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Joseph J. Santarone Jr.

Chair, Public Entity & Civil Rights Practice Group; Chair, School Leaders' Liability Practice Group
2000 Market Street, Suite 2300
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 575-2626
(215) 575-0856 - Fax

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 Warner Coleman & Goggin 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 


  • Widener University School of Law, Wilmington, DE elaware (J.D., 1985)

    Honors: cum laude

  • La Salle College, Philadelphia, PA (B.A., 1976)

Law Alerts April 25, 2019
Update to Filing of Late Notice of Tort Claim  by Matthew J. Behr, Esq. Recently, the Appellate Division affirmed the granting of a motion to file a late notice of tort claim in the case of Kuczinski v. State of New Jersey, A-3694-17T2 (April..., The material in this law alert has been prepared for our readers by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. It is solely intended to provide information on recent legal developments, and is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific...
Law Alerts November 7, 2018
Medical Marijuana and Disability Law  By Matthew J. Behr, Esquire In August, 2018, the District Court of New Jersey addressed for the very first time whether being prescribed medical marijuana is protected pursuant to the New Jersey Law..., The material in this law alert has been prepared for our readers by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. It is solely intended to provide information on recent legal developments, and is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific...
Law Alerts August 1, 2018
Today’s Topic – The New Jersey Tort Claims Act By Matthew J. Behr, Esq.* In this first case of Banks v. Gunderson, 2018 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1253 (May 30, 2018), the plaintiff was injured by a car while walking on a Camden County..., The material in this law alert has been prepared for our readers by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. It is solely intended to provide information on recent legal developments, and is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific...
Law Alerts May 1, 2018
The Open Public Records Act By Matthew J. Behr, Esquire New Jersey courts have long recognized the interest of the public in gaining information. In enacting the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1, et seq., the legislature codified..., The material in this law alert has been prepared for our readers by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. It is solely intended to provide information on recent legal developments, and is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific...
Defense Digest Article September 1, 2013
by Joseph J. Santarone, Jr., Esq.* For many years, Marshall Dennehey has defended school districts, private and religious schools, charter schools, colleges and universities in pre-litigation, litigation, trial and appellate matters. As is our..., Defense Digest, Vol. 19, No. 3, September 2013 Defense Digest is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide...
Defense Digest Article December 1, 2012
The Public Entity and Civil Rights Practice Group of Marshall Dennehey has been representing public entities for over thirty years. We pride ourselves on the number of cases we have tried and the difficult cases for which we have been able to obtain..., Defense Digest, Vol. 18, No. 4, December 2012
Dec 1, 2017
The plaintiff brought claims of excessive force against one of two police officers and claims of assault and battery against the other officer. The incident in question occurred during a traffic stop. The plaintiff bore a strong resemblance to, and...
Aug 25, 2016
Obtained summary judgment in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of a private school that had allowed a coach to resign after he exchanged thousands of text messages with a student, some of which were alleged to be...


  • Widener University School of Law (J.D., cum laude, 1985)
  • La Salle College (B.A., 1976)

Bar 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

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

Honors & Awards

Year Joined Organization: 1987

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