District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein - The 9/11 Judge

Over the years, I have posted numerous stories pertaining to Alvin K. Hellerstein. As far as I can find, this is everything I have regarding decisions he's made over the years. He is mentioned in several articles, but I wanted to focus on decisions specifically, so only those are posted.

9/11 Related - The YBBS
"A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit charging that the city's Office of Emergency Management helped cause the collapse of Seven World Trade Center on 9-11 by storing diesel fuel for its emergency generators in the 47-story building." [...] "The city Law Department hailed the ruling, which it says is the last property damage claim against the city related to 9-11. A statement from the department says the move by District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein "allows New York City to better plan for events like September 11th without being subject to liability based on hindsight." [Village Voice, 1/12/2006]

"Christie Whitman, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, yesterday rejected as "completely inaccurate" a federal judge's ruling that found she had misled people near the World Trade Center site about the risks of air contamination after the Sept. 11 attack." [...] "In coincidence, another judge in the same courthouse issued a ruling on Thursday in a separate but almost identical case against Mrs. Whitman and the agency — and he reached the opposite conclusion. After a hearing late Thursday, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein dismissed the suit in his court, accepting virtually the same arguments by Justice Department lawyers that Judge Batts had rejected. Judge Hellerstein was convinced that Mrs. Whitman should be immune." [NYTimes, 2/4/2006]

"A federal judge on Tuesday refused to toss out claims by thousands of emergency workers who sued New York City and about 150 private contractors after the workers were sickened by dust at the World Trade Center site. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein dismissed claims against Consolidated Edison Co. and companies controlled by developer Larry Silverstein, saying they did not have legal control over the area and therefore were not liable for damages. But Hellerstein said the city, its contractors, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were only partially immune from lawsuits, with the precise scope and extent of the immunity varying according to date, place and activity." [Associated Press, 10/17/2006]

"A judge said Friday that thousands of emergency workers expected to claim they were harmed by World Trade Center dust after the Sept. 11 attack may have to share up to $1 billion, the amount he believes is the city's limit on liability. US District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein indicated he might soon make a formal finding that the liability has a limit and appoint a special master to speed claims so that injured workers can recover money they need to cover their medical expenses." [...] "The judge last month ruled that the city, its contractors and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site, were only partially immune from lawsuits filed on behalf of workers who cleaned up the World Trade Center debris for months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." [Associated Press, 11/3/2006]

"In a reversal of the usual legal procedure, Judge Hellerstein has ordered six trials for damages to take place before any trial for liability, in the hope, he said, that both sides may use those figures as a road map toward settlement. He set dates for two of those damages trials, Sept. 24 and Oct. 15. His decision is a mixed victory for the plaintiffs, since it means that the trials, though likely to be extremely emotional, will lack many of the findings of accountability that the families say they so dearly want. The trials will focus instead on the victims’ pain and suffering and on the grief of their surviving families." [NYTimes, 9/4/2007]

"The judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan, ruled Tuesday that he would exclude some of the plaintiffs’ more sensational and speculative evidence in the trial, which is to begin next month. The victim, Paul Wesley Ambrose, a doctor, was 32 when he died aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which flew into the Pentagon, killing 58 passengers, 6 crew members and 125 in the building. His parents, Sharon and Kenneth Ambrose, have sued the airline, airport security companies and others, arguing that the attacks could have been foreseen and their son’s death averted. The ruling was a blow for plaintiffs in this and possibly other wrongful death cases stemming from the attacks, and could accelerate the pace of settlements. More than 90 families, including the Ambroses, chose not to accept payments averaging $2 million from a federal Victim Compensation Fund, and decided to go to court instead. All the remaining cases have been consolidated under the same judge." [NYTimes, 10/18/2007]

"The first significant ruling in the case came in 2006, when a federal district judge in Manhattan, Alvin Hellerstein, found that the city was only entitled to immunity for its conduct in the days immediately after the terrorist attacks. The lawsuits could go forward against the city's wishes, Judge Hellerstein ruled, to give workers the chance to prove their claims that ground zero remained an unsafe work environment even weeks and months after September 11, 2001. The city and port authority appealed. In a victory for the ailing workers, today?s decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that appeal and largely affirmed Judge Hellerstein?s decision." [NYSun, 3/26/2008]

"The owner of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the 2001 terror attacks, filed two amended complaints last week accusing 17 airlines and five security contractors of negligence that led to five terrorists being able to commandeer passenger aircraft and crash them into the twin towers." [...] "The amended complaints followed a March 18 decision by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein that allowed the Port Authority to name the airlines and security contractors directly. The original suit was filed in 2004, shortly before the three-year statute of limitations expired." [Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/22/2008]

