Michael S. Adler
New York, New Jersey
Michael S. Adler joined the firm in 2009 and became a partner in January 2015.
Mr. Adler focuses his practice in all areas of employee benefits litigation. He assists clients in drafting, implementing and monitoring all phases of their collection policies. Mr. Adler is counsel of record in over 200 cases, primarily handling ERISA collections (in federal court as well as arbitration proceedings), including complex, multi-party alter-ego and single employer litigations. He also litigates withdrawal liability claims, including claims against controlled group members. Mr. Adler has secured multi-million dollar judgments and settlements on behalf of benefit plan clients. He has also defended ERISA benefit claim cases for ERISA plans.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. Adler engaged in a similar practice of labor and employee benefits law in New York and the District of Columbia.
Mr. Adler earned his undergraduate degree from Queens College of the City University of New York in 1999, and is a 2002 graduate of the George Washington University Law School. Mr. Adler is a published author, co-writing six children’s’ books, and while in college, providing historical baseball content for the sportsline.com website.
New York, Connecticut
Jonathan Cerrito joined the firm as Of Counsel in February 2020 and became a partner in January 2021.
Mr. Cerrito is retained by sponsors of multiemployer and single-employer plans to handle their most sensitive employee benefits matters because of his unique blend of can-do attitude, keen instincts and technical proficiency. He regularly wrestles the most complex aspects of ERISA and tax law and provides straight talk with respect to qualified pension plans, health plans and compensation arrangements.
In addition to advising plan sponsors on the design, operation, merger and termination of tax-qualified plans, Jonathan’s practice includes advising ERISA fiduciaries on the investment of plan assets and the prohibited transaction rules. Having handled dozens of investigations and audits conducted by the Department of Labor, IRS and the PBGC, he has significant experience handling ERISA controversies particularly those involving fiduciary matters and alleged statutory violations.
Nevertheless, in an industry based on logic and precedent, Mr. Cerrito separates himself from the pack because of the attributes that law school couldn’t train out of him—imagination, intuition and an entrepreneurial spirit. Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. Cerrito was the managing partner of the New York office of an established labor and employment law firm. Mr. Cerrito was named as a Rising Star for Employee Benefits on the New York Super Annual Lists of Super Lawyers magazine from 2013-2018 and was named as a Super Lawyer for Employee Benefits in 2020.
Mr. Cerrito holds a B.A. in English from Fordham University, a J.D. from Quinnipiac University School of Law and an LL.M in Taxation from New York University School of Law.
Judd E. Cohen
Admitted only in Minnesota and Oregon
Judd E. Cohen joined the firm in July 2019.
Mr. Cohen practices in the areas of labor and employment law, representing unions in litigation, before the National Labor Relations Board, and in arbitration proceedings. Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. Cohen worked as an associate at a large law firm in Portland, Oregon specializing in labor law. While there he represented private and public sector employers in labor negotiations and arbitrations.
Mr. Cohen graduated magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 2017. During his final year of law school he worked as a legal extern with Region 8 of the National Labor Relations Board. While in law school, he served as Executive Notes Editor of the International Law Journal. Mr. Cohen was awarded Note of the Year for his student note and received a Labor Law Award for his achievements in labor law while in law school. Prior to law school, he gained considerable bargaining and grievance administration experience while working for a healthcare focused Union – District 1199J.
Mr. Cohen received a bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University in 2010.
Admitted only in New York and New Jersey, Not Admitted in California
Susan Davis joined the firm in 1982 and became a partner in 1992. She is a member of the Firm’s Management Committee.
Ms. Davis specializes in the representation of national, regional and local labor unions in all aspects of collective bargaining, litigation, mergers and affiliations, organizing, strategic planning and internal union governance. She currently serves as general or chief outside counsel to unions in the entertainment, health care and public sector arena, and has represented unions in a wide variety of industries including sports, transportation and communications.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Ms. Davis was a clerk for the Honorable Constance Baker Motley in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Ms. Davis is a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, a member and former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Section on Labor and Employment Law Committee on Practice and Procedure under the National Labor Relations Act, and a member of the Council of the American Arbitration Association. She serves on the AFL-CIO Lawyers Advisory Panel and is an Advisory Board Member of the Cornell University ILR School. Ms. Davis has been named as both a Super Lawyer for Employment and Labor Law from 2014-2020 and one of the Top Women Attorneys in the Metropolitan New York area. Ms. Davis was a 2013 Peggy Browning Fund Honoree.
