One of My Toughest Cases: Complex Arbitration Involving Jet Engines
SARA ESSEX BRADLEY
Bet-the-Company Litigation; Criminal Defense: Non-White-Collar; Criminal; Defense: White-Collar; Commercial Litigation
Former U.S. Attorney Harry Rosenberg has taken on many cases in his career and has represented such varied interests as the Louisiana Supreme Court, courts of appeals, judges, other lawyers in the community, the State of Louisiana and several municipalities.
With such an impressive resume, some would be surprised to know that Rosenberg had no intentions of becoming a lawyer.
“I wanted to teach American history at the high school level,” Rosenberg says. He says his father “had the prescience to recognize that the relatively low wages of a high school teacher make it difficult to raise a family,” which Rosenberg would one day have.
“... [My father] firmly believed that law school fosters an individual’s analytical skills, which are useful in both the practice of law and in the business community,” Rosenberg says.
Rosenberg heeded his father’s advice and attended Tulane University School of Law. Once there, he became “intrigued with the application of the Napoleonic Code as well as the inherent ability to argue both sides of an issue that the law invariably offers,” he says.
After graduating from law school, Rosenberg served as a law clerk for United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for Judge Jack Gordon for two years. He went on to practice law with Phelps Dunbar in 1974 without interruption except to serve as a United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana (1990-’93) appointed by President George H. W. Bush. Since ’74, Rosenberg concentrated his practice on commercial litigation and white-collar crime, and he now serves as the head of the firm’s commercial litigation section.
It was in September 2005 that Rosenberg accepted one of the toughest cases he would come across in his 37 years in practice.
The case was a complex commercial arbitration proceeding that had been pending for approximately five years. Rosenberg was asked to start as part of the trial team for the arbitration in New York City that began the next month and expected to last several weeks. The arbitration lasted four months. The arbitration demand was filed by a national engine supply company against Rolls-Royce. The claimant sought in excess of $160 million from Rolls-Royce plus punitive damages and attorney fees.
“I was required to absorb voluminous depositions and a mountain of documents involving the operation of jet engines, which was similar to taking a cram course to learn a foreign language,” Rosenberg says.
As a result of various circumstances, Rosenberg became the lead trial attorney for Rolls-Royce in the arbitration. The arbitrators rejected all claims against Rolls-Royce, agreeing that Rolls-Royce’s counterclaim should be granted in full.
“In the aftermath of Katrina … [the case] was a mixed blessing in terms of forcing me to occupy my time in a productive manner while still helping others recover from the catastrophic damage to our way of living in this Gulf Coast area,” Rosenberg says.
On a typical day, Rosenberg is usually involved with 10 to 12 different billable cases and at least three to five pro bono cases.
“Though the number of pro bono matters has been constant and often highly time-consuming, I believe that it is important for attorneys, like other professionals, to give back to the community,” he says. “I feel that it is incumbent upon me to assist people with legal matters by donating my assets of time and resources.”
“… I thoroughly enjoy the practice of law,” Rosenberg says. “I get energized in the morning about going to work and wind up, often to the detriment of my family, working on cases until late at night.”
He does warn that no lawyer should be overly obsessed with their work and they should savor it, otherwise a lawyer can lose his or her effectiveness, and clients will experience the consequences.