. We managed to stop the consolidation of the pipelines throughout Northern California that would have led to price increases for fuel for the majority of California.
Asturias v. Nationstar Mortgage, Case No. 16-16456 (9th Cir. 2016). Appeal where Polly successfully overturned a foreclosure against her client by proving the transfer of the mortgage between banks had not complied with recent SEC regulations and the Dodd-Frank Act.
Mt. Olive Storage LLC v. L.A. County Tax Assessor. A Ninth Circuit judge retained Polly to represent his family business after several tax lawyers told him the case was hopeless and he should just pay the tax. After a series of administrative hearings, Polly obtained a final judgment lowering the tax valuation of the business from $7.5 million to $2 million.
Cordis Corp. v. Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc., 2000 WL 376416 (D. Del. 2000). Akin Gump represented Dr. Julio Palmaz, the inventor of the stent medical device, which is used in angioplasties to keep previously-clogged arteries from collapsing once opened. Several doctors who worked with Dr. Palmaz claimed they invented the stent. All cases were either settled with the opposition paying damages or were decided in our client’s favor in court.
50-OFF Stores, Inc. v. Banques Paribas (Suisse) SA, 180 F.3d 247 (5th Cir. 1999). Akin Gump’s corporate client, 50-OFF, sued Banques Paribas Suisse (BPS) and Chase Manhattan Bank for conversion of stock when one of BPS’ customers stole 50-Off’s stock worth $6 million that was being held in trust at Chase Manhattan Bank for a Regulation S offering. The jury found Chase intentionally disregarded notices from 50-OFF that the purchasers had not yet paid for the stock and awarded $13 million in actual and compensatory damages and $138 million in punitive damages.
Barshop v. Medina County Underground Water Conservation Dist., 925 S.W.2d 618 (Tex. 1996). Just three weeks before trial, the Edwards Aquifer Authority hired Akin Gump to represent it. The Authority had been created by a state statute to regulate the withdrawal of ground water for the first time in Texas’ history. Several municipal water districts and citizens sued the EAA, seeking to have the new statute declared unconstitutional so that they could withdraw as much water as they desired. Polly served as second chair at trial and had sole responsibility for drafting the winning brief in the Texas Supreme Court.
San Mateo County Transit Dist. v. Tanforan Park Shopping Center, L.L.C., (San Mateo County Superior Court 2001, Case No. 407836). Polly helped obtain a multi-million judgment in an eminent domain trial involving the value of land at a shopping center that was being taken by BART.
Dimotsis v. State Farm Lloyds, Case No. 04-97-01035-CV (Tx. Ct. App. 1999). One of a series of approximately 30 appeals where the industry hired the former general counsel of State Farm and USAA, Winston Hankins, to challenge the conventional interpretation of the form Homeowner’s Insurance contract the Texas Board of Insurance required all insurers in Texas to use. Mr. Hankins selected Polly to do the briefing in the trial and appellate courts in all the cases on this important issue.
Trinity Universal Ins. Co. v. Bleeker, 966 S.W.2d 489 (Tex. 1998). Polly drafted an amicus curiae brief that was the only brief to raise the winning issue that reversed a $77 million judgment on a $40,000 liability insurance policy. The decision made new law regarding an insurance company’s responsibility for a judgment in all third-party liability cases in Texas.
USAA v. Perry, Case No. 95-50512 (5th Cir. 1996). Appeal of a class action against the Secretary of Defense for the recovery of medical insurance fees paid on behalf of veterans who would otherwise have been entitled to have the Department of Veteran Affairs pay for the services.