Over the past four decades when there has been a case that needed a top-notch legal mediator, one attorney has been called many times – Kenneth Feinberg.
He’ll be most remembered as the first special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which, as of November, had distributed more than $6 billion for 32,000 award decisions.
Feinberg has also made compensation decisions for victims of Agent Orange, Jerry Sandusky, the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook massacres and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I think the previous funds worked,” Feinberg told CNN in September 2012 when he was selected to manage the payouts for the shooting massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. “I think that success sort of breeds repeat performance in these rare situations, where compensation is ready to be distributed to innocent victims.”
This week, United Methodist Church leaders proposed a split into more than one denomination in a bid to resolve years of debate over LGBT clergy and same-sex weddings, according to the church’s official news agency.
Feinberg helped broker the plan.
The proposal includes $25 million for the “traditionalist Methodist denomination.” Another $2 million would be set aside for other potential new denominations. And $39 million will be allocated over eight years to “support communities historically marginalized by racism.”
A decade ago in an interview with a law magazine at New York University, where he got his law degree in 1970, he said the key to being a good mediator is to get “very, very good” people to help. Also, “Think out of the box, because the problems are out of the box,” he said.
He said he tries to promote transparency and open handedness and to apply principles consistently.
Feinberg, 74, graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1967 and went to NYU for law school. He clerked for Stanley Fuld, the chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, from 1970 to 1972.
He was an assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1972 to 1975
Feinberg was a special counsel for US Senate Judiciary Committee from 1975 until 1980. For the final two years he was also chief of staff for Sen. Ted Kennedy.
He left to be the founding partner of the Washington office of Kaye Scholer. Thirteen years later he founded his own firm.
Feinberg was chosen by several Washington administrations to monitor victims funds.
“It’s not easy to say no to Secretary Timothy Geithner, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and particularly Judge Jack Weinstein,” he told the New York law school magazine. “And these are discrete assignments; it’s not like a 10-year litigation. You come in, study it, propose a resolution, resolve it, and get out. Plus, I say half jokingly that the bar of success is quite low.”