"A federal judge in Manhattan took the unusual step on Thursday of overturning settlements in four lawsuits filed on behalf of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, saying the firm that negotiated the deals was seeking excessive legal fees and that the settlement amounts themselves were unreasonable. The judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein of United States District Court, sharply criticized the firm, Azrael, Gann & Franz, of Maryland, saying its request for 25 percent of $28.5 million it had recovered "would reflect a very large windfall," and that its "entire strategy seems to have been to coast on the work of others." [NYTimes, 7/25/2008]

"The bid for dismissal comes shortly after the Court hearing the cases began a new effort to resolve them. Less than one week earlier, the Honorable Alvin K. Hellerstein, the judge presiding over more than 10,000 World Trade Center cases, announced an aggressive plan for the trials of the most critically injured first responders, paving the way toward a global settlement. In his decision, Judge Hellerstein wrote that "a basis for settlement or valuation by trial should prompt resolution of all such severe cases." A March 2, 2009 editorial in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS praised Hellerstein's new program as "a magnificent exercise in case management and a powerful mechanism for forcing settlements" after over seven years of court battles." [PRNewswire, 3/19/2009]

"A judge said Wednesday he favors keeping Sept. 11-related documents and interviews secret until the trials for several families of victims suing the airline industry, an opinion that upset several victims' family members. Donald Migliori, a lawyer for families of three people who died on hijacked planes in the 2001 attacks, asked U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein to make nearly a million pages of evidence and 200 depositions public, saying there was no reason for secrecy." [Associated Press, 3/26/2009]

"Aviation companies may not interview six current and former Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who worked on government probes into the September 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks, a judge ruled on Thursday." [...] "Permitting an inquiry into what fragments of information various government agents knew, or should have known, and at what time, but did not tell the defendants, threatens thoroughly to confuse and prejudice the jury, distract from the major issues of the case, and add to the trial substantial expense and delay," the judge wrote." [...] "A motion to admit the 9/11 Commission Report, published in 2004 and ordered by Congress, was denied except for a chronology of the report." [Reuters, 7/16/2009]

"A New York City judge says he won't order the release of hundreds of documents the CIA has refused to make public regarding the destruction of videotapes of detainee interrogations following the Sept. 11 attacks. Manhattan federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled Wednesday after viewing a few of nearly 600 documents related to the CIA's 2005 destruction of videotapes documenting new harsh questioning techniques. He said a federal judge must defer to the CIA director in assessing information related to such an issue of national security. The judge also said he probably would have ruled on the same grounds that the videotapes would not have to be released if they had not been destroyed. A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union says he doesn't know if he'll appeal." [Associated Press, 9/30/2009]

Not 9/11 Related - The YBBS
"A federal judge has told the government it will have to release additional pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, civil rights lawyers said. Judge Alvin Hellerstein, finding the public has a right to see the pictures, told the government Thursday he will sign an order requiring it to release them to the American Civil Liberties Union, the lawyers said." [Associated Press, 5/26/2005]

"Following the latest round of filings by the Department of Defense in conjunction with the State Department -which attempts to stipulate that all current and future photographs and tapes of detainee abuse be permanently sealed and, in addition, the reasons given for the motion be heavily redacted - the court ruled largely in favor of public disclosure." [Rawstory, 8/16/2005]

"A federal judge has ruled in New York that the government must either produce memos on waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA or explain why they should be kept secret. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein says the memos are "clearly responsive" to a lawsuit filed in 2003 by the ACLU and other civil rights groups seeking records on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas." [Associated Press, 9/3/2008]

Not 9/11 Related - History Commons
August 12, 2004: Court Orders Government to Hand Documents Over to Civil Rights Groups
After an oral argument in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein orders the Pentagon and other government agencies to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and provide the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups documents about detention and interrogation activities regarding prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, and elsewhere. The government must comply by August 23, the court orders. [REUTERS, 8/12/2004]

