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Law Office of

Peter Henner

(518) 423-7799

Areas of Practice
Peter Henner
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From August 1984 until June 1, 2012, I maintained a full-time 50+ hour a week solo law practice, dedicated to the representation of individuals and organizations fighting for social justice, particularly when my clients were wronged by the actions of large corporations or governmental entities.  My practice was a direct extension of my political and social activism in the late 1960s and I never forgot that I became a lawyer to continue the fight for a world where the right to democratic principles and human rights, including worker rights, civil liberties and a clean and healthy environment would not be defeated by powerful and greedy forces. The focus and principal accomplishments of my practice can be found on the Overview page of this website.

In September 2013, after trying to limit the practice to a part-time endeavor for over a year, I took a complete
sabbatical to reevaluate what I was doing after  29 years of solo law practice. As I stated at the time, I expected “to return to challenging and worthwhile professional activities focused on continuing the struggle for social justice.”

On September 1, 2014, I reopened my law office, on a limited basis.
I have resumed the practice of law because I am not willing to retire from the fight for a just, environmentally sustainable and peaceful world. I will practice law to do the work that has been the main focus of my life: the struggle against corporate and governmental entities that are determined to seek greater profits at the expense of humanity and to support individuals and groups that are fighting to establish basic civil rights and to preserve the environment.  


I will also handle some general legal matters; but only cases that promote interests I consider important, that are intellectually challenging, or as an accommodation to clients that have been loyal to me for many years. 

The legal system and legal work

In September 2013, the Altamont Enterprise published my article “Goodbye to all that, why I stopped practicing law to do more useful things.” In the 2000 word article, I explained why the legal system had become sclerotic, dysfunctional and corrupt, and why I wanted nothing more to do with it. I still believe that the legal system is badly broken, and it is frequently impossible, or at least cost-prohibitive, in both time and money, to obtain justice
. Nevertheless, there are times when there is no alternative to the legal system. Furthermore, as bad as the American legal system is, American lawyers, unlike lawyers in many countries, can pursue the fight for justice without fear of arbitrary arrest, assault or even murder by governmental agents. If lawyers in China can fight for human rights in the Chinese legal system, I should be able to do so in the United States. 

However, I am not resuming my practice because of a love of law, or to maximize income. For most of my career, I subscribed to the notion that a lawyer could never have too many clients or too much work. I will admit that, like most lawyers in private practice, I took satisfaction from the fact that I was getting paid well for legal work that was neither socially useful nor intellectually interesting. Those days are over.  Although I am willing to work as hard as necessary on projects and cases that I accept, I will not accept legal work that does not meet my criteria; in the unlikely event that the demand ceases for the work that I consider worthwhile, I can and will find better things to do than practice law. 

What about pro bono?

I am emphatically not seeking "opportunities to do pro bono work."  I am declining offers to do paying work that does not meet my criteria, and I will not do work on a pro bono basis that I would not do for a fee.  Pro bono clients are not necessarily any more deserving than paying clients, their causes are frequently unlikely to succeed, and the legal issues raised are no more interesting than the issues raised in paying work.The only difference between pro bono work and paid work is the payment. Like Woody Guthrie, "I do not sing for bad causes"  and I expect to be paid when I work for good ones. 

Large "biglaw" firms that customarily represent powerful corporations perhaps derive some public relations benefit by doing "pro bono" work, but public interest lawyers simply get a reputation for being a soft touch. I usually
represent plaintiffs suing large organizations, community and environmental organizations and individuals of limited means. My paying clients would complain if I represented similar clients for free while charging them. Furthermore, too many pro bono clients, including community and environmental organizations, can and should do their own fund-raising, rather than look for a free lawyer. I have also learned that pro bono services are not always appreciated by clients, sometimes because the clients are not paying for them, and sometimes because the clients think that their pro bono lawyer is not as good as a paid lawyer. 

