Alvin Hellerstein

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Alvin Hellerstein
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Title:   Senior Judge
Station:   New York, NY
Service:
Appointed by:   Bill Clinton
Active:   10/22/1998 - 01/29/2011
Senior:   01/30/2011 - Present
Preceded by:   Louis Stanton
Succeeded by:   Jesse Furman
Personal History
Born:   1933
Hometown:   New York, NY
Undergraduate:   Columbia, B.A., 1954
Law School:   Columbia Law, J.D., 1956
Military service:   U.S. Army 1957 - 1960



Alvin K. Hellerstein is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He joined the court in 1998 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. Hellerstein assumed senior status on January 31, 2011.

Early life and education

Hellerstein graduated from Columbia-New York with his bachelor's degree in 1954 and later graduated from Columbia-New York Law with his juris doctorate degree in 1956. He served as a member of the U.S. Army JAG Corps from 1957 to 1960.[1]

Professional career

Hellerstein began his legal career as a law clerk for federal judge Edmund Palmieri in the Southern District of New York from 1956 to 1957. He spent the rest of his pre-judicial legal career as a private practice attorney in New York City from 1960 to 1998.[1]

Judicial career

Southern District of New York

On the recommendation of U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Hellerstein was nominated by President Bill Clinton on May 15, 1998 to a seat vacated by Louis Stanton. Hellerstein was confirmed by the Senate on October 21, 1998 on a majority voice vote and received commission on October 22, 1998.[1][2]

Notable cases

$400M arbitration award upheld in oil suit (2013)

  United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
     *Corporacion Mexicana De Mantenimiento Intergral, S. De R.L. De C.V. v. Pemex-Exploracion Y Produccion 1:2010-cv-00206
On August 27, 2013, Judge Hellerstein upheld a nearly $400 million international arbitration award owed to Corporacion Mexicana de Mantenimiento Integral (COMMISA), a Mexican subsidiary of KBR, by Pemex-Exploracion y Produccion (Pemex), a Mexican oil company. In the underlying case, COMMISA and Pemex contracted to build offshore natural gas platforms, and later, in 2004, accused each other of contractual breach. A lengthy legal battle ensued: Pemex proceeded to rescind its contracts with COMMISA, while COMMISA brought its claims to an International Chamber of Commerce arbitration panel. COMISSA was awarded $289 million in damages and $7.5 million in attorneys' fees and expenses. In 2010, Judge Hellerstein confirmed enforcement of the award in the United States. At the same time, Pemex brought litigation in Mexico to invalidate the arbitration award, and in 2011, the company succeeded. The Eleventh Collegiate Court for the Federal District, a Mexican appeals court, found that based on legislation brought about after the litigation was initiated, Pemex's rescission was non-arbitrable, thus nullifying the award. Thereafter, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated and remanded Judge Hellerstein's enforcement action to his court. Judge Hellerstein, evaluating the case once more, reaffirmed COMMISA's arbitration award, noting that because the Eleventh Collegiate Court applied a law that did not exist at the time the parties contracted, and because the applicable statute of limitations had since expired, COMMISA would have been denied the opportunity to go to trial. In concluding his analysis of the case, Judge Hellerstein wrote that the Mexican "decision vacating the award violated basic notions of justice."[3]


9/11 wrongful death case (2011)

  United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
     *BAVIS v. UAL CORPORATION 02 Civ. 7154
On July 28, 2009, Judge Hellerstein granted a trial for three wrongful death lawsuits against two major airlines. The wrongful death lawsuits were filed by families that lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.[4] The last case was settled on September 19, 2011 with the defendants receiving an undisclosed amount.[5]


9/11 worker illness case (2010)

  United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
On February 19, 2010, Judge Hellerstein accepted twelve cases filed by responders to Ground Zero over illnesses caused by ash and dust from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The twelve cases are against the City of New York and related contractors on claims that the City failed to provide protective equipment to the first responders working at Ground Zero. How the twelve cases would end could have an impact on similar cases still unsettled in court.[6]

On March 11, 2010, the City of New York announced a $575 million dollar settlement between the city and 10,000 rescue and clean-up workers. The settlement had to be approved by 95% of the plaintiffs and the judge before anyone receive damages.[7] After a settlement deal was announced, Judge Hellerstein wanted to hear from people who were affected by illness before making a decision on a settlement. Also, Hellerstein criticized the settlement for having 33 percent of the settlement go to legal fees in which should be reduced to 15 percent.[8]

On April 12, 2010, Hellerstein was very critical of attorneys for both sides in the case for not being notified of new settlement negotiations. Judge Hellerstein said to the attorneys in the hearing: "I'm being left in the dark". The next hearing for the settlement was scheduled on April 27, 2010.[9] In November of 2010, over 95% of the defendants agreed to a settlement of $625 million.[10]


Airlines sue FBI over 9/11 (2009)

  United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
On July 16, 2009, Judge Hellerstein dismissed a lawsuit filed by major airlines seeking rights to question FBI agents about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The lawsuit was part of a plan for the airlines to question FBI agents and seek access to evidence related to the September 11th attacks. The airlines who sued the FBI wanted to prove in court that the government was inadequately prepared to prevent the terrorist attacks.[11] Hellerstein ruled against the airline's claim stating, "the defendants have also argued that the terrorists likely would have succeeded, even if the defendants had exercised due care. The issues to be tried relate to the acts and omissions of the aviation defendants, not the government". He also explained: "the government's failures to detect and abort the terrorist plots would not affect the defendant's potential liability."[11]


CIA interrogation (2009)

  United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
     *AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION v. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE No. 04 Civ. 4151(AKH)
Judge Hellerstein ruled against the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over a lawsuit which sought to force the CIA to release secret documents in regards to interrogations involving terror detainees. Hellerstein's ruling claimed that intelligence methods must be protected without risking national security.[12]


See also

External links

References

Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Louis Stanton
Southern District of New York
1998–2011
Succeeded by:
Jesse Furman


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