Seth A. Rosenthal

Rosenthal Seth

Seth Rosenthal is a trial attorney who represents businesses and individuals in criminal cases and investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice, agency inspectors general, and state attorneys general, and conducts internal investigations for corporations, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions. Seth also handles complex civil litigation involving the False Claims Act, civil and constitutional rights, commercial disputes, and antitrust matters. He manages Venable's pro bono program, chairs the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, and maintains an active pro bono practice.

With his diverse background as a federal prosecutor and in civil rights enforcement and death penalty defense, Seth is a seasoned first-chair trial lawyer, a vigorous advocate, and a versatile problem-solver. In his criminal and government investigations practice, he has extensive experience in grand jury investigations, civil enforcement investigations, and audits, trials, sentencings, and post-conviction proceedings addressing allegations of fraud, false statements, public corruption, and antitrust violations in such industries as government contracting, real estate, manufacturing, banking and mortgage lending, and healthcare.

In internal investigations for corporations, nonprofits, and schools, Seth probes similar allegations of misconduct, as well as the suspected failure of internal compliance systems. Based on his experience in the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division prosecuting police misconduct, Seth's investigations work includes evaluating the conduct of law enforcement agencies and their employees. Seth is currently the court-appointed deputy monitor of the Baltimore Police Department in its consent decree with the Department of Justice and an advisor to the District of Columbia Police Reform Commission.

The civil matters Seth handles encompass False Claims Act defense, challenges to administrative agency actions, prosecution and defense of civil rights actions under federal and state anti-discrimination statutes, prosecution and defense of antitrust actions, and litigation of contract, partnership, and business tort disputes. With his background in fair housing and fair lending enforcement, Seth also advises companies—including mortgage lenders, housing providers, and web-based advertising platforms—on compliance with the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

Seth's pro bono practice focuses on matters involving civil rights and criminal justice. In recent years, he has won the release of three different District of Columbia men imprisoned for murders they did not commit.


Representative Matters

False Claims Act and Procurement Fraud

  • Won a motion to dismiss, affirmed on appeal by the D.C. Circuit, for a chemical manufacturer sued under the "reverse" False Claims Act for its alleged failure to report the purported dangers of certain products to the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Represented a nonprofit organization investigated by the District of Columbia Office on Aging for allegedly obtaining reimbursements for expenses before incurring them
  • Won a motion to dismiss on behalf of a mortgage lender sued for violating the False Claims Act by endorsing certain mortgage loans for Federal Housing Administration insurance
  • Obtained a probationary sentence for an IT systems contractor prosecuted for time-and-attendance fraud
  • Prevented False Claims Act action against a services contractor investigated for allegedly utilizing workers whose qualifications did not satisfy contract requirements
  • Persuaded the Department of Justice not to intervene in a qui tam False Claims Act lawsuit accusing a nonprofit organization of falsely certifying a contractor's eligibility to secure awards under a set-aside program, and subsequently obtained dismissal of the qui tam relator's claims, upheld on appeal by the Fourth Circuit
  • Defended state False Claims Act litigation and prosecuted a related federal action involving allegations that an IT systems provider delivered inadequate solutions for operation of a state-run healthcare exchange
  • Avoided both criminal charges and Department of Justice intervention in a qui tam False Claims Act lawsuit against a construction contractor for allegedly submitting inflated invoices to the government
  • Represented a services contractor who was suspended temporarily and investigated criminally for suspected violation of the Procurement Integrity Act
  • Avoided False Claims Act action by the government against a construction contractor wrongfully alleged to have underpaid employees in violation of the Davis-Bacon Act
  • Represented a food service provider in a state False Claims Act investigation by the District of Columbia attorney general
  • Conducts internal investigations on behalf of contractors and grantees involving allegations of false claims, accounting irregularities, theft, data misappropriation, misuse of source selection information, and conflicts of interest, and advises clients on making voluntary self-disclosures to government agencies

Misconduct Involving Public Officials

  • Represent the subject of a grand jury investigation of a city council member
  • Obtained a below-guidelines sentence in the federal prosecution of a city council member accused of misappropriating government funds
  • Secured a probationary sentence in federal court for a government employee accused of receiving a kickback
  • Cleared a political appointee investigated by an agency inspector general for purportedly violating conflict-of-interest laws
  • Led an investigation of company employees who, as former government officials, were alleged by the agency inspector general to have violated conflict-of-interest laws