When I maintained a full-time practice, I did not distinguish between paying and pro bono clients, and will not do so today. My fee arrangements with my clients are private matters, and I will not  stigmatize a client by referring to him or her as a "pro bono client."  The New York State Office of Court Administration requires lawyers to disclose the number of hours that a lawyer devotes to pro bono work on their bi-annual registration statements, with the apparent goal of encouraging lawyers to do pro bono work. I answer "zero."  I will not accept nor do I expect any recognition for pro bono work. I believe that the bar association's touting of pro bono work is hypocritical at best, especially since work for clients of limited means that is performed at a discounted rate, and contingency cases that are not justified as a business risk, but are undertaken because they are in the public interest, do not qualify as pro bono work.


Cases I will and will not handle


I intend to limit my practice to matters and cases that:


1)    Can make a significant difference; preferably by confronting an institution or organization that is blatantly abusing its power.


2)    Will assist an individual or organization that is plainly in the right, especially individuals or organizations active in the fight for social justice. 


3)    Are intellectually challenging. For example, I am willing to handle appeals of complex legal questions involving difficult statutory or constitutional matters and cases requiring mastery of complex scientific, public policy or technical information; I am not willing to handle cases that require extensive preparation or review of mundane documents and/or extensive meetings. I do not want to do boring work simply to generate billable hours.


4)    Can be handled expeditiously without a long-term commitment, especially where the matter involves a particular area of law where I have extensive experience, such as civil rights issues, public sector labor relations,, environmental impact review or energy issues. 

5)  Will help a long-term client or friend, and do not violate the conditions below.


Generally, I will not handle:


1)    Matters that will force me to spend untoward hours in the drudgery of "litigation," particularly litigation that will last for years. Although I am willing to brief and argue substantive motions and appeals, and perhaps even try a case, I hope I have engaged in my last discovery dispute, defended my last deposition, and prepared my last set of  paper discovery demands or responses to demands, pretrial filings or procedural motion papers. If I handle cases that require such work, I will try to work with a firm or other lawyers who are willing to do most of the necessary work.

2)  Cases with a very slim chance of success that do not need to be brought. There are many situations where a prospective plaintiff, although clearly in the right, has a minimal chance of success because of the bad state of the law. The federal judiciary's assault on civil rights has had an effect, and many cases that were once viable are now virtually hopeless. Similarly, the effective repeal of standing for many plaintiffs in both federal and New York state courts means that are many cases where plaintiffs who have been wronged are wasting a lawyer's time and their own money by proceeding. 


3)    Representation of individuals or organizations whose causes I do not entirely embrace. In the course of my career, like most lawyers, I have represented a number of people who were not entirely in the right, and/or organizations whose views I did not entirely share. Today, I will refuse to represent such individuals or organizations. Nor will I tolerate aggravating or excessively demanding clients.



Affiliation with other lawyers/law firms


I welcome opportunities to work with other law firms on a consultant or of counsel basis, particularly in civil rights, employment discrimination and environmental cases. Although I do not want to be the lead counsel in a case that may take years to resolve, I am willing to serve as “of counsel” to firms that are willing to undertake the long-term commitment to prosecute cases. I believe that I can offer relevant expertise and experience and that my reputation will assist in the resolution of the case.

My docket as of March 2015

1. Represent American citizen arrested by Thailand police on the basis of false accusations made by the FBI in possible civil rights action.

2. Represent Afro-American who was told "we don't serve your kind" by clerk in an Albany store of a national chain.

3. Represent apprenticeship program of Local 355, United Service Workers, named as a respondent by rival union in an Article 78 proceeding against New York State.

4. Represent Local 175 of United Plant and Production Workers, a union that represents the majority of New York City asphalt pavers, in administrative and legal efforts to stop  Con Edison from forcing construction contractors to recognize a rival union that has lost the  right to represent the pavers in NLRB elections, and in efforts to force New York City agencies to let Local 175 participate in Project Labor Agreements.

5.Work with "Rights of Nature" group in efforts to file European Citizens Initiative with European Parliament in 2016.

6. Investigate and research possible legal action, including toxic tort case and  citizen suit under the Clean Air Act, against large plastic factory in Albany County.




© 2015 Law office of Peter Henner