Neil K. Sawhney
415.573.0336 | 505 Montgomery Street, Suite 625, San Francisco, CA 94111
Neil K. Sawhney is an associate at Gupta Wessler LLP’s San Francisco office, where he focuses on public-interest and plaintiffs’-side appellate and complex litigation. He was also the firm’s inaugural Fellow in Appellate and Constitutional Litigation from 2015 to 2016.
While at the firm, Neil has represented plaintiffs and public-interest clients at all levels of the federal and California judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He has presented oral argument in multiple federal courts of appeals and federal district courts, and has been the principal author of dozens of appellate briefs on a wide range of legal issues.
Neil is a committed advocate for economic justice, and regularly handles appeals for consumers and workers fighting to hold corporations accountable for misconduct. Recently, Neil argued and briefed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit defending a California law prohibiting corporate defendants from using forced arbitration to deprive consumers and workers of any forum to bring legal claims. He also successfully argued a Seventh Circuit appeal clarifying how and when companies should be held vicariously liable for their telemarketers’ illegal conduct. And he has authored briefs successfully opposing petitions for certiorari in a number of high-profile consumer class actions, including multi-district product-liability litigation against 3M and data-privacy litigation against Facebook. In 2021, the National Consumer Law Center recognized Neil’s efforts on behalf of consumers by awarding him its Rising Star Award.
In addition, Neil has significant experience representing plaintiffs in cutting-edge constitutional litigation. He represented Miyoko’s Kitchen, a plant-based food company, in its groundbreaking First Amendment case against the State of California, in which Neil successfully obtained an injunction preventing California from censoring the company’s ability to describe its products as “butter” and “dairy.” He presented oral argument on behalf of Montana Governor Steve Bullock in a successful challenge to President Trump’s unconstitutional appointment of the Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management. And he represented leading public-health scholars, scientists, and organizations as amici before the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals in defense of Covid-19 vaccination and testing rules. Neil also has a longstanding interest in civil rights issues, and recently worked on appeals challenging the California and Michigan prison systems’ failure to adequately protect incarcerated people from the coronavirus pandemic.
Before rejoining the firm in 2020, Neil was a Senior Staff Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Economic Justice Project, where he litigated impact cases on behalf of low-income communities throughout the Southeast. He was part of the legal team that successfully prevented Arkansas and Kentucky from implementing unprecedented Medicaid work requirements, preserving hundreds of thousands of individuals’ access to medical care. He also worked on a groundbreaking case representing New Orleans consumers against predatory for-profit bail companies and their underwriters, and he developed litigation challenging wealth-based detention of immigrants in Georgia. At SPLC, Neil also advocated for systemic policy reform to protect consumers and low-income communities by testifying at the state legislature and submitting comments to state and federal agencies.
Neil graduated from Stanford Law School, after which he clerked for Judge Marsha Berzon on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Goodwin Liu on the California Supreme Court. During law school, Neil spent two quarters in Stanford’s Supreme Court Clinic and received the Thelton Henderson Prize for outstanding performance in the Clinic. He also served as the student notes editor of the Stanford Law Review, a board member of Stanford’s American Constitution Society chapter, and a co-founder of the Iraqi Legal Education Initiative. Neil received his B.A. in Social Studies and Near Eastern Languages & Civilization, magna cum laude, from Harvard University. He lives in Berkeley, California with his partner, daughter, and dog Karl Barx.