Ms. Davis has written for and lectured extensively at bar association, attorney and union meetings on a wide variety of issues facing unions and their members.
Ms. Davis graduated with honors from the University of California at Berkeley in 1976. She received a law degree with high honors from Rutgers University in 1981, winning the West Publishing Company’s annual jurisprudence award and leading the Rutgers moot court team to the American Bar Association’s national moot court finals.
Peter D. DeChiara
Peter D. DeChiara joined the firm in 1989, and became a partner in 1999.
Mr. DeChiara works in the areas of labor and employment law, representing unions, employee benefit funds, and individual employees. He has extensive experience with federal and state court litigation and with labor arbitration.
Mr. DeChiara, who edits the firm’s bankruptcy labor law blog, also represents unions and funds in employer bankruptcy cases. He has represented unions in numerous Chapter 11 bankruptcies and in the City of Detroit and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico reorganization cases.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. DeChiara was a clerk for Judge Lawrence Pierce of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Mr. DeChiara has taught labor law at New York Law School and the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, and legal writing at University of Chicago Law School. He has published articles on labor law subjects in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, American University Law Review and the Rutgers Law Record. Mr. DeChiara was named as a Super Lawyer for Employment and Labor Law on the New York Metro Annual Lists of Super Lawyers magazine from 2010-2020.
Mr. DeChiara graduated from Columbia Law School in 1988, where he was Editor-In-Chief of the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems and a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University in 1984, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Cristina E. Gallo
New Jersey, New York
Cristina Gallo joined the firm in 2018, became of counsel in 2020 and became a partner in January 2021.
She practices primarily in the areas of labor and employee benefits, representing unions in negotiations, litigation, and arbitration proceedings and benefit funds in litigation and compliance matters.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Ms. Gallo was an associate with Kennedy, Jennik & Murray P.C., where she also practiced in the labor and employee benefits areas. Ms. Gallo previously worked at the firm of Friedman & Anspach.
Ms. Gallo attended UCLA School of Law on a public-interest merit scholarship and graduated in 2010 with honors and with specializations in Public Interest Law and Policy and Critical Race Studies. During law school, she was submissions and staff editor of the Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal. Ms. Gallo is the author of “Marrying Poor: Women’s Citizenship, Race and TANF Policies,” which was published in the UCLA Women’s Law Journal. Prior to law school, Ms. Gallo worked as a strategic campaigner at the union UNITE HERE for five years in New York City.
Ms. Gallo graduated from Brown University in 2002 with a degree in Africana Studies.
Lisa M. Gomez
New Jersey, New York
Lisa M. Gomez joined the firm in 1994 and became a partner in 2002. She is the Chair of the Firm’s Management Committee.
Ms. Gomez practices primarily in the area of employee benefits law. She represents and advises a federal employee health benefit plan, various multiemployer pension and welfare plans, single employer plans, and jointly administered training program trust funds, as well as plans sponsored by unions for their internal staff. She provides advice on compliance with a variety of laws, including ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, FEHBA, HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act. She also advises plans on plan design and administration, benefit claims and fiduciary issues, delinquency collection, participant communications, service provider agreements and qualified domestic relations orders and represents them in various types of litigation.
She is a member of the International Foundation for Employee Benefit Plans and of the ABA’s Labor and Employment Law Section Committee on Employee Benefits. She previously served as the Union/Employee Co-Chair of the Committee from 2011-2014, and has served as a member of the Programming Committee for the Midwinter Meeting and as co-chair of its Subcommittees on Jointly Administered Plans and Civil Procedure.
In 2015, Ms. Gomez was appointed to the Board of Senior Editors for the American Bar Association/BNA Employee Benefits Law treatise and in 2018, she was appointed Union Co-Chair of the Board of Senior Editors. She previously served as a chapter editor and rewrite editor of the Employee Benefits Law treatise. She frequently lectures on topics related to employee benefit plans.
