Phillips Nizer Mourns the Passing of its Esteemed Partner, George Berger12/09/2016
New York, NY – The New York law firm Phillips Nizer expresses profound sadness at the loss of its distinguished litigation partner, George Berger.
“We will miss his keen intelligence, wise counsel, and devoted friendship that we were privileged to share,” said managing partner, Marc Landis. “George’s personal life and professional career were guided by two overriding principles – dedication to others and adherence to an absolute moral and ethical compass. It is an example we all try to follow each day.”
Berger joined Phillips Nizer’s litigation department on August 1, 1960 and continued to practice full-time, until his untimely passing on December 2, 2016. He had a long and illustrious legal career, having joined the firm as an associate immediately after law school. Over the next 55 years, Berger played a prominent role in handling many important, complex and high profile cases, often working closely with the firm’s famed partner and namesake, trial attorney Louis Nizer.
During his over five decade tenure at Phillips Nizer, Berger tried numerous cases and counseled a broad spectrum of clients in varying fields and industries. Early in his career in the 1960’s, he served on the defense team representing the then-popular CBS radio and television personality, John Henry Faulk, in what would be a landmark New York State Supreme Court libel case against AWARE, Inc., an organization specializing in blacklisting entertainment personalities for alleged pro-communist views and associations. It was one of the watershed cases in the ultimate defeat of the scourge of political blacklisting and a triumph for the rights of free speech.
A decade later, Berger represented Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Alex Haley, in a widely-reported copyright infringement trial. It was alleged by the plaintiff that Haley’s 1976 novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, was plagiarized from the plaintiff’s own novel, The African. Berger vigorously defended Haley and his novel was adapted into the television miniseries which aired to a record audience of 130 million viewers.
For nearly two decades, Berger was one of the chief strategists and lead trial attorneys in the multitude of environmental cases involving the Love Canal in Niagara Falls. As counsel to Occidental Petroleum Company, the parent of Hooker Chemical, Berger’s efforts resulted in precedent setting settlements with federal and state governmental agencies, insurance carriers and private citizens, all of which continue to serve as models for resolution of environmental litigation.
Berger earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1957, from New York University, and a law degree in 1960 from New York University School of Law where he was the associate managing editor of the Law Review. He was admitted to practice in New York and before the United States Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. District Court for the Southern, Eastern and Western Districts of New York, and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Second, Fifth and 10th Circuits. For many years, Berger served on the Departmental Disciplinary Committee of the Appellate Division, First Department. He was a member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the American Bar Association.
Berger is survived by his beloved wife Paula, their children Adam, Vernon, Todd and Hope, his grandchildren and his extended family.
About Phillips Nizer LLP:
Phillips Nizer, founded in 1926, represents domestic and international clients in business, finance and real estate transactions, environmental law, intellectual property matters, commercial litigation, matrimonial law and tax and estate planning.
Established by world-renowned trial attorney Louis Nizer, Phillips Nizer’s principal office is in Manhattan, with additional offices in Garden City and East Hampton, Long Island, and Hackensack, New Jersey. The firm is a member of Ally Law, an association of independent, midsized law firms worldwide. To learn more about Phillips Nizer LLP, visit: www.phillipsnizer.com.