The consistent 30-year baseline of Joe Finnerty’s practice has been his representation of print, electronic, and Internet-based news media organizations in all aspects of news gathering and dissemination, First Amendment issues, and defamation defense.
In addition, he has been fortunate to have been centrally involved in more than his fair share of high-profile, commercial litigation career cases.
In the 1980s, for example, he and his late law partner, John Stenger, successfully defended the County of Erie (New York) against $620 million of lost profits breach of contract damages claims resulting from an aborted domed stadium project in Buffalo. The plaintiff corporations were associated with Houston Astrodome developer and Major League Baseball owner, Judge Roy M. Hofheinz. The county prevailed on all these claims after two jury trials—one of which lasted 13 months, which was then thought to be the longest civil jury trial in New York history—and two trips to New York’s highest appellate court. These Court of Appeals decisions, known as Kenford I and Kenford II, still stand as the principal New York authorities on lost profits damages in breach of contract actions.
In the 1990s, Joe represented one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies in a breach of contract action against scores of its domestic and foreign general liability insurance carriers and reinsurers to recover its expenditures for environmental cleanups at, among other sites, the Love Canal. This was, at the time, the nation’s most prominent environmental coverage case. Among its highlights: Joe coordinated and supervised a massive discovery effort that involved constructing a screening facility and employing over 100 document screeners and more than 12 lawyers to review over 23 million documents. Eventually 9 million documents were produced. Joe then oversaw the litigation of over 300,000 document privilege claims on the way to a favorable confidential settlement.
On the First Amendment/press access front, in 2003, Joe won a decision declaring New York’s statutory ban on cameras in the courtroom inapplicable to bar photographic coverage. The ruling came in the nationally infamous trial of James C. Kopp for the sniper murder of abortion provider, Dr. Barnett Slepian, in his Amherst, New York, home.
Joe is the Media & First Amendment Law Practice Area chair.
- The Walter F. George School of Law, Mercer University, J.D., cum laude, Editor-in-Chief, Mercer Law Review (1980-81), 1981
- Washington & Lee University, B.A., cum laude, 1976
- New York, 1982
- U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit
- U.S. Bankruptcy Court
- U.S. District Court, Western District of New York
- U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York
- U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
- U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
- The National Press Club
- Media Law Resource Center
- New York State Bar Association Committee on Media Law, Member
- American Bar Association
- Erie County Bar Association
- Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, Former Trustee
- Campaign for Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture, Former Board Member
- St. Bonaventure University Graduate School of Communications, Former Media Law Issues Lecturer
- Panel Moderator, "The State of Investigative Reporting," Investigative Post, October 2012
- “Buffalo News Wins Summary Judgment: Strong Headline Makes for Strong Headline Law,” MediaLawLetter, November 2005 (New York: Media Law Resource Center)
- “Old Public Figures Never Die, Nor Do They Fade Away: A Multi-Factor Approach to Public Figure Analysis,” MediaLawLetter, April 2003, pp.23-ff. (New York: Media Law Resource Center)
- “Where You Stand Is Decisive–People v. Kopp: New York’s Statutory Courtroom Camera Ban Does Not Apply to Still Photography,” MediaLawLetter, April 2003, pp. 57-ff. (New York: Media Law Resource Center)
- “Media Liability for Breach of Promise to Maintain a Source’s Confidentiality after Cohen v. Cowles Media Co.,” Author, Media Law Resource Center Committee Report (Pre-Broadcast/Prepublication Review Committee), May 2004
- Super Lawyers: Media/Advertising Law, 2016 and 2017
- Martindale-Hubbell “AV” Peer Review Rated for Very High to Preeminent Ethical Standards and Legal Ability
- ALM Top-Rated in Energy, Environmental, and Natural Resources Law
- Hiscock & Barclay, LLP, Partner
- Stenger & Finnerty, Founding Partner (1993-2007)
- Jaeckle, Fleischmann & Mugel, Partner (1987-1993), Associate (1981-1986)