MICHAEL D. HESS
Michael D. Hess currently practices in the areas of commercial litigation, mediation, arbitration, corporate transactions, municipal and state law, as well as in business fraud, bankruptcy, antitrust, securities, and finance law. He has an “AV Preeminent” peer review rating in Martindale, the highest rating in the legal profession for professional excellence and ethical standards.
Mike began his legal career in 1965 as a Law Clerk to Federal Judge Thomas F. Croake in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. From 1966 to 1973, Mike worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he first became Chief Appellate Attorney of the Civil Division and ultimately, Chief of the Civil Division.
At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mike represented the federal government in historical cases such as United States v. New York Times, commonly known as the “Pentagon Papers” case, before the U.S. Supreme Court and Galella v. U.S. Secret Service and Onassis, in which he defended the actions of the Secret Service in imposing reasonable limitations on the rights of paparazzi to photograph the Kennedy/Onassis family. He represented the government in the case against the national letter carriers when they went on strike, and he averted a strike, which would have crippled the City, by the New York City subway and bus drivers. In addition, he supervised significant environmental cases, including one resulting in the cleanup of the Hudson and East Rivers, and another involving the construction of Interstate Highway 684 in Westchester.
In 1973, Mike joined Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, an Am Law firm, and served as the Administrative Partner of the Litigation Department for ten years. He later became a partner in two other Am Law firms, White & Case LLP and Chadbourne & Parke LLP.
In November 1997, Mike was appointed the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. The New York City Law Department is one of the largest public law offices in the nation. It represents all New York City agencies, including the New York Police Department, the Fire Department of New York, and the Health and Emergency Management Department, as well as those departments accountable for children’s services, real estate, finance, correctional facilities, and the homeless. As the chief lawyer for New York City, he supervised 800 attorneys and 900 city employees and oversaw thousands of trial and appellate cases in numerous federal and state courts. As Corporation Counsel, the city’s chief lawyer, at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mike was responsible for handling many unique and complex legal issues that arose in the aftermath of the attacks, such as amending the law to swiftly provide death certificates to families thereby enabling them to collect much-needed insurance for their deceased loved ones when a body could not be found.
On 9/11, Mike himself was trapped in 7 World Trade Center. He was the last person the Fire Department rescued from that building before it collapsed, After 9/11, Mike gave countless eulogies at funerals for fallen city workers, many of whom had young widows and small children. He says this was the hardest thing he has ever had to do.
Following his service as Corporation Counsel, Mike became a founder and Senior Vice President of Giuliani Partners Consulting Firm. He later joined the prestigious law firms Holland & Knight LLP and Dorf & Nelson LLP.
Mike has litigated many significant civil and criminal cases in his private practice. He represented the New York State Urban Development Corporation in an action that ignited the redevelopment and cleanup of Times Square through the construction of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. He has represented the Board of Trustees of the City University, the Battery Park City Authority, and Montefiore and its affiliated hospitals. Mike also represented an Australian yacht club in a significant international dispute involving the America’s Cup yachting competition.
In addition to practicing law, Mike has extensive business and management experience. The federal government appointed him the trustee to operate the S&A Concrete Company, one of the largest concrete and construction businesses in New York City. With Mayor Giuliani, he also supervised the revitalization of New York City’s Off-Track Betting Corporation, transforming it from a losing enterprise to a successful financial company.
Mike has taught and lectured at many prominent law schools including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, New York University, and Fordham. In 2001, Harvard Law School named him a Wasserstein Fellow for his outstanding public service.
Quotes, News & Publications
- “Follow the Leader.” The Harvard Law Review. (April 1, 2004).
- “PUBLIC LIVES; Lawyer With a Bark to Make Giuliani Proud.” The New York Times. (July 29, 1999).
- “Mayor Picks Ex-Prosecutor To Take Job of Top Lawyer.” The New York Times. (November 21, 1997).
Awards & Honors
- Martindale AV Peer Review Rated
- Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow, Harvard Law School