September 15, 2004: CIA Is Given Court Order to Preserve All Records about Treatment of Detainees
In 2003, after reports began to surface that some detainees in US custody had been abused, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records about the treatment of all detainees caught since 9/11 and held in US custody overseas. The ACLU eventually filed a lawsuit to get the records, and on September 15, 2004, judge Alvin Hellerstein orders the CIA and other government agencies to "produce or identify" all relevant documents by October 15, 2004. [FINDLAW, 12/14/2007] Hellerstein also rules that classified documents must be identified in a written log and the log must be submitted to him for review. In December 2004, the CIA and other agencies make public a huge amount of information but fail to inform the judge about the videotapes and other classified information (see December 21, 2004). Since that time, the case remains delayed with stays, extensions, and appeals. In December 2005, the CIA will destroy videotapes of the interrogations of at least two high-ranking al-Qaeda detainees (see November 2005). After the destruction of the videotapes is publicly revealed in December 2007, the New York Times will comment on the ACLU case, "Some legal experts [say] that the CIA would have great difficulty defending what seemed to be a decision not to identify the tapes to the judge, and the subsequent decision to destroy the tapes." [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/13/2007] Legal analyst John Dean will later comment, "It is difficult to see why the CIA is, in fact, not in contempt, given the nature of the [ACLU] request and the judge’s order." He will suggest that the case may represent the best chance to find out why and how the CIA destroyed the videotapes. [FINDLAW, 12/14/2007]

December 21, 2004: CIA and Other Agencies Disclose Some Documents Pertaining to Prisoner Abuse
Five agencies, under an agreement worked out by US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, release approximately 9,000 pages of internal reports, investigations, and e-mails containing information about prisoner abuse in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The massive disclosure seemingly marks the end of a more than 13-month long effort (see October 7, 2003 and September 15, 2004) by five human rights groups to access the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents demonstrate that the abuses were far more widespread and systemic than previously acknowledged by the government. The documents include information about numerous abuses, such as threatened and mocked executions, thefts of private property, physical assaults, shocking detainees with electric guns, the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners at Guantanamo, shackling detainees without food and water, and murder. In many of the cases, the Army chose to punish offenders with non-criminal punishments rather than court-martial them. Reporting on the disclosure, the Washington Post notes, "The variety of the abuse and the fact that it occurred over a three-year period undermine the Pentagon’s past insistence… that the abuse occurred largely during a few months at [Abu Ghraib], and that it mostly involved detainee humiliation or intimidation rather than the deliberate infliction of pain." [WASHINGTON POST, 12/22/2004] However, these agencies continue to secret hold back some material and in late 2005 the CIA will destroy videotapes of interrogations relevant to these requests (see November 2005).

March 2, 2009: CIA Admits to Destroying 92 Videotapes of Interrogations
In a letter to Judge Alvin Hellerstein regarding the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)'s lawsuit against the US Defense Department, the Justice Department informs Hellerstein that the CIA destroyed 92 videotapes of prisoner interrogations. The CIA’s previous admissions of the number of destroyed videotapes were far smaller (see November 2005). [RE: ACLU ET AL V. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ET AL, 3/2/2009 ] The CIA confirms that the tapes showed what it calls "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on a number of detainees. The Justice Department adds that it will provide a list of summaries, transcripts, and memoranda related to the destroyed tapes, though the American Civil Liberties Union notes that a previous list was almost entirely redacted. [TPM MUCKRAKER, 3/6/2009; AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, 3/6/2009] The disclosure comes as part of a criminal inquiry into the tapes’ destruction. As the investigation comes to a close, observers expect that no charges will be filed against any CIA employees. The agency’s Directorate of Operations chief, Jose Rodriguez, ordered the recordings destroyed in November 2005 (see November 2005); former CIA Director Michael Hayden argued that the tapes posed "a serious security risk" because they contained the identities of CIA participants in al-Qaeda interrogations. Rodriguez has not yet been questioned. It is believed that the tapes show, among other interrogation sessions, the waterboarding of two detainees, Abu Zubaida (see Mid-May 2002 and After) and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see Shortly After Early October 2002). Civil libertarians and human rights advocates are outraged at the destruction of the tapes. "The sheer number of tapes at issue demonstrates that this destruction was not an accident," says Amrit Singh, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "It’s about time the CIA was held accountable for its flagrant violation of the law," she adds. CIA spokesman George Little says the destruction of the tapes was not an attempt to break the law or evade accountability. "If anyone thinks it’s agency policy to impede the enforcement of American law, they simply don’t know the facts," Little says. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirms that her panel intends to conduct a broader investigation of the CIA’s interrogation program. [WASHINGTON POST, 3/3/2009]

It seems odd

that simply because part of 9/11 happened in lower Manhattan, this single judge is called upon to decide every major case brought against the government for full disclosure. Is there no legal precedent to avert such a situation?

And Michael Mukasey was the earlier U.S. District judge

who all things related to 911 apparently went before.


that's just a coincidence.

I updated this...

Put things in their proper order.

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?

John, very good archive of

John, very good archive of info on him. Thanks for doing this.