University of Iowa News Release
May 16, 2005
Feinberg Urges Law Graduates To Maintain Law's Nobility
Kenneth Feinberg congratulated the 272 graduates of the University of Iowa College of law's Class of 2005 during commencement exercises Saturday and urged them to continue the noble work of the legal profession.
"We as Americans believe in the rule of law by habit and expectation, and we exercise it everyday," said Feinberg, who recently completed 33 months of service as special master of the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund. "Legal work will engender respect from others, although you will labor often in a lonely vineyard, representing unpopular causes or clients. This goes with the territory."
The College of Law administered 262 juris doctris degrees during the ceremonies and eight Master's of Laws degrees. Dean Carolyn Jones presided over her first commencement exercises by congratulating the graduates and thanking them for making her first year as dean much easier, and Adam Timmesch spoke on behalf of the graduating class.
As special master, Feinberg oversaw the federal government's efforts to financially compensate the victims and families of the September 11 terrorist attacks. He disbursed billions of dollars to reimburse the victims of the terror attacks and the family members of those who died. In exchange, those receiving awards promised not to file lawsuits seeking damages for their losses. Feinberg administered all aspects of the program, including evaluating applications, determining appropriate compensation and disseminating awards.
He said his work was often difficult, "a heart wrenching exercise," and he saw all forms of emotional response to the September 11 tragedy; grief, anger, depression, frustration.
"I often felt I acted like Solomon attempting to value life," he said. In his 33 months of uncompensated service, Feinberg disbursed more than $7 billion based on the claims of 2,880 deceased and 2,680 injured victims. Feinberg estimated 97 percent of the families of deceased victims who might have sued to recover tort damages opted for the fund instead.
In the end, however, he said his work was worthwhile because it was one more example of America's respect for law and the rule of law.
"After September 11, there were no riots, no anarchy," he said. "In few other countries would there be a healthy public debate about the legality of military tribunals and the appropriateness of the Patriot Act. America's response reaffirmed the best of the nation's spirit."
He said attorneys were an important part of that response. He pointed to his own public service work as head of the compensation fund, as well as the work of thousands of attorneys who represented gratis the victims seeking compensation.
Much of Feinberg's own legal career has been spent in public service work. He is chairman of the Washington, D.C-based Feinberg Group and one of the nation's leading experts in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. He has served as court-appointed special settlement master in major litigation involving Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the Agent Orange product liability litigation, the RICO class action concerning the Shoreham nuclear facility, in many asbestos personal injury litigations and has served as trustee of the Dalkon Shield Claimants' Trust. Feinberg was also 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.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.
MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, firstname.lastname@example.org.