Ms. Gomez was inducted as a fellow of The American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, Inc. in 2014 based upon her 20 years of experience and significant contributions to the advancement of the employee benefits field.
She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Peggy Browning Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting law students in pursuing employment and educational opportunities in the area of workers’ rights.
Ms. Gomez graduated from Fordham University Law School in 1994, where she was an editor of the Fordham Urban Law Journal, and from Hofstra University in 1991.
Marie B. Hahn
Marie B. Hahn joined the firm in February 2019.
Ms. Hahn practices in the areas of labor and employment law. She represents unions in litigation and arbitration proceedings, and with respect to internal governance issues. Previously, Ms. Hahn served as a law fellow at Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ, the largest property services workers union in the country. As a fellow, she represented the union in discharge and contract arbitrations as well as unfair labor practice cases before the National Labor Relations Board.
Ms. Hahn is a 2017 graduate of City University of New York School of Law, where she was an editor of the Law Review’s Notes and Comments. During law school, Ms. Hahn was a law clerk at the employee-side law firm Outten & Golden, Region 2 of the NLRB, and the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project worker center.
She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 2009.
Admitted only in New York and New Jersey, Not Admitted in California
Evan Hudson-Plush joined the firm in 2008 and became a partner in January 2015. He is a member of the Firm’s Management Committee.
Mr. Hudson-Plush represents unions and employees in all aspects of labor and employment law, including in litigation in federal and state courts, before the NLRB, and in arbitration hearings. He provides unions with legal and strategic advice on organizing drives, corporate campaigns, and internal union affairs, and currently specializes in the representation of unions in the entertainment industry and those covered by the Railway Labor Act.
Mr. Hudson-Plush also leads the Firm’s wage and hour practice, where he represents employees in individual and class action lawsuits seeking to recover unpaid minimum and overtime wages. He similarly represents employees in negotiations and litigation with employers concerning employment contracts, severance packages and a wide variety of other employment matters.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. Hudson-Plush was a law clerk for Magistrate Judge Frank Maas of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Mr. Hudson-Plush graduated first in his class and summa cum laude from Cardozo School of Law in 2007, where he served as Executive Editor of the Cardozo Law Review. He is a senior editor for The Railway Labor Act treatise and in 2007 received the ABA/BNA Award for Excellence in the Study of Labor & Employment Law. Mr. Hudson-Plush was named as a Rising Star for Employment and Labor Law and Employment Litigation on the New York Metro 2014-2018 Annual List of Super Lawyers magazine and was named as a Super Lawyer for 2020
He received a bachelor’s degree with High Distinction from the University of Michigan in 2001.
Thomas M. Kennedy
Thomas M. Kennedy joined the firm as Of Counsel on January 2018.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. Kennedy was a Partner at Kennedy, Jennik & Murray, PC, a union-side labor law firm. Mr. Kennedy is General Counsel to many unions and benefit funds in various industries including construction, manufacturing, distribution, laundry, garment, retail, printing and horse racing. Since his employment at the National Labor Relations Board in 1974-1976, where he was awarded an Outstanding Performance Award, his practice has focused on representing labor unions, benefit funds and their related organizations in all areas.
He has been an active litigator in Federal District Courts and Bankruptcy courts. Mr. Kennedy has argued cases before the US Supreme Court, the New York State Court of Appeals and the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third and District of Columbia Circuits. A number of Mr. Kennedy’s cases have established important precedents that are featured in labor and ERISA casebooks.
He has lectured at the NYU Law School Annual Labor Conference and at area law schools including Brooklyn Law School and St. John’s Law Schools.
Mr. Kennedy has been a member of the Board of Directors of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee and received the Peggy Browning Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
He is a graduate of Niagara University and the New York University School of Law in 1974 where he was a Fellow at the Center for International Studies and an Editor at the Journal of International Law.
Mr. Kennedy became interested in labor law as a result of his father’s service for many years as an officer of the United Steelworkers Union Local in Syracuse, NY.
Hanan B. Kolko
Hanan B. Kolko joined the firm in March 2019 and became a partner in January 2021.
