Feinberg, Kenneth

views updated


FEINBERG, KENNETH (1945– ), U.S. attorney, expert in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. Born and raised in Brockton, Mass., Feinberg graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts in 1967 and from New York University School of Law, where he was articles editor of the Law Review, in 1970. He served as law clerk to Chief Judge Stanley H. Fuld, New York State Court of Appeals, from 1970 to 1972. He was assistant U.S. attorney, Southern District of New York, from 1972 to 1975 and special counsel, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, from 1975 to 1980. Feinberg served as administrative assistant to Senator Edward M. Kennedy from 1977 to 1979. He was a partner in the firm of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler from 1980 to 1992, then founded The Feinberg Group in Washington, d.c., in 1993. He was also a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, New York University School of Law, University of Virginia Law School, and Columbia Law School.

Feinberg served as mediator and arbiter in thousands of disputes, involving such issues as breach of contract, product liability, civil fraud, and various environmental matters. He served as court-appointed special settlement master in several high-profile cases, including the Agent Orange product liability litigation, the rico class action concerning the Shoreham Nuclear Facility, and many asbestos personal injury litigations. He was the first trustee of the Dalkon Shield Claimants' Trust. Feinberg was one of three arbitrators chosen to determine the fair market value of the Zapruder film of the John F. Kennedy assassination, and he was one of two arbitrators selected to determine the allocation of legal fees in the Holocaust slave labor litigation.

In 2001 Feinberg was appointed Special Master of the Federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund by Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Fund was created by federal legislation to compensate victims and families of victims injured or killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, provided they relinquished their right to sue. Working for 33 months entirely pro bono, Feinberg developed the preliminary regulations governing the administration of the fund and solicited comments and criticism, which were often harsh. He held more than two dozen "town hall meetings" with families, in addition to personal meetings. Feinberg administered all aspects of the program, which awarded $7 billion. Families who were dissatisfied with an award could appeal through an informal hearing; Feinberg personally presided over more than 900 of the 1,600 hearings. At the end of the process, he won the admiration of many of his former critics, who praised his fairness and his willingness to adjust some aspects of both the procedure and the awards.

In 2005 Feinberg published his book What Is Life Worth? The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11, in which he details the immense challenges and difficult emotional components of his work with victims' families. A member of the National Judicial Panel and the recipient of numerous honors, he was named Lawyer of the Year by the National Law Journal in 2004.

[Dorothy Bauhoff (2nd ed.)]