James O. Ehinger
Jim Ehinger compares being a good litigator to being a good auto mechanic: he believes that no matter how badly broken something may seem, it can always be fixed with the right tools. Jim has been leveraging the law to repair his clients’ most broken situations since 1981. During his 35+ year legal career, Jim has tried numerous cases in state, federal and international courts, has handled 50+ appeals, and served as a court-appointed arbitrator.
Jim’s litigation experience is wide-ranging. He is a recognized authority on international law issues, especially in obtaining and enforcing foreign country judgments. He also has significant experience in corporate governance disputes, business torts involving IP, advertising and similar issues, complex trust and probate litigation, and employment-related disputes. As a complement to his real estate and land use litigation experience, Jim serves in a general counsel role to a homeowner association in Phoenix. He has also handled complex divorce cases that often arise in the wake of other litigation or through referrals from colleagues.
Jim is one of a handful of lawyers in Arizona who actively practice in the dynamic and highly specialized field of international law. His international practice encompasses both litigation and business matters. Jim has significant experience obtaining and enforcing foreign country judgments. He has represented clients and collaborated with co-counsel on disputes in Mexico, Latin America, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Argentina, Canada, Bermuda and much of the Caribbean. Jim’s strength is in knowing how to navigate complex litigation, discovery and procedural issues to preserve the ability to obtain and enforce foreign country judgments, no matter what country is involved or where assets in consideration are stashed away.
Jim also maintains an active international transactional practice involving distribution contracts and licensing issues, and he has assisted American companies seeking to license their U.S. products to be manufactured or sold by overseas distributors.
A significant portion of Jim’s practice involves helping business owners and investors settle disputes with their business cohorts over money, ownership, control, or alleged wrongdoing. His experience includes securities fraud, minority shareholder oppression and breach of fiduciary duty.
Jim regularly protects and defends clients against business torts related to intellectual property, advertising, trade piracy and related issues. His experience includes copyright, trade name, trademark, cyber-squatting, cyber-bullying, online reviews, defamation, invasion of privacy, the Lanham Act, and similar issues.
James has earned an AV-Preeminent Attorney Rating by Martindale-Hubbell.
Jim served as the Arizona International Monitor for the historic 1994 South African National Election ending apartheid.
Named among The Best Lawyers in America® for Commercial Litigation (2024) by Best Lawyers
International Technology Law Association
Arizona State Bar Association
Maricopa County Bar Association
California State Bar Association
American Bar Association
Federal Bar Association
State Bar Licenses
- Non-Profit Service Association, Volunteer
- Stark-Martin Charitable Trust, Administrator
- Tapestry on Central Homeowners Assn., Past President and Board Member
- Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation, Past President and Board Member
- Arizona Cactus Pine Girl Scout Council, Former Board Member
- “Is Arizona Putting a Chill on Freeze-Out Mergers?,” Ryley Carlock & Applewhite Client Alert, October 2021
- “Prelitigation Planning in Multinational Cases: How to Help Insure that a U.S. Judgment will be Enforceable Overseas,” The Arizona Attorney, Vol. 33, no. 8, p. 20, April 1997
- “Enforcement of Foreign Country Judgments in Arizona,” The Arizona Attorney, Vol. 33, no. 7, p. 20, March 1997
- “Incident Response and Notification,” 2017 Cybersecurity Summit, Panel Speaker & Moderator, May 2017
- “Enforcement of Foreign Country Judgments in Arizona,” International Law Section of the State Bar of Arizona, November 2015
- “Preventive Legal Care: 4 Steps to Identify and Reduce Your Business’ Risk of Getting Sued,” Association of Corporate Counsel, Co-Presenter, October 2015
- “Doing Business in Latin America,” Arizona World Trade Center, Panelist, 1996
- “Implementation of U.S. Civil and Commercial Law in International Transactions,” Maricopa Community College’s Custom Training Program for the Delegation of Judges of Chengdu, China, Panelist, 1996
- Jim obtained and enforced a judgment on behalf of a Mexico-based real estate developer against a Hong Kong toy manufacturer in two separate cases arising out of the toy company’s abandonment of an industrial facility in Hermosillo, Mexico. Read more details about these cases here: Ryley Carlock Litigator Resolves Jurisdictional Rules Dilemma United Kingdom Courts Have Grappled with for Decades
- In the first case, Jim obtained a judgment of nearly $10 million in Arizona for his client and successfully defended it on appeal. The Court of Appeals’ opinion also clarified Arizona law regarding consent jurisdiction and the scope and interpretation of commercial guaranties; and it remains the state’s leading, pivotal case on consent jurisdiction.
- In the second case, Jim succeeded in enforcing that first judgment in London’s High Court, as the Hong Kong toy company’s primary manufacturing facility and associated assets were located there. The final judgment exceeded $12 million with attorney’s fees. The court’s decision clarified the grounds on which courts of the United Kingdom recognize and enforce judgments rendered by the courts of foreign countries.
- On behalf of the owners of the largest supermarket chain in Northern Mexico, Jim recovered $8.4 million that had been embezzled by the company’s former president. The case was prosecuted under the laws of both Arizona and Mexico.