Mr. Kolko practices in the area of labor and employment law. He represents labor unions in federal and state court litigation, arbitration proceedings, administrative proceedings before various regulatory agencies, and in collective bargaining. Mr. Kolko also advises unions and their leaders on internal union governance, the investigation and handling of sexual harassment claims, and internal union elections. He has represented unions in a wide variety of industries including publishing, media, education, health care, law enforcement, transportation, and manufacturing.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. Kolko was a partner at two major union-side firms in New York City, and began his career as a lawyer as an associate at union-side firms in Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan. While in law school, Mr. Kolko was a law clerk for the United Auto Workers. His first experience working with unions was while he was in college, where he was an intern for the Rochester, New York PATCO local. He is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, where he received the Book Award for the highest grade in his labor law class.
Mr. Kolko is a former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Section on Labor and Employment Law Committee on Technology in the Workplace, and is an Advisory Board Member of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He has given continuing legal education presentations on a wide variety of labor law topics to groups including the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, the American Bar Association’s Section on Labor and Employment Law Committee on Technology in the Workplace, and the Practicing Law Institute. He has been named a Super Lawyer for Employment and Labor Law on the New York Metro Annual Lists of Super Lawyers from 2012-2020.
Mr. Kolko also represents clients in the cannabis industry. He advises these clients in areas including licensing applications, regulatory compliance, internal investigations, and in litigations. He has lectured extensively on cannabis law issues, giving presentations on issues including legal ethics and the representation of cannabis clients, bankruptcy and the cannabis industry, the current state of legal affairs in the cannabis industry, RICO claims against cannabis industry participants, and the New York State Compassionate Care Act.
Zachary N. Leeds
New York, California, New Jersey
Zachary N. Leeds joined the firm in 2004 and became a partner in January 2016.
Mr. Leeds represents union-affiliated employee benefit plans in compliance and administrative matters and in litigation, including collection actions, benefit claims, and withdrawal liability.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Leeds worked as a summer law clerk at a union-side firm in New York and as a law clerk at SEIU Local 509 in Massachusetts. He has also practiced law in California, where he focused on union-side labor law and wage and hour litigation.
Mr. Leeds graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 2004, where he was book review editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. He earned his undergraduate degree with honors from the University of California at Berkeley in 2000.
Bruce S. Levine
Bruce S. Levine joined the firm in 2001, became a partner in 2002, and became Of Counsel in 2013.
Mr. Levine specializes in labor and employment law, representing unions in collective bargaining, grievance administration, and litigation before the NLRB and federal and bankruptcy courts.
He has more than 20 years of private practice experience principally representing unions and union-affiliated employee benefit plans. He has developed a special expertise in alter ego and related litigation on behalf of both unions and benefit trust funds.
Mr. Levine began his career with the Solicitor’s Office of the United States Department of Labor, where he litigated wage and hour, prevailing wage, equal employment and workplace safety cases, among others.
Mr. Levine has taught labor law and collective bargaining classes for Cornell University Extension and the Dowling College of Labor Studies, and is a regular speaker at bar association and other professional events. He is also the co-chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Labor Relations Law.
Mr. Levine is a 1981 graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a 1986 cum laude graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Kelly L. Malloy
Kelly L. Malloy joined the firm in May 2019.
Ms. Malloy practices in the areas of labor, employment, and employee benefits. Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Ms. Malloy worked as an associate at a New York law firm specializing in ERISA practice, including litigation and arbitration.
Ms. Malloy graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2018, where she was a Trade Secrets Institute Fellow. She also received a certificate in Intellectual Property, Media, & Information Law. While attending law school, Ms. Malloy worked full-time in the book publishing industry and, later, as a law clerk at Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, SAG-AFTRA, and Region 2 of the National Labor Relations Board (Division of Judges).
She earned her undergraduate degree from Bucknell University in 2010.
Dan Nesbitt joined the firm in December 2019.
Mr. Nesbitt practices labor and employment law. He represents unions in litigation, before the National Labor Relations Board, and in arbitration proceedings. Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, Mr. Nesbitt was a law clerk for Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Mr. Nesbitt graduated cum laude from Cornell Law School in 2018. During law school, Mr. Nesbitt interned at the Empire Justice Center, the Department of Justice, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He also participated in Cornell’s Labor Law Clinic and Farmworkers Legal Assistance Clinic.
