Philip Halpern – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Jeanine Pirro is not only a former judge and television personality but is also close to the Trump Administration.  Her influence can be seen in the nomination of Philip Halpern to the Southern District of New York.

Background

Philip Morgan Halpern was born in Derby, CT on April 17, 1956.  Halpern attended Fordham University and Pace University School of Law.[1] 

After graduating, Halpern clerked for Judge Irving Ben Cooper on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and then joined the New York office of Kimmelman, Sexter & Sobel P.A. as an Associate.[2]  In 1984, he shifted to Collier, Halpern & Newberg LLP in White Plains, where he became a Partner in 1985 and Managing Partner in 1995.[3]  He is still with that office.

History of the Seat

Halpern has been tapped for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to a seat vacated by Judge Kevin Castel, who moved to senior status on August 5, 2017.  After being recommended to the White House by Pirro, Halpern interviewed with the White House Counsel’s Office in mid 2017.[4]  He was selected as a nominee in March 2018 and was nominated on October 10, 2018.[5]

Political Activity

While he is a registered Republican, Halpern has donated to both Democrats and Republicans.[6]  Among Republicans, Halpern gave $2000 to then-Sen. Al D’Amato in 1995 and $2500 to Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon in 2012.[7]  Among Democrats, Halpern gave $300 to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in 2011 and $650 to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) in 2013.[8]

Legal Career

Halpern has spent virtually his entire legal career at the firm of Collier Halpern & Newberg.  One of his former partners at the firm was Albert Pirro, who was married at the time to Jeanine.[9]  Pirro left the firm in 2000 after being convicted of tax fraud.[10]  Halpern actually later represented his former partner before the State Bar, and successfully persuaded them to impose a lower remedy than revocation of Pirro’s law license.[11]

In other matters, Halpern represented an association of taverns and restaurants in challenging Westchester County’s smoking ban.[12]  He also represented Home Depot in trying to sue city officials in Rye, NY, for causing delays in building stores, a suit ultimately rejected by the New York Court of Appeals (despite its name the highest court in NY).[13]  In 2004, he represented a developer who had acquired an old Orthodox Jewish cemetery and faced legal obstacles to developing on the land.[14]

Writings

While not as prolific as other judicial nominees, Halpern has written occasionally on the law, generally in a descriptive manner.  For example, Halpern praises the use of motions for summary judgment as a strategic tool for litigators to present their best case before the judge.[15]  In another, Halpern describes the availability of jury trials in cases that mix principles of law with equitable relief.[16]

Overall Assessment

With a fairly bipartisan political history and nearly forty years of legal experience, Halpern would seem unlikely to draw significant controversy in the confirmation process.  However, Hapern’s confirmation process does not seem to have gone through Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who represent New York, and, given the controversy over New York’s appellate nominees, they are unlikely to be receptive to the Administration’s nominees.  It is nonetheless possible that Halpern will be confirmed as part of a nominations deal.


[1] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., Lewis Halpern: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 1.

[2] See id. at 2.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 45-46.

[5] See id.

[7] See id.

[8] Id.

[9] See Winnie Hu, After Tax Fraud Conviction, Pirro Leaves Law Practice, N.Y. Times, July 1, 2000.

[10] See id.

[11] Pirro’s Law License is Suspended for 3 Years, N.Y. Times, May 17, 2003.

[12] Elsa Brenner, Tough Smoking Law Survives Challenge, N.Y. Times, June 23, 1996.

[13] Thomas Crampton, A Body Blow to Retail Goliaths, N.Y. Times, May 23, 2004.

[14] Daniel J. Wakin, Lost in Yonkers: A Cemetery and 135 of its Children, N.Y. Times, July 7, 2004.

[15] See Philip Halpern, Unlocking a Valuable Tool: Summary Judgment Hearings on Issues of Fact, 33 Westchester B. J. 98 (Fall/Winter 2006).

[16] Philip M. Halpern, Mixing Law and Equity Causes of Action Does Not Preclude a Jury Trial, 35 Pace L. Rev. 807 (Spring 2015).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s