- Jim successfully defended a former bank president against efforts by the Republic of Germany to domesticate and enforce a £1.2 million judgment obtained against him in Great Britain.
- Jim obtained a judgment of more than $1 million for a Mexican shrimp farmer whose business was damaged as a result of defective aeration equipment, which was ultimately paid without having to file a separate lawsuit to enforce it. This case is one of the few in the U.S. ever decided under the United Nations Convention on the International Sale of Goods, and also helped to establish the recoverability of attorney’s fees in cases arising under the Convention.
- In representing a Canadian-based construction company, Jim succeeded in enforcing a $987K judgment obtained in Canada against the defendant who lived and maintained assets in Arizona.
- In a securities fraud action where he represented the owner of an investment company, Jim succeeded in obtaining recessionary damages, resulting in his client recovering the amount of the original investment even though the stock had not lost value. The case established new law in the Ninth Circuit regarding recovery of recessionary damages and clarified application of the “discovery rule” for determining the statute of limitation.
- On behalf of a California venture capital group, Jim successfully prosecuted a $9 million securities fraud case arising out of an investment in a plan to commercialize “coal cleaning” technology. When one of the individual defendants filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy on the eve of trial, Jim obtained dismissal of that proceeding on grounds of bankruptcy fraud—one of just a handful of such rulings ever rendered in Arizona.
- In representing the majority shareholder in an engineering firm, Jim successfully defeated claims of oppression by a minority shareholder, resulting in the minority shareholder being ordered to pay attorney’s fees.
- On behalf of a minority shareholder in a mortgage business, Jim successfully thwarted an attempt by the majority shareholder/president to forcibly and surreptitiously purchase the company for substantially less than the company was worth. Ultimately, Jim helped negotiate a legitimate buy-out, where his client received significantly more than the original sales price.
Business Torts Involving Intellectual Property, Advertising, Trade Piracy and Related Issues:
- In representing one of the nation’s largest providers of emergency room staffing services, Jim obtained a multi-million-dollar recovery in a trade piracy action against former employees operating a competing medical group. This case also involved issues related to defamation, trade libel, and intellectual property infringement.
- On behalf of a “funny car” designer/aftermarket car customizer, Jim successfully helped his client protect and defend his unique car designs as copyrighted works against competitors asserting claims of infringement and car owners seeking to claim ownership of the designs or prevent the designer from using those designs in the company’s promotional materials.
- In representing a website owner using a trademarked term for non-commercial purposes, Jim succeeded in defending his client against allegations of cyber-squatting and trademark infringement, resulting in his client’s continued operation of the website.
- On behalf of an automobile advertising/search software company, Jim succeeded in proving that a competitor was posting false, negative reviews online about his client, resulting in the removal of the false reviews and measures to prevent future offenses.
- In representing a medical lien recordation company, Jim succeeded in obtaining a judgment and damages against a competitor for perpetuating a false advertising scam in which the competitor had mailed false and incriminating information to the client’s customers to steal the client’s customers away.
Other Substantive Litigation Areas:
- Trust and Probate Litigation. When a will contest or estate administration becomes particularly contentious or complicated, Jim is often asked to intervene to help clients navigate complex business, family and/or administration situations. He has helped resolve dozens of such cases over the course of his career. For example, Jim most recently represented an insurance brokerage in liquidating the estate of a deceased employee who embezzled millions of dollars from the company—a complex case involving tricky tax and priority issues. He also helps clients grapple with disputes over beneficiary claims, trustee liability, undue influence, and guardianship issues. Jim was instrumental in helping the Arizona Supreme Court clarify and define the proper scope and application of residuary clauses.
- Real Estate/Land Use Litigation and HOA Representation. During his career, Jim has handled hundreds of cases involving real property issues such as enforcement of purchase contracts, restrictive covenants, easements, title/title insurance and leases. For example, he succeeded in evicting a tree farm operation for committing waste of the leased property and represented a self-storage company against a big box retailer’s attempt to use property CC&Rs to prevent construction of storage facilities in strip malls. In addition, Jim serves as general counsel to homeowner associations, providing ongoing advice and counseling on policy, operations, governance, and land use issues. He has successfully represented claimants in numerous title disputes.
- Family Law Disputes. While handling other types of litigation throughout his career, Jim has been asked to take on several family law disputes—and he has done so with the same focus and commitment as any other type of litigation matter. His experience is diverse: he helped the ex-wife of a computer entrepreneur re-open the divorce decree to recover more than $1 million in assets concealed during the divorce; he represented a husband in divorce proceedings that involved breaking up a multi-million agricultural business; and he assisted several clients with international divorce proceedings.
- Employment Disputes. Jim has represented numerous employers in dozens of cases involving wrongful termination, age discrimination, sexual harassment, and enforcement of restrictive covenants. His experience includes helping a former CEO of a high-tech manufacturing company defend his ability to start a competing enterprise and successfully defending a medical research laboratory against a former medical director’s claims of wrongful termination.