Mr. Nesbitt graduated summa cum laude from John Carrol University in 2015.
Jani K. Rachelson
Jani K. Rachelson joined the firm in 1978, and became a partner in 1985. She is a member of the Firm’s Management Committee.
Ms. Rachelson’s practice focuses on employee benefits law. She represents both multiemployer employee benefit plans as well as plans sponsored by unions for their internal staff. She provides compliance advice to plan clients with respect to a wide variety of laws, including both ERISA and the tax code. She also advises them on plan design and administration; withdrawal liability; delinquency collection; benefit claims and fiduciary issues.
Ms. Rachelson has been the lead attorney in several important federal district court and appellate court cases involving fiduciary breach and benefit claims. She also counsels unions in connection with benefit issues and has represented individuals in benefit claims.
Ms. Rachelson is a former member of the Bloomberg BNA Benefits Practice Resource Center (Pension & Benefits) Advisory Board and previously served as the union co-chair of the Senior Board of Editors for the American Bar Association/BNA Employee Benefits Law treatise, and as a member of the treatise’s Senior Board of Editors, had principal editorial responsibility for the chapter titled Issues Unique to Jointly Administered Plans. Ms. Rachelson is also a member of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. She is a frequent lecturer on a wide variety of topics related to employee benefit plans.
She was inducted as a charter fellow of The American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, Inc., and served a term on the College’s Board of Governors. Ms. Rachelson was named as a Super Lawyer for Employee Benefits Law on the New York Metro 2006-2020 Annual Lists of Super Lawyers magazine.
Ms. Rachelson is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale University (1975) and a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School (1978).
Keith E. Secular
New York, District of Columbia
Keith E. Secular joined the firm in 1976, and became a partner in 1982.
His experience includes the representation of both local and national unions in the private and public sectors in litigation before courts and administrative agencies, in arbitration, and in collective bargaining.
Mr. Secular currently serves as counsel to a national union representing employees of the United States Postal Service, with responsibilities ranging from litigation, arbitration, collective bargaining, and contract administration, to union governance and counseling of union officials and governing bodies.
Mr. Secular has argued two cases before the United States Supreme Court and has served as lead counsel in five nation-wide collective bargaining impasse arbitrations.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon, Mr. Secular served on the faculty of the University of Miami Law School, where he taught courses on Evidence and Labor Law. He has also served as law clerk to Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Mr. Secular graduated magna cum laude from New York University in 1971 and received his law degree in 1974 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was named to the Order of the Coif.
Richard M. Seltzer
Richard M. Seltzer joined the firm in 1981, and became a partner in 1987.
Mr. Seltzer specializes in the representation of unions in employer bankruptcy proceedings. He also represents unions in a wide variety of other labor law, employee benefit, and internal union matters.
Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon, he served for six years as an assistant district attorney, in appeals and trial bureaus of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Seltzer is the author of an article on labor law in the bankruptcy context published in The Air and Space Lawyer. He also co-authored (with partner Thomas Ciantra) an article on labor injunctions in employer bankruptcies published in American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review. He is a frequent lecturer on labor and bankruptcy topics before such groups as the American Bankruptcy Institute and American Bar Association. He is a fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy. Mr. Seltzer was named as a Super Lawyer for Bankruptcy Law on the New York Metro Annual List of Super Lawyers magazine for 2020.
Mr. Seltzer received a B.A. magna cum laude and an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1975, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.
Bruce H. Simon
Bruce H. Simon, the firm’s former Senior Partner, joined the firm in 1960 after his graduation from Harvard Law School and has been actively representing unions ever since. Bruce transitioned to Senior Counsel effective January 1, 2020.
Mr. Simon has worked on behalf of unions in the auto, steel, postal delivery, and music industries, among others. A leader in the field of representing unions in employer bankruptcy proceedings, Mr. Simon has served as lead counsel in litigation to protect labor contracts and employee pensions, negotiated restructuring agreements and reorganizations plans, and drafted legislation to protect the interests of employees and retirees of bankrupt employers.
