Overview

Francesca Morris is a New York litigation attorney who advises and represents foreign and domestic companies, financial institutions, and fraternal and nonprofit organizations in a wide range of commercial disputes, including breaches of contract, business torts, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO), insurance, partnership disputes, real estate, creditors' rights and bankruptcies, and licensing disputes.

Ms. Morris has experience in all stages of litigation, including discovery, dispositive motions, preliminary injunctive relief, jury and nonjury trials, as well as appeals in federal and state courts. Ms. Morris is national litigation counsel for one of the nation's largest fraternal benefit societies and provides legal advice and guidance on all areas of fraternal benefit societies' operations.

In the transportation context, Ms. Morris represents clients in a variety of maritime matters, including collision litigation, limitation of liability actions and cargo claims, as well as arrests, attachments of assets and maritime lien disputes. Ms. Morris' practice also includes review and drafting of charter parties and other transportation service agreements.

In addition, Ms. Morris' experience includes negotiating and drafting domestic and international licensing, software as a service (SaaS) and outsourcing agreements.

Ms. Morris is the Public and Charitable Services Partner for Holland & Knight's New York office and oversees pro bono representations, charitable giving and community involvement. She is a board member of the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation and St. Anne Institute in Albany, New York. For more than 20 years, Ms. Morris has appeared pro bono representing dozens of victims of domestic violence in marital and family law matters. Ms. Morris' other pro bono representations include advising a recreational foundation in the Catskills and she negotiated an insurance settlement on behalf of a Queens, New York, volunteer fire department that suffered heavy damage in Superstorm Sandy.

Representative Experience

  • Serving as national litigation counsel for one of the nation's largest fraternal benefit societies, providing legal advice and guidance on all areas of its operations
  • Defending the seller of a company in the successful dismissal of claims for misrepresentation and breach of contract in the sale
  • Defending a large hotel chain in claims for personal injuries in a speedboat accident in the Caribbean, resulting in dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds
  • Representing a fiduciary in a contested $100 million accounting proceeding
  • Representing an international commodities trader in a fraud and conversion action, including successful seizure of assets in a bank account under state law
  • Advising a national restaurant company on franchise issues

  • Representing a national financial institution in multiple litigations involving its equity investment in a low-income housing project
  • Representing an institutional investor in litigation regarding contractual buy-out terms for exit from a housing project
  • Representing a national restaurant company in leasing and property rights disputes
  • Representing an executive stay hotel company in an arbitration regarding claims arising from renovation delays
  • Defending a property owner against a contractor's claims, with successful defenses of delay and late completion of a construction project
  • Representing multiple banks in a receivership action involving a Ponzi scheme in which funds were used to fraudulently obtain mortgages, including negotiating the release to the banks of the secured properties
  • Representing condominium developers and boards in development, sale and other disputes
  • Providing advice to lenders and borrowers related to defaults and commercial foreclosure proceedings, including advice on state executive orders, COVID-19 related regulations and their effects on foreclosure actions

  • Defense of an insurance broker in litigation involving claims of negligent procurement and fraud
  • Advising insurance companies regarding coverage issues with regard to vessel casualties
  • Advising a fraternal benefit society regarding a former employee's claims involving the order's fraternal purpose and its tax exemptions under IRC 501(c)(8) and the state insurance code
  • Defense of a national fraternal benefit society, state and local chapters in litigation involving claims by a member concerning issues of free speech, the rules of the order and allegations of defamation
  • Representing a fraternal benefit society in submitting an amicus brief on the society's structure in an action between opposing factions of a local chapter

  • Representing an industry publication in asserting First Amendment rights in response to a third-party subpoena
  • Representing a model in disputes with mother agents
  • Advising a minor league baseball team regarding a dispute with a cyber-squatter involving trademark and trade name claims
  • Advising a boxer in a dispute with an alleged agent who made claims against his purse, including advice under the rules of the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC)

  • Defense of a vessel owner in a casualty action involving three vessels and cargo claims of more than $100 million
  • Representing a secured lender in a Chapter 11 action in which the lender credit bid its security to purchase a vessel fleet, involving multiple maritime lien claims, purchase, operation and eventual sale of the vessels
  • Negotiating non-vessel owning common carrier service contracts carrying goods internationally for manufacturers
  • Representing the owner of a research vessel in charter-party negotiations for use of the vessel and its equipment
  • Representing a non-vessel owning common carrier in cargo loss and damage claims
  • Advising a yacht owner regarding Coast Guard regulations for a yacht charter
  • Advising a large international bank regarding stock ownership and transfer under the Jones Act
  • Representing parties in multiple maritime asset arrest and attachment actions under Rule B, Rule C and Rule D

  • Representing a major bank in federal district court in a licensing dispute with an online vendor with claims of $100 million, including obtaining a temporary restraining order to prevent interruption of service 
  • Representing a major bank in an audit dispute regarding a software licensing agreement 
  • Negotiating a multination software as a service (SAAS) contract for a Big Four accounting firm 
  • Negotiating an outsourcing contract for booking, check-in, loyalty programs and related services on behalf of an airline

Credentials

Education
  • Fordham University School of Law, J.D.
  • University of Leeds (England), B.A., English Literature and History, with honors
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • New York
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
  • All State Courts in New York
Memberships
  • St. Anne Institute, Albany, New York, Board of Trustees, 2021-2022
  • St. George's Society of New York
  • Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA)
Honors & Awards
  • New York Metro Women Super Lawyers, The New York Times Magazine, 2015
  • Holland & Knight Public and Charitable Service All-Star, 2014, 2018
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All Star, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021
  • New York Super Lawyers magazine, 2012, 2014
  • John K. Geiger Award for Commitment to Justice, inMotion, Inc., 2003

News