R. Joseph Barton


R. Joseph Barton, a Partner at the Firm, is the Chair of the Firm’s Employee Benefits Group and the Firm’s Veterans/Servicemember Rights Group. Mr. Barton has nearly two decades of experience handling a diverse array of complex and class litigation. Mr. Barton has a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rating, has been selected every year since 2013 as a Washington, D.C. Super Lawyer, has a 10.0 rating from Avvo, and is listed in the Marquis’ Who’s Who in American Law.

Since 2001, Mr. Barton has handled a wide variety of employee benefit (i.e. ERISA) cases.  He has been trial counsel in four ERISA cases.  He was lead trial counsel in a case challenging a complex transaction involving the Trachte ESOP and the Alliance ESOP on behalf of a class of employees of Trachte, Chesemore v. Alliance Holdings, Inc., No. 3:09-cv-00413 (W.D. Wis.).  In that case, Mr. Barton obtained favorable trial decisions on a liability and remedies of more than $17 million (plus prejudgment interest) for the Class which was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit.  In Severstal Wheeling Inc. Ret. Comm. v. WPN Corporation, No. 10-cv-954 (S.D.N.Y.), Mr. Barton was lead trial counsel representing the fiduciaries of two pension plans suing their former investment manager for improper investments and obtained a judgment for plaintiffs of over $15 million which was affirmed by the Second Circuit.

After graduating law school, Mr. Barton served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Lenore C. Nesbitt, United States District Judge for Southern District of Florida. Mr. Barton considers pro bono representation an important part of his practice and has represented clients in actions concerning their employer’s failure to pay wages and/or overtime.

College of William & Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law (J.D. 2000), Order of the Coif

  • Lawrence W. I’Anson Award for outstanding student scholarship, character and leadership
  • William B. Sprong Award for professionalism and ethics
  • Robert R. Kaplan Award for excellence in legal writing
  • Order of the Barristers
  • Editorial board of the William & Mary Law Review
  • Staff member of the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal
  • Member of the William & Mary National Trial Team

College of William & Mary (B.A. 1991), History and minor in Classical Studies

  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • First Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Second Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Third Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Southern District of California
  • Central District of California
  • Northern District of California
  • Eastern District of California
  • District of Colorado
  • District for the District of Columbia
  • Northern District of Illinois
  • District of Maryland
  • Eastern District of Michigan
  • District of Nebraska
  • District of North Dakota
  • Northern District of Texas
  • Western District of Texas
  • Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • Western District of Wisconsin


Wawa ESOP Litigation

Mr. Barton was co-lead class counsel challenging Wawa’s forced liquidation of former ESOP participants and obtained a settlement of $25 million on behalf of the Class

Chesemore v. Alliance Holdings, Inc. (W.D. Wis.)

Mr. Barton was lead trial counsel in this class action that challenged a complex transaction involving Trachte ESOP and the Alliance ESOP on behalf of Trachte employees; litigation led to remedies of $17.2 million (plus prejudgment interest), a decision then affirmed by the Seventh Circuit.

Severstal Wheeling Inc. Ret. Comm. v. WPN Corporation (S.D.N.Y.)

Mr. Barton was lead trial counsel representing the fiduciaries of two pension plans suing their former investment manager; obtained a judgment for plaintiffs of over $15 million, a decision then affirmed by the Second Circuit.

Ahrens. v. UCB Pension Plan (N.D. Ga.)

Mr. Barton was co-lead class counsel representing participants challenging the calculation of their benefits and alleged overpayment.  Obtained a class settlement of $5.5 million which was 60% of claimed benefits.

Slipchenko v. Brunel (S.D. Tex.)

Mr. Barton was lead counsel in this class action involving the failure to properly pay COBRA benefits and obtained the largest per class member settlement in any reported COBRA class action matter.

Simpson v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company (N.D. Cal.)

Mr. Barton represented a class of employees alleging that FFIC’s policy of terminated persons on disability violated the discrimination provisions of ERISA and obtained a settlement restoring their right to benefits for a period of years and reimbursement of past expenses.

Various Litigation involving ESOPs

Mr. Barton has litigated and is litigating several private ESOP cases, including the Wawa ESOP, the Rainbow Disposal ESOP, the Jeld-Wen ESOP, the Tharaldson Motels, Inc. ESOP, and the Azon Corporation ESOP.

Mehling v. New York Life Ins. Co. (E.D. Pa.)

Mr. Barton litigated one of the earliest class actions challenging the prudence of investment and fees of the pension and 401(k) plans sponsored by New York Life Insurance Company.  Settlement of $ 14 million

Mr. Barton provided an expert opinion on the scope of ERISA in a European case, Deminor International & all v/ Ageas/ BNP Paribas Fortis / Merrill Lynch International, Court of Commerce of Brussels, Chamber 14°, Docket numbers: R.G. n°A/10/00744, R.G. n° A/12/05781, R.G. n° A/12/09039 & R.G. n° A/12/09035.

Served as counsel to Independent Fiduciary of Plans in connection with negotiation and settlement of claims involving securities lending.

