Thomas J. Donlon


  • Overview


    Thomas Donlon’s practice focuses on appellate and complex trial matters. He is a member of the firm's Appellate Team within the Business Litigation Group.


    Tom has successfully prepared briefs and presented arguments in various federal Courts of Appeals as well as state appellate courts in both Connecticut and New York. These appeals have involved multimillion-dollar cases covering diverse topics, including health care fraud, securities, anti-trust, bankruptcy, employment, insurance, contract and construction disputes, condemnation, land use, and environmental regulation. Tom appears regularly before the Second Circuit, where he won a precedent-setting case limiting state immunity in bankruptcy cases. He also has handled cases before the Third, Ninth and Federal Circuits.

    In the Connecticut Supreme Court, Tom won a series of cases of first impression under the state wetlands protection statute, defining the scope of private actions, the limits on special use exceptions, and the entitlement to attorney's fees. He won an appeal which established the state’s rule of priorities in foreclosure actions. He also won an appeal of a multimillion-dollar lease termination dispute involving a major defense contractor. In the New York appellate courts, he was successful on the appeal upholding the largest condemnation award against the State of New York for over $125 million plus interet. Tom handled significant cases regarding the duties of insurance companies in hurricane and fire damages as well as a number of construction disputes. He has represented individuals pro bono before both the Second Circuit and the Connecticut Supreme Court on issues involving prisoner and family rights.

    Complex Litigation

    Tom is involved in all aspects of complex litigation in trial courts, with a concentration on motion practice, particularly complex dispositive motions requiring the briefing of challenging legal issues. Working with other members of the firm’s litigation group, his cases have run the gamut of civil litigation, including the representation of one of America's largest corporations in an international contract dispute, the defense of insurance companies against bad faith claims, the enforcement of arbitration agreements against class action attack, defense of Native American corporations, disputes over major government construction contracts, and enforcement of penalties and attorney’s fees in bankruptcy. He litigated a series of Daubert motions in patent cases which significantly assisted the successful resolution of the matters and has also assisted in a number of land use and environmental cases in support of the firm’s practice in those areas.  he was an integral part of the land use team litigating a major RLUIPA case.

    Tom was an attorney on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard for over 20 years before coming to the firm. He served as the senior government appellate counsel, responsible for all Coast Guard appeals nationwide, and represented the Coast Guard in the first military case directly appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also served an assignment with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, litigating Coast Guard cases in federal district courts and Courts of Appeal. In his last Coast Guard assignment, Tom served as a legal advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

  • Experience
    • Experience


      • Achieved unanimous decision in New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, upholding Commercial Division’s grant of summary judgment on basis that flood deductible contained in auto dealership’s inventory policy was unambiguous and expressly provided that there was no maximum limit on the policy’s flood deductible. Five Towns Nissan, LLC v. Universal Underwriters Insurance Company, Inc., 135 A.D.3d 416 (2016).

      • Obtained Connecticut Supreme Court decision recognizing officially long-applied land recording principle of "first in time is first in right." Hudson Valley Bank v. Kissel, et al. (February 7, 2012).
      • Gyrodyne Co of America v. State of New York, 89 A.D.3d 988 (2d Dept 2011) leave to appeal denied 19 N.Y.3d 804 (2012) obtained decision upholding largest condemnation award in New York, plus recovery of client's total attorney's fees.

