Samuel Issacharoff, the New York University School of Law professor who is representing a group of class action plaintiffs against oil giant BP, often is described as a Renaissance man.
Indeed, his list of accomplishments is long and he seems to be constantly reinventing himself, delving into different fields and more than willing to share his wide-ranging expertise with others — even the President.
In 2008, during the primaries and general election season, Issacharoff, along with fellow professor Richard Pildes, worked as part of Barack Obama’s campaign legal team.
The pair’s focus was to monitor voting issues around the country, and respond to any problems that may require legal intervention.
Prior to the election, Issacharoff joined the NYU School of Law as the Bonnie and Richard Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law.
A 1983 graduate of the Yale Law School, Issacharoff spent the early part of his career as a voting rights lawyer.
In particular, he served as the acting director of the Voting Rights Project for the D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, litigating issues like racist gerrymandering.
“These were great professional moments that gave me tremendous satisfaction. You felt you were on the right side of history,” he told NYU’s The Law School Magazine of the experience.
Issacharoff started his teaching career at the University of Texas in 1989. There, he held the Joseph D. Jamail Centennial Chair in Law.
A few years later, in 1992, as a junior faculty member of Texas’ law school, he did a turn as an affirmative action lawyer and helped represent the university in the high-profile Hopwood v. Texas.
In Hopwood, four white plaintiffs who had been rejected from the university’s law school challenged the institution’s admissions policy on equal protection grounds, and prevailed.
After seven years as a precedent in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the decision was repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.
In 1999, Issacharoff headed to Columbia Law School, where he was the Harold R. Medina Professor of Procedural Jurisprudence.
Then, in 2005, he was lured away to NYU.
As the Reiss Professor, Issacharoff’s wide-ranging research deals with issues in civil procedure (especially complex litigation and class actions), law and economics, constitutional law, particularly with regard to voting rights and electoral systems, and employment law.
Many consider him to be one of the pioneers in the law of the political process.
Over the years, his published articles have appeared in every leading law review, as well as in leading journals in other fields.
In fact, his Law of Democracy casebook, co-authored by Pildes and Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, was used by Obama when he was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.
“He’s a lawyer hyphen scholar. He’s able to bridge the gap between high theory and a lawyer’s sense of how judges are thinking about issues. His practice informs his scholarship, and his scholarship informs his practice,” Karlan said of Issacharoff in 2005.
Issacharoff also is considered a leading figure in the field of procedure, both in the academy and outside.
He served as the reporter for the Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation, released by the American Law Institute in 2010. The book provides an overview of mass disputes in modern society and discusses key concepts in the field.
Also, in 2003, he was inducted into the prestigious American Academy of Arts of Sciences for his expertise in employment law and his empirical work in behavioral law and economics.
Issacharoff was born in Buenos Aires to father Amnon, a psychoanalyst, and mother Dorah, who taught college comparative literature.
When he was 5 years old, his family moved to the United States, eventually settling in Manhattan.
He attended the competitive Bronx Science High School — still considered the premier science magnet school in the U.S. — and graduated from Binghamton University in New York, with an undergraduate degree in history, in 1975.
He met his wife, Cynthia Estlund, while attending Yale. Estlund, herself, is an accomplished labor and employment-law professor, also at NYU’s School of Law.
On Monday, Issacharoff served as counsel for a group of class action plaintiffs at a hearing held in a federal appeals court involving the administration of claims processing to individuals and businesses negatively affected by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The expedited appeal was taken up in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit just a little over three months after defendant BP filed it on April 5.
At issue are claims by BP that the settlement process it agreed to in May 2012, which pays out settlements to businesses and individuals affected by the explosion of the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon oil rig, has been perverted to provide settlements over and above what those affected deserve in addition to being applied to businesses that were not affected by the spill.
BP originally estimated that the settlement to be worth $7.8 billion to the plaintiffs, but the claims process has no cap and is expected to grow substantially if the current process is left in place.