Cases Involving Veterans & Servicemembers

Tuten v. United Airlines (D. Col.)

Mr. Barton was Lead Class Counsel in a USERRA action alleging violations in connection with United Airlines’ failure to provide pilots their full pension contributions during periods of military leave; the settlement for 100 percent of actual damages.

The court described the outcome as “outstanding, worthy of being emulated by class representatives and counsel in other comparable litigation.”

Allman v. American Airlines (D. Mass.)

Mr. Barton was Lead Class Counsel in action alleging USERRA and ERISA violations that American Airlines pilots who took leave to serve in the United States Armed Forces did not receive the full amount of pension contributions they were entitled to receive during their period of military leave; the settlement was for 100 percent of actual damages.

Washington State Patrol

The Washington State Patrol agreed to a settlement of $13 million in back wages and another $2 million for lost retirement contributions, plus non-monetary relief.

Bush v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. (N.D. Cal.)

Mr. Barton was Lead Class Counsel on behalf of a class of participants whose long term disability benefits were reduced by the amount of benefits provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs; Liberty Life agreed to return 60% of the monies imposed as offsets and to cease imposing such reductions/offsets.

Martin, et al. v. Washington State Patrol, et al. (Sup. Ct. Wash.)

Mr. Barton was Co-Lead Class Counsel on behalf of Washington State Troopers alleging that the Washington State Patrol failed to provide military veterans with veterans preference when such veterans applied to become state troopers or applied for a promotion.

Notable Other Cases

In re High Fructose Corn Syrup Antitrust Litigation (C.D. Ill.)

Member of a team engaged in intensive trial preparations for a suit alleging price-fixing by manufacturers; settlement of more than $500 million.

In re Mercedes-Benz Antitrust Litigation (D.N.J.)

Argued and obtained summary judgment on an issue of first impression that established that lessee-plaintiffs had standing to sue as direct purchasers under the federal antitrust laws

Obtained settlement of horizontal and vertical price fixing claims of $17.5 million, or 50% of actual damages after defeating Defendants’ summary judgment motions shortly before trial.

Wilcox v. Swapp Law (E.D. Wash)

Co-lead Class Counsel in Driver’s Privacy Protection Act litigation alleging use and sale of driver’s license information in accident reports; successfully settled after obtaining class certification and defeating two motions to dismiss.

In re Physician Corporation of America Securities Litigation (S.D. Fla.)

Represented class of investors in a securities fraud case involving a publicly traded company.

Lipper Convertibles

Represented a class of limited partners in a defunct hedge fund against outside auditor (SDNY) and also against managers in arbitration before American Arbitration Association

In re MCI Securities Litigation (D.D.C.)

Represented class of investors in a securities fraud case involving a publicly traded company.

Avery v. Uniroyal Technology Corp., (M.D. Fla.)

Represented a small class of former Sterling shareholders who received Uniroyal stock in a merger.

  • Author, “Defending Servicemembers from Forced Arbitration,” Trial Magazine (June 2018)
  • Author, “Client Deposition Preparation,” Trial Magazine (Aug 2017)
  • Author, “Ensuring Rights Under USERRA § 4316(d) are Afforded a Remedy, AAJ Federal Tort Liability & Advocacy Newsletter (July 2016)
  • Author, “Navigating the Unfriendly Skies of ERISA Reimbursement,” Trial Magazine (2014)
  • Author, “Determining the Meaning of ‘Direct Evidence’ in Discrimination Cases Within the Eleventh Circuit: Why Judge Tjoflat was (W)right,” 77 Fla.B.J. 42 (2003)
  • Author, “Drowning in A Sea of Contract: Application of the Economic Loss Rule to Fraud and Negligent Misrepresentation Claims,” 41 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1789 (2000)
  • Author, “Utilizing Statistics and Bellweather Plaintiff Trials: What do the Constitution and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Permit?” 8 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 199 (1999).
  • Speaker on ERISA, USERRA, Class Actions or Civil Procedure at numerous ABA conferences (including the ABA Employee Benefits Committee, the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and ABA Labor & Employment Section) and conferences by the American Conference Institute, Defined Contribution Institutional Investments Association (DCIIA), National Employment Lawyers Association (“NELA”), the American Association of Justice (“AAJ”) and others. For a full list, see LinkedIn.
  • Current Plaintiffs’ Co-Chair of the Civil Procedure Subcommittee for the ABA Employee Benefits Committee (2012 to Present).
  • Current member of the Programming Committee for the ABA Employee Benefits Committee, which is responsible for all of the planning for the Committee’s Midwinter conference (2015 to Present).
  • Current member, Advisory Board, Employee Benefits Law360 (2019 to Present)
  • Current member of the Publications Committee for the AAJ, which oversees the selection and review of articles for AAJ’s award winning magazine, Trial (2013 to present).
  • Former Co-Chair of the American Association of Justice (AAJ) Class Action Litigation Group (2014 to 2016).
  • Former Chair of the Employment Rights Section of the AAJ (2013 to 2014).