Mr. Simon served for six years as a member of the New York City Board of Collective Bargaining, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee.
Mr. Simon has lectured at the NYU Annual Conference on Labor, the Practicing Law Institute, the American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Council. He is a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, and has also served as the Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at Cornell Law School. Mr. Simon was named as a Super Lawyer for Employment and Labor Law on the New York Metro 2006-2020 Annual Lists of Super Lawyers magazine.
Olivia R. Singer
California, Massachusetts, New York
Olivia R. Singer joined the firm in January 2018.
Ms. Singer practices primarily in the areas of labor and employment law, representing unions in litigation, before the NLRB and in arbitration proceedings. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Singer was a law fellow at Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ, the largest property services workers union in the country. As a fellow, she represented the union in federal court litigation, in discharge and contract arbitrations and in NLRB unfair labor practice and representation cases. She also served as a law fellow at Segal Roitman, a Boston-based labor and employment firm where she assisted in the representation of unions, individuals and benefit funds.
Ms. Singer is a 2015 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law and a 2012 graduate of Brown University. She is admitted in New York, Massachusetts and California.
Ms. Singer is fluent in Spanish.
Kate M. Swearengen
New Jersey, New York
Kate Swearengen joined the firm as an associate in 2011 and became a partner in 2020.
Ms. Swearengen practices in the areas of labor and employment law. She represents unions in state and federal court litigation, administrative hearings, arbitral proceedings and collective bargaining. She also counsels and litigates on behalf of individual clients with respect to various employment matters.
She is a chapter editor of How to Take a Case Before the NLRB and The Developing Labor Law, both published by the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, and is a member of the Section’s Committee on Development of the Law Under the NLRA. Ms. Swearengen was selected to participate in the 2019 class of the Section’s Leadership Development Program and is also a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association. She speaks and writes frequently on labor and employment law developments affecting workers and their unions.
Ms. Swearengen was named as a Rising Star for Employment and Labor Law on the New York Metro 2017-2020 Annual Lists of Super Lawyers magazine. Ms. Swearengen graduated from Columbia Law School in 2011 and with honors from Princeton University in 2004.
Melissa S. Woods
New Jersey, New York
Melissa S. Woods joined the firm as of counsel in 2018 and became a partner in 2020. Ms. Woods specializes in litigating labor and employment law matters before governmental agencies, and state and federal courts, on behalf of unions and individual employees. She also represents unions in employer bankruptcy proceedings.
Ms. Woods leads the firm’s sexual harassment prevention practice, where she shares her extensive experience investigating allegations of discrimination and harassment, providing legal and strategic advice on policy matters, and creating and conducting discrimination and harassment prevention training.
In 2019, Ms. Woods was inducted as a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, an organization that recognizes those who have distinguished themselves in the field and, in 2020 she was recognized by Lawdragon to be one of the 500 leading plaintiff employment lawyers in the country.
Prior to joining CWS, Ms. Woods provided advice and counsel on various labor and employment related issues at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Civil Rights Bureau of the NYS Attorney General’s Office, and another union-side labor law firm in New York City. Most recently, Ms. Woods was the Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel at the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Ms. Woods is a member and former Co-Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee of the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Section, former Board Member of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee and a former Trustee of Wesleyan University.
Ms. Woods graduated with honors from Wesleyan University, and received her law degree from George Washington University School of Law.
Richard C. Harmon
It is with great sadness that everyone at Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP mourns the unexpected and sudden passing of our colleague and friend Richard C. Harmon.
Richard was Of Counsel in the Firm’s Employee Benefits group. Richard joined the Firm as a tax attorney and was promoted to Of Counsel in 2019. Prior to joining Cohen, Weiss and Simon, he was the head of the benefits and labor practice for a large corporate law firm, and also worked as a benefits and compensation attorney. Richard was known as a go-to person for a wide variety of tax, employee benefits and compensation issues, and his knowledge and practical approach were appreciated by his clients and colleagues. He spearheaded our efforts preparing Plan restatements and amendments and analyzing the ever-changing requirements under ERISA and the Tax Code for our clients.
