A survey of the state’s most reputable attorneys in several specialties.
Photographs by Luigi Ciuffetelli
No, you certainly never thought you’d need a criminal defense attorney. You’ve never stolen a thing and never engaged in anything more violent than a schoolyard shoving match 35 years ago. Then, driving home from the annual company picnic, you were pulled over by a police officer. A breath test registered a blood alcohol concentration of 0.11 percent. True, you only had three drinks, but those three drinks may be enough to end your driving privileges and put your livelihood at risk. Time to call a lawyer.
Hopefully, you’ll never need a criminal defense attorney—or a worker’s comp attorney, a personal injury attorney, a divorce attorney or a personal bankruptcy attorney. But if you do, you want to know that a good one is available.
Delaware Today polled the state’s lawyers to find out who they think are tops. We asked them to tell us who they would recommend to a loved one in several areas of specialty—specialties that do or could affect our daily lives. Several are profiled below. For a complete list of attorneys and specialties, see page 59.
We hope you’ll never have to call many of them, but just in case you do…
STANDING UP FOR THE LITTLE MAN
THOMAS S. NEUBERGER ? THE NEUBERGER FIRM, P.A. ? CIVIL RIGHTS
When former Delaware State Police Superintendent Colonel L. Aaron Chaffinch retired amidst a string of discrimination lawsuits, Tom Neuberger called Chaffinch “a racist, a sexist and a buffoon—a disgrace to the uniform. Good riddance.” Neuberger had already successfully represented several state troopers in federal discrimination and retaliation cases against Chaffinch and the state, winning promotions and millions of dollars in lost wages, back pay and monetary damages for his various clients. But the legal victories weren’t enough for Neuberger. Neither could he take solace that Chaffinch was finally stepping down and that similar cases were still in the works. Neuberger had to take another swing—for the little man. “I’m speaking for these families that are being destroyed,” he says. “I’m speaking for the little children and the wives who are suffering and the people who are suffering from major depression, flashbacks, etcetera. It does help restore some of their dignity and self-respect.” Thanks to the string of high-profile cases, a mastery of using the press to spread his message and a mission to expose the misconduct of public officials, Neuberger has become well known throughout the state during the past five years. Through his 30-year career, he has successfully represented hundreds of clients in civil rights, constitutional law and discrimination suits.
Neuberger’s career has been dotted with landmark civil rights cases and has included a couple high-profile clients. Framed newspaper articles of his successful cases plaster the walls of The Neuberger Firm’s offices.
During his first year out of law school in 1974, he successfully represented a group of Catholic students who met in the commons of an on-campus University of Delaware dormitory for Sunday services. The university took the students to court to stop them from praying on public property, but the state Supreme Court upheld the rights of the students. The Delaware case was later cited in a similar U.S. Supreme Court case.
In the mid-1990s Neuberger represented an employee against the DuPont Co. He says the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals used the case as an example of how to prove a discrimination case. The case had the most far-reaching effect of any in his career because it helped employees in the private and public sectors. The third circuit is considered proemployee because of the model developed from the case.
In 1998 Neuberger took a rare sexual harassment case for the Rutherford Institute, which usually defends religious liberties cases. He represented Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton. Another client is an Ursuline Academy teacher who claims she was fired after her name appeared in an abortion rights ad in a local newspaper. Neuberger, raised a Roman Catholic but converted to Pentecostal, sued the school, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington and the bishop.
Neuberger also represented Lieutenant Colonel Martha McSally, the first woman to ever fly a U.S. combat mission, in a suit against U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. McSally successfully challenged a policy that required U.S. military women based in Saudi Arabia to wear Islamic dress when they left the air force base.
Neuberger says the state has fought doubly hard in many of the cases he handles and has dragged them out because taxpayers foot the bill. At the same time, Neuberger is billing $500,000 for such cases against the state.
“They’re hoping we’re going to go away because the risk is too great,” he says. “It’s only when there’s information in the media that exacts a price from the politicians because they have to stand at the polls. That’s the only accountability.”
Explaining why he continues to fight state and county governments, Neuberger quotes from the Old Testament.
“It’s Isaiah, Chapter 1, Verse 17,” he says. “It says, ‘Seek justice, correct oppression.’”
Says Stephen Neuberger of his father: “Doing the kind of work we do puts him through hell in a lot of ways. It takes a physical toll, an emotional toll,” he says. “He does it anyway because he wants to help people. There are easier ways to make money than to represent people in the David vs. Goliath fights.”