Aggressive, creative, and — above all — effective, John’s approach to establishing and controlling case dynamics is unique.
In the last five years, John has led teams that have achieved threshold dismissals in cases involving more than $5 billion of potential liability, including third-party complaints in multi-district litigation and consolidated state litigation, putative class actions, a CAFA-removed mass action, and a consolidated mass-tort state action. Recently, he secured complete victory at a final arbitration hearing on behalf of a manufacturer defending $30 million in fraud and breach-of-warranty claims. John is proud to represent some of the finest companies in the world. As the general counsel of a Greene Espel client once said of John, “You could hire someone else to set the strategy for your case. But why take the risk?”
Numerous national publications have recognized John’s approach to complex litigation or client service. According to Benchmark Litigation: The Definitive Guide to America’s Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys, John “has made a name for himself managing complex business disputes.” John has been named a BTI Client Service All-Star, which “honors the individuals able to stand out in the sea of legal services providers to represent the cream of the crop.” To be a BTI Client Service All-Star, a lawyer must be “single[d] out . . . by name and in an unprompted manner—as delivering the absolute best client service. . . . Clients have the final—and only—say.” John has likewise been described as a “top litigator” in Law360 and his national commercial practice has been listed in Best Lawyers in America. While practicing in courts nationwide — from Louisiana to East St. Louis, from Mississippi to Kansas City — he has also been recognized locally as a Minnesota SuperLawyer and as a Benchmark Litigation "Local Litigation Star.”
John prosecutes and defends cases involving the integration of new technology. John is a court-appointed member of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for In re Syngenta, a multi-district litigation in the District of Kansas regarding the commercialization of new genetically modified corn seeds. In that litigation, John represents the largest grain exporter in the world. He has likewise handled major software licensing, implementation, and warranty disputes. An outstanding case architect, John’s cases have again and again turned on matters of first impression resolved in favor of Greene Espel’s clients.
John is regarded as an “extremely eloquent” written and oral advocate. John has argued seven times against a former U.S. Supreme Court Clerk or top member of the DC appellate bar — on subjects such as federal preemption and the federal common law of foreign relations — and he has won each time. Known for his engaging and authoritative style, John often argues on behalf of joint-prosecution or joint-defense groups in high-stakes litigation. Recently, he argued successfully on behalf of nearly ten thousand removed plaintiffs in a multi-district litigation and, separately — and also, successfully — on behalf of a joint-defense group comprised of some of the largest and most prominent corporations in the agricultural world. In those cases, like every other, John’s representation was marked by a tireless will to win.
John graduated from the University of Michigan Law School where he was Managing Editor of the Michigan Law Review. While at Michigan, with Catherine M.A. Carroll, he won the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition, which the university describes as “one of the highest honors a Michigan law student can achieve." John won several other awards while at Michigan, including the Jason L. Honigman award for his contributions to the Law Review over two years. John serves on the Board of Directors of Neighborhood Justice Center in St. Paul — one of the oldest public-defender organizations in Minnesota — where he and his colleagues handle felony cases on a pro bono basis. John and his wife live in Golden Valley with their three daughters and a dog named Moxie.
- Reshare Commerce, LLC v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, et al.:
Bob Gilbertson, Sybil Dunlop and John Ursu won defense judgment for Greene Espel’s client, American Family Mutual Insurance Company, in a patent-infringement case.
- Superior Seafoods, Inc. v. Tyson Foods: Bob Gilbertson and John Ursu persuaded the Eighth Circuit to adopt new standard for reviewing the grant of summary judgment in equitable actions and won affirmance for Greene Espel’s client, Tyson Foods, in trademark dispute.
- Hoyt Properties, Inc., et al. v. Production Resources Group, LLC, et al.: Following remand from the Minnesota Supreme Court, Andy Luger and John Ursu won partial summary judgment and then bench trial on breach of contract, recession, and negligent misrepresentation claims in one of the largest and most extensively litigated commercial lease disputes in Minnesota history.
- Association Casualty et al. v. Allstate, et al.: Made significant new law with respect to administrative remedies, associations, fiduciary duties, and boards of directors in complex reinsurance litigation arising out of Hurricane Katrina. Tried two-week jury trial with Larry Espel in the Southern District of Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
- U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Federal and Eighth Circuits
- U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota
- State Bar of Minnesota
Professional & Community Affiliations
- Neighborhood Justice Center, Board Member
TEACHING AND LECTURING
- Hot Topics in Attorney-Client Privilege for In-House Counsel, Minnesota CLE Webcast, Panelist (August 17, 2012)
- Privilege in Multiparty Litigation – The Joint Defense and Common Interest Privileges, Minnesota CLE, Panelist (June 15, 2011)
- The Lawyer as Witness: When Attorney-Client Communications Are the Subject of Litigation, Minnesota CLE, Panelist (October 21, 2008)
- Listed in The Best Lawyers in America (2018-2020)
- Named to 2018 BTI Client Service All-Stars List (2018-2019)
- Selected to Super Lawyers list, Minnesota Super Lawyers (2019)
- Named Up & Coming Attorney, Minnesota Lawyer (2011)
- Listed as Rising Star, Minnesota Super Lawyers (2011, 2012)
- Recognized as Future Star, Benchmark: The Definitive Guide to America’s Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys (Third Annual Edition, Fourth Annual Edition, Fifth Annual Edition)
- Champion, 78th Annual Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition at University of Michigan Law School, as awarded by Judge Frank Easterbrook (7th Cir.), Judge Steven Reinhardt (9th Cir.), and Barbara Underwood, former Acting Solicitor General for the United States (2002)
- Managing Editor, Michigan Law Review, Vol. 100 (2001-02)
- Jason L. Honigman Award, for the greatest contributions to the Michigan Law Review (2002)
- Certificate of Merit, for the highest grade in Constitutionalism in South Africa (2002)
- James A. Dykema Award, for election to the editorial board of the Michigan Law Review (2001)
J.D., University of Michigan; Managing Editor, Michigan Law Review
M.A., University of Exeter (U.K.)
B.A., Kenyon College
U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, The Honorable Richard H. Kyle, Law Clerk (2002-2004)