9/11 Victims' Fund special master encourages public service
"Despite all sorts of criticism, some justified, I've never been prouder of the profession than the way it responded to the needs of 9/11 families," said Kenneth Feinberg, special master to the Federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and National Law Journal's Lawyer of the Year.
On March 4, Massachusetts Bar Association members will have the unique opportunity to hear from Feinberg when he serves as guest speaker at the annual Access to Justice Awards Luncheon as part of Annual Conference 2005. The luncheon recognizes MBA members for their commitment to public service.
Appointed by the United States Attorney General, Feinberg developed and promulgated the regulations governing the administration of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and, without salary, administered all aspects of the program, including evaluating applications, determining appropriate compensation and disseminating awards.
Successful administration of the fund required Feinberg to play a variety of roles: salesman, minister, law professor, accountant and psychiatrist. Above all, he says the most important skill was being a good listener.
Feinberg has practiced in the public service sector in a wide variety of roles, but he considers the 97 percent participation rate in the 9/11 fund by eligible families, with awards totaling $7 billion, to be his greatest success. He will explain how the efforts of trial lawyers from Massachusetts and elsewhere ensured that success when he addresses the Access to Justice Awards Luncheon.
As a result of his tenure administering the fund, Feinberg has become very fatalistic.
"I don't plan two weeks ahead," he said. "Life has a way of throwing curve balls."
However, he reaffirms his belief that public service is "a noble, noble cause."
"I think that there's nothing more satisfying," he said.
Feinberg, who grew up in Brockton, spent five years as an administrative assistant to U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy and a dozen years in the Washington office of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler before founding The Feinberg Group, also based in Washington, in 1993. The firm specializes in alternative dispute resolution.
He has worked as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney General, and served as court-appointed special settlement master in major litigation involving Westinghouse Electric Corp., the Agent Orange product liability litigation, the RICO class action concerning the Shoreham Nuclear facility, in many asbestos personal injury litigations and in DES cases. He has served as trustee of the Dalkon Shield Claimants' Trust and has been the mediator and arbitrator in thousands of disputes involving such issues as breach of contract, antitrust and civil RICO violations, civil fraud, product liability, insurance coverage and various commercial and environmental matters.
Feinberg also was one of the three arbitrators selected to determine the fair market value of the original Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination and was one of two arbitrators selected to determine the allocation of legal fees in the Holocaust slave labor litigation.
Tickets to the luncheon are included in the full-conference and Friday registration fees. Single tickets may be purchased for $75 each, of which $20 is a tax-deductible contribution to the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.