Aside from his work as a tax and benefits attorney, Richard was known to both clients and colleagues as a warm and giving person, eager to discuss the intricacies of tax law and getting to know us as people. He was a sports aficionado and was always interested in talking about his favorite teams, the latest games and other sports-related news and facts. However, he showed the most pride and interest in his two favorite athletes – his son, Curry, and his daughter Kennison, and he frequently kept everyone at the Firm and outside advised of their accomplishments on the field or the ice and of his adventures traveling with them from one sports event to another.
Richard was a valued member of the Cohen, Weiss and Simon team, not only for his contributions as a lawyer, but for his kind and friendly demeanor, his willingness to teach others, and his wonderful attitude. We will miss him terribly, and his sudden death has left another large hole in our already damaged hearts. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with his wife, Stacy, and their children Curry and Kennison, as well as all of his family and friends. We wish them strength and love in this very sad time.
Stephen B. Moldof
Steve, our partner, mentor and friend for 48 years, died after an extended illness on November 9, 2020. His passing is an immeasurable loss to the Firm.
Steve truly was a lawyer’s lawyer — a formidable litigator, negotiator, strategist and advisor. As befitting someone who loved to travel, he devoted the majority of his career to representing the Air Line Pilots Association. He litigated many of the seminal cases affirming that labor unions should be given broad deference in carrying out their representational duties. Some of his earliest cases, on behalf of flight attendants who were pregnant or living with chronic medical conditions, made real the guarantees of the federal non-discrimination laws and fundamentally changed the workplace.
An expert on international labor law, Steve was an active and beloved member of the American Bar Association’s International Labor and Employment Law Committee. In 2019, he was elected Vice Chair of the ABA’s Section of Labor and Employment Law. He was named as a Super Lawyer for Employment and Labor Law on the New York Metro Annual Lists for Super Lawyers magazine for 2007-2020.
In spite of his many gifts and accomplishments, Steve was always modest and self-effacing. He was a genuinely empathic person who cared about others. He had deep, longstanding relationships with clients, adversaries, colleagues and everyone in our Firm. He will be greatly missed.
The Firm extends its deepest condolences to Steve’s wife, Michaele (Mike) Noble, and son, Luke.
Joseph J. Vitale
Joe, one of the Firm’s long-time partners who was our dear friend and rock, died unexpectedly on December 18, 2020. His death leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of the Firm and in our hearts.
Joe came to the Firm in 1989 from Fordham Law School. He gained a reputation over the next 31 years as a fierce union advocate, gifted litigator and strategist, representing a number of union and fund clients in the building trades, postal, nursing, education, airline, maritime, and moving and storage industries. Last year, he successfully defended Construction and General Building Laborers’ Union Local 79’s deployment of Scabby the Rat to protest a grocery store chain’s use of non-union labor. Joe commemorated the federal court victory with a new tattoo, of Scabby. He was proud to have been recognized as a Super Lawyer for Employment and Labor Law on the 2020 New York Metro Annual List of Super Lawyers magazine.
In recent years, much of Joe’s work occurred behind the scenes as Chair of the Firm’s Management Committee, a role he assumed in 2016. As Chair, Joe was immersed in every aspect of the Firm, from its day-to-day management to IT, decorating and our general well-being. An avid collector of union memorabilia, Joe was known to accompany his pep talks with a gift — a soapdish or a figurine commemorating some long-ago union convention. One of his prized finds, a framed deck of playing cards depicting famous trade unionists of the early 1900s, hangs prominently in our offices.
A devout Catholic, Joe embodied the values of his faith every single day through his boundless love of his daughters, wife, and family, his dedication to advancing the interests of working people, and his generosity. Joe always made a point of remembering the names, interests and eccentricities of our Firm’s family members. His annual Christmas card — a hilarious typewritten account of the past year’s events, sometimes annotated with footnotes — was a highlight of the season.
Joe will be deeply missed by his friends, clients, and all who knew him. His passing is a tremendous loss to the labor movement and an immeasurable loss to our firm.
The Firm extends its deepest condolences to Joe’s wife SooKyung, his daughters Eushin and Chaewon, his mother Eugenie, and his sisters Elizabeth, Jennifer, Susan and their families.