Civil Rights

  • Serves as court-appointed deputy monitor of the Baltimore Police Department under its consent decree with the Department of Justice
  • Advises the District of Columbia Police Reform Commission
  • Led an investigation of the fatal use of force by government-deputized special police officers at a large hospital, headed the subsequent comprehensive review of the hospital police force, and advised hospital management on implementing reforms
  • Led an investigation of the use of excessive force by a special police officer at a university hospital
  • Led an investigation of the suicide of a teenage student at a boarding school
  • Represents a local housing authority in a suit alleging that the housing authority's policies and practices favor younger, wealthier residents
  • Won expedited summary judgment for a homeowners' association seeking compliance with its approval process for business uses against a putative assisted living facility operator claiming exemption from the process under the Fair Housing Act
  • Favorably settled a Fair Housing Act challenge to a racially discriminatory zoning ordinance that threatened to shut down apartment complexes that housed a substantial number of a city's minority residents
  • Obtained a precedent-setting ruling from the Maryland Court of Appeals in a lawsuit seeking police records regarding an investigation of racial profiling complaints under the Maryland Public Information Act
  • Obtained a substantial settlement in federal court for an individual who was racially profiled by state troopers

Antitrust and Unlawful Trade Practices

  • Tried O'Bannon v. NCAA, as a member of the plaintiffs' team, winning an historic judgment, affirmed on appeal, against the National Collegiate Athletic Association for violating the Sherman Act by conspiring with member schools to bar college football and basketball players from receiving compensation for use of their names, images, and likenesses in TV broadcasts, rebroadcasts, and video games
  • Represented a generic pharmaceuticals manufacturer in a Department of Justice price-fixing investigation
  • Avoided federal charges for the founder of a payment processing company suspected of illegally processing online gaming payments
  • Represented an online marketer facing allegations of deceptive trade practices by a coalition of 40 state attorneys general

Commercial and Administrative Agency Litigation

  • Facilitated the award of a medical marijuana dispensary license to a dispensary operator by successfully challenging the process the District of Columbia Department of Health used for initially awarding the license to the client's competitor
  • Secured preliminary injunction and class certification in an ongoing challenge to the Trump administration's "bait and switch" practice of luring immigrants in to USCIS interviews required to obtain legal status based on their marriages to U.S. citizens and then having ICE agents arrest, detain, and deport them once they emerge from the interviews
  • Represents a group of church congregants alleging financial improprieties by church leaders who claim First Amendment protection for their conduct; secured a favorable interlocutory decision from D.C. Court of Appeals denying ecclesiastical immunity and favorable trial court ruling establishing clients' standing following evidentiary hearing
  • Won a favorable judgment, after a federal court trial, for former partners in a law firm that improperly reduced their liquidating capital account balances by more than $1 million
  • Represented a real estate developer alleged to have collaborated with a city council member to deprive a competitor of a contract to develop government-owned land
  • Won dismissal with prejudice of a nuisance lawsuit against a solid waste processing facility in the District of Columbia and helped secure a comprehensive settlement agreement that allowed the facility to remain in operation

Criminal Justice

  • Secured dismissal of all charges for a District of Columbia man imprisoned for over 24 years for a murder he did not commit, after obtaining a court ruling declaring his innocence and after having freed him the year before under a DC law that permits re-sentencing of individuals convicted of crimes that occurred when they were minors
  • Obtained dismissal of all charges, after winning reversal of convictions on appeal, for a DC man wrongfully imprisoned for over 21 years for a murder he did not commit
  • Secured the release of a DC man wrongfully imprisoned for 19 years for a murder he did not commit
  • Secured pretrial dismissal of felony rioting charges against a 2017 Inauguration Day protestor
  • Represents a federal death row prisoner as court-appointed counsel in post-conviction proceedings in the District of Maryland
  • Represents a class of prisoners challenging the use of permanent solitary confinement on Florida's death row




  • J.D. cum laude Harvard Law School 1993
  • A.B. summa cum laude Dartmouth College 1989
    • Phi Beta Kappa

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

Professional Memberships and Activities

  • Member, Board of Directors, Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project; chair, 2016 – 2020
  • Member, Advisory Council, Tzedek DC
  • Member, Committee on Litigation and Legal Priorities, ACLU of Maryland
  • Member, Advisory Committee, DC Bar Foundation
  • Instructor, National Institute for Trial Advocacy
  • Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Member, District of Columbia Bar Association, Criminal Law and Individual Rights Section; former co-chair, Steering Committee
  • Member, American Bar Association, Criminal Justice and Individual Rights and Responsibilities Sections
  • Member, Edward Bennett Williams Inn of Court


  • Super Lawyers: Criminal Defense, White Collar, District of Columbia, 2013 – 2022
  • BTI Consulting Group, Client Service All-Star, 2020
  • AmLaw Litigation Daily, Runner-up Litigator of the Week, 2020
  • AmLaw Litigation Daily, Litigator of the Week, 2017
  • American Antitrust Institute, Outstanding Antitrust Litigation Achievement in Private Law Practice, 2015
  • Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, Defender of Innocence, 2009



  • Mentor, Everybody Wins DC
  • Member, Board of Directors, Anne Frank House