      • Obtained decision by Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit upholding jury verdict in defendants' favor on all counts previously won in the federal District of Connecticut in fraud and patent action. Hoffman v. Glickman, 158 Fed. Appx. 282 (Fed Cir. 2005).
      • Achieved unanimous decision in Connecticut Supreme Court upholding dismissal for lack of standing of potential multimillion-dollar case against client. Connecticut State Medical Society v. Oxford Health Plans (CT), Inc., 272 Conn. 469 (2005).
      • Obtained decision upholding trial court injunction requiring landowner to pay to restore destroyed wetlands. Conservation Commission of Fairfield v. Red 11 LLC, 119 Conn. App. 377 (2010) cert. denied 295 Conn. 924 (2010).
      • Obtained first impression decision interpreting the farming exemption in state wetlands statute as not permitting the destruction of wetlands by filling and reclaiming. Red 11, LLC v. Conservation Commission of Fairfield, 117 Conn. App. 630 (2009) cert. denied 294 Conn 918 (2009).
      • Won decision upholding trial court's ruling that commercial landlord could not force tenant's insurer to defend suit by tenant claiming landlord caused property damage. Insurance Corp. of N.Y. v. Cohoes Realty Assocs., 50 A.D.3d 1228 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dept. 2008).
      • Won decision limiting sovereign immunity of state superintendent of banks in bankruptcy action involving foreign banks. In re Deposit Insurance Agency, 482 F.3d 612 (2d Cir. 2007).
      • Won decision determining for the first time that individuals have a private right of action under the state wetlands statute. Windels v. Environmental Protection Commission of Darien, 284 Conn. 268 (2007).
      • Obtained decision of Connecticut Supreme Court upholding statutory double damages in multimillion-dollar arbitration award for securities employment case. Harty v. Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., 275 Conn. 72 (2005).
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    • Professional Associations

      Professional Associations

      American Bar Association (2001 - present)
      Section of Litigation (2004 - present), Vice Chair of Appellate Practice Committee (2013 - present)
      Section of Litigation, Co-chair of Sound Advice Committee (2017 - present)
      Council of Appellate Lawyers (2009 - present)

      Connecticut Bar Association (2001 - present)
      Appellate Advocacy Section, Co-Chair (2018 - present)
    • Honors + Awards

      Honors + Awards

      Selected to the Connecticut Super Lawyers list from 2013 to 2018.

      Received ABA Section of Litigation's Best Article Series Award at Annual Editors Symposium for "Silly Lawyer Tricks," published in Appellate Practice 

    • Publications


      "Silly Lawyer Tricks," published in Appellate Practice Journal, a regular column (Spring 2018)

      "Silly Lawyer Tricks," published in Appellate Practice Journal, a regular column (Summer 2017)
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      "Silly Lawyer Tricks," published in Appellate Practice Journal, a regular column (Winter 2017)
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      "Obtaining ABA Amicus Support For Your Appeal," published in Appellate Practice Journal (Winter 2017)
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      "Silly Lawyer Tricks," published in Litigation News, a regular column (5/10/2016)
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      "Silly Lawyer Tricks," published in Appellate Practice Journal, a regular column (Winter 2016)
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      "Silly Lawyer Tricks," published in Appellate Practice Journal, a regular column (Fall 2015)
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      "Silly Lawyer Tricks," published in ABA Appellate Practice Journal, initial column in the journal (Summer 2015)
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      "Winning Your Appeal At Trial," published in ABA Appellate Practice Journal (Winter 2015)
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      "Judical Disqualification: What's Next for Connecticut?" published in Connecticut Lawyer (12/2009)

      "The Future of Caperton v. Massey in State Appellate Courts," published in ABA Appellate Practice Journal (Fall 2009)

      "A Few Do's and Don'ts of Oral Argument," published in ABA Appellate Practice Journal (Winter 2007)

      "Supreme Court Boldly Steps Into Global Warming Debate," published in ABA Appellate Practice Committee's News and Developments E-Flash (April 2007)

      "Class Action Arbitration in New York after Greentree Financial v. Bazzle," published in Nassau Lawyer (3/2004)

      "Getting Your Name in Print: Sometimes It Is Not a Good Thing," (Spring 2012), published in American Bar Association's Appellate Practice newsletter

      "Transfer of Cases from the Appellate to Supreme Court: A Blow to Effective Advocacy?" published in Connecticut Lawyer (May/June 2010)

      "Insider's Guide to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit," (2012), published in the Appellate Practice Compendium by the American Bar Association's Council of Appellate Lawyers

    • Presentations


      "For the Record from Start to Finish," panelist for this program presented at the American Bar Association's (ABA) Section of Litigation Annual Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona (4/11/2014)

      "Celebrating Women on the Appellate Bench: A Mock Argument Examining Potential Gender Influences on Decision Making," at American Bar Association Annual Meeting (8/2010)

