Lawyer in Intelligent-Design Case Leaves Pepper to Form Own Firm

, The Legal Intelligencer

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Steve Harvey
Steve Harvey

Litigator Stephen Harvey, who notably represented the plaintiffs in a challenge to the teaching of intelligent design in public schools and the more recent matter of getting two young patients on an adult lung donor list, has left Pepper Hamilton to start his own firm.

After nearly 20 years in the Philadelphia office of Pepper Hamilton, Harvey has formed Steve Harvey Law, where he intends to focus his practice on representing clients in business disputes, banking and financial services matters and government claims.

Harvey said his time at Pepper Hamilton was rewarding, but said he has always wanted to start his own firm. And the timing was right given the shifting legal market, he said.

"I see it as an opportunity in this marketplace," Harvey said. "There's been a lot of changes in the legal world and in the economy of law firms ... and I see a real opportunity for me to create something that will be economically viable and strong for many years to come."

Having his own firm will also allow him more flexibility in running his practice.

"I see being at my own small law firm will enable me to offer very attractive economic arrangements to my clients, including personalized and unmatched service and very high-quality representation and advice and flexibility in financial arrangements," Harvey said.

Pepper Hamilton managing partner Thomas Cole Jr. said in the press release announcing the formation of Steve Harvey Law that he wished Harvey well.

"Steve is a seasoned litigator and a passionate advocate for his clients," Cole said in the joint statement. "Starting his own firm is something he has wanted to do."

Harvey said he is bringing some clients with him from Pepper Hamilton in the commercial litigation and banking and finance arena, but will primarily be focused on building a new practice. He said he has begun an aggressive marketing campaign, including the creation of a new website, reaching out to contacts locally and nationally, writing a legal blog and focusing on search engine optimization.

Harvey said his plan is to lead a litigation team. To that end, he is set to bring in a "high-quality" litigator early next year and then will build out the firm as the workload requires, he said.

Earlier this year, Harvey represented the parents of 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan and 11-year-old Javier Acosta, two children who needed new lungs. Given their ages, the children were effectively unable to get lungs donated by an adult because the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network has a policy that divides the organ-transplant waiting list between adults and children. Patients under 12 years old are only eligible to receive organs from the pool of adult organs after those organs have been offered to and declined by all adult and adolescent patients in a geographic zone.

Harvey led a team of lawyers from Pepper Hamilton that filed lawsuits challenging the rule and obtained temporary restraining orders on behalf of the children from U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In 2005, Harvey was co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, in which U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III of the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled intelligent design is a religious proposition that cannot be presented in public-school science class as an alternative to evolution.

Similarly to the Kitzmiller case, Harvey recently filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court for the November arguments it heard in Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway, dealing with whether a town legislative body can have sectarian prayers at the start of meetings.

Harvey said he plans to continue to work on civil rights cases, but noted he brings the same focus to all his clients' matters.

Pepper Hamilton litigation partner Eric Rothschild is a longtime friend of Harvey and has worked with him on commercial litigation cases as well as both the intelligent design and lung transplant matters.

Rothschild said the organ transplant case was the perfect example of Harvey's great lawyering and organizational abilities. The team got the case five days before the TRO hearing, Rothschild said.

"When you start a case like that ... as you start the process, it seems like pushing a boulder up this really high mountain that seems daunting and intimidating and almost makes you wonder whether you should do it or could do it," Rothschild said.

But by the time the hearing rolled around, Rothschild said, it felt like they were "running downhill."

"To be able to do all that and sort of marshal the forces, to be able to do that, that to me was extraordinary lawyering," Rothschild said. "It happened to be in a pro bono case, but it's sort of representative of his strength" in all matters.

Rothschild said Harvey had often talked about creating his own firm. While it has challenges because he will have to generate his own income, Harvey will have the opportunity to do diverse things, Rothschild said.

"His commitment to the public interest has grown," Rothschild said of Harvey. "This gives him flexibility to control how much of that he does and for what causes."

Harvey said he had unbelievable opportunities at Pepper Hamilton to handle pro bono matters and he plans to continue that work at his new firm. Harvey is also using his firm's website to discuss issues of importance to him—both legal and nonlegal—such as organ donation, homelessness and climate change.

Gina Passarella can be contacted at 215-557-2494 or at gpassarella@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @GPassarellaTLI.

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