      "Winning Strategies for Appellate Advocacy: The View from the Bench," at American Bar Association's Section of Litigation Annual Conference (4/2010)

      "Ten Tips for More Persuasive Writing," at Connecticut Bar Association Annual Meeting (6/2009)

      "The Tough Case Is Not Over: Preservation and Waiver on Appeal," at American Bar Association's Section of Litigation Annual Conference (4/2009)

      "Key Differences Between Appeals in the Second Circuit and Connecticut's Appellate Courts," at Connecticut Bar Institute Seminar (9/2007)

      "Winning Management of Legal Issues through Trial and Appeal," at American Bar Association Annual Meeting, co-presented with Judge Michael Daley Hawkins, 9th Circuit, and Ms. Judith Miller, GC Bechtel Corp. (8/2007)

      "What Movies Teach Us About Appellate Advocacy," at American Bar Association annual meeting (8/2006)

    • News

      R+C in the News

      • December 11, 2018

        Robinson+Cole Hosts CBA Appellate Advocacy Section Meeting Featuring Judge Elgo

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      • October 18, 2018

        51 Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

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      • July 18, 2018

        Tom Donlon Contributes to ABA Section of Litigation Publication

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      • October 16, 2017

        Tom Donlon's Series of Articles Receives ABA Award

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      • September 21, 2017

        Tom Donlon's Latest Column Published in ABA Journal

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      • March 31, 2017

        Tom Donlon Publishes Two Articles for ABA Journal

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      • November 2, 2016

        Tom Donlon's ABA Column Is Among the Most Read

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      • July 20, 2016

        Tom Donlon’s Column Appears in ABA Litigation News

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      • April 13, 2016

        Robinson+ Cole Is Supporting Sponsor of Spotlight Soirée

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      • March 15, 2016

        Tom Donlon's Column Reprinted in ABA's Litigation News

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      • January 11, 2016

        Tom Donlon Column Appears in ABA Appellate Practice Journal

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      • August 25, 2015

        Tom Donlon Begins New Column in ABA Appellate Practice Journal

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      • May 5, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Wins Patent Case in District of Delaware

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      • March 23, 2015

        Tom Donlon Publishes Article on Trial Strategies for Winning Appeals

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      • September 11, 2014

        Tom Donlon Appointed ABA Committee Co-chair

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      • August 14, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Host Networking Event at 2014 ABA Annual Meeting

      • May 14, 2014

        Robinson+Cole's Appellate Group Wins Connecticut Law Tribune's Litigation Department of the Year Award

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      • May 12, 2014

        Tom Donlon Participates in CLE Panel Discussion at National ABA Conference

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      • September 25, 2013

        Tom Donlon Appointed to New Position with ABA's Section of Litigation

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      • May 17, 2013

        Appellate Team Lawyer Participates in ABA Ethics Panel

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      • December 18, 2012

        Thomas Donlon Comments in Litigation News on the Dangers of Appealing an Attorney’s Fee Award

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      • October 22, 2012

        ABA Title Insurance Litigation Committee Publishes Article by Robinson & Cole Attorney

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      • September 27, 2012

        Appellate Attorneys Author Chapters in The Appellate Practice Compendium

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      • July 23, 2012

        Appellate Attorney's Article Published in American Bar Association Newsletter

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      • April 25, 2011

        Attorney's Article Selected to Help Train Judges on Judicial Ethics

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      • September 2, 2010

        Mock Argument Examines Potential Gender Influence on Decision Making

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      • July 21, 2010

        Court of Claims Adds $100 Million for Eminent Domain Taking

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      • July 20, 2010

        Thomas J. Donlon Appointed Cochair of the ABA Appellate Committee

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      • June 11, 2010

        Robinson & Cole Attorney Writes Second Article Published in Connecticut Lawyer

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      • February 24, 2010

        Robinson & Cole Attorney Publishes Article on Judicial Disqualification

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      • May 28, 2008

        Robinson & Cole Attorney Receives ABA Award

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      R+C News Releases

      • October 17, 2017

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

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      • October 18, 2016

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

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      • October 19, 2015

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers®

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      • October 17, 2014

        Robinson+Cole Lawyers Recognized by Super Lawyers

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