In Memoriam: Martin S. Kaufman – Former General Counsel, Atlantic Legal Foundation

All of us at Atlantic Legal Foundation were saddened to hear of the recent passing of Marty Kaufman, former General Counsel of ALF. 

ALF Director and retired President, Bill Slattery, who served Atlantic Legal with distinction and worked closely with Marty Kaufman, said: “Marty was an absolutely wonderful colleague for the 15 years I was at Atlantic Legal. He was a superb lawyer, singularly focused on the Foundation’s mission. As important, he was an individual of great integrity, a skilled mentor for our legal interns, and thoroughly devoted to his fine family. It was my great good fortune to have known and worked with him for so many years.” 

Longtime Chairman and current ALF President, Dan Fisk, succinctly captured the essence of Marty’s thirty-three years of service to ALF and its mission, reflecting the Board and Council’s characterization of the man: 

“Marty was brilliant … dedicated … productive … and articulate!” 

Martin S. Kaufman: A Brief Biography

Martin S. Kaufman was born in the Bronx, New York, and grew up in a low-income, labor union-sponsored housing project. He attended New York City public schools, including the highly selective Bronx High School of Science, from which he graduated in three years at the age of 16. 

portrait of attorney Martin S. Kaufman for obituary on Atlantic Legal Foundation website
Martin S. Kaufman, former General Counsel, Atlantic Legal Foundation

He then went to Columbia College in New York City on scholarship where he majored in history, with a concentration in Russian and East European history, and minored in chemistry, graduating in three years. He also worked part-time in laboratories, developing heat-resistant electronic components for the U.S. Space Program. 

Kaufman completed his undergraduate studies and, at age 19, matriculated at Columbia Law School on a full scholarship. He developed an interest in international law and was Articles Editor of The Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. He was one of two members of the law school’s championship Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition team. He was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to study international law at The Hague Academy of International Law during the summer between his second and third years. Kaufman was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar at Columbia Law School. He, together with other editors of the Journal of Transnational Law, also wrote the first ever section on international law for the “Blue Book.” 

Upon graduation from law school, Kaufman returned to The Hague Academy to sit for the diploma exam, having not been permitted to sit the first time because he had not yet earned his law degree. He was one of only five candidates who were awarded the diploma that year. He also became a research associate at the law school, assisting three professors in writing a new casebook on international law. Earlier, he earned a masters degree in International Relations, which enhanced his perspective in contributing to the casebook.

Kaufman started his professional career as an associate at Cahill, Gordon, Sonett, Reindel and Ohl, a “Wall Street” firm noted for its litigation practice. During that time he worked on antitrust, securities, and other cases, including The New York Times “Pentagon Papers” case. 

Kaufman then moved on to Lovejoy, Wasson and Ashton, which had a significant international law practice in addition to the usual panoply of commercial litigation. Among his cases he handled several for the government of Switzerland and the Swiss Judiciary. In 1977 Kaufman took a leave of absence from the firm to become Deputy Assistant General Counsel of the newly-created U.S. Department of Energy. In that position he represented the United States in numerous bilateral and multilateral meetings and negotiations with other oil-consuming nations and oil-exporting nations. He then returned to become a partner in the firm. 

Kaufman joined the Atlantic Legal Foundation as General Counsel in 1987, attracted by the important public policy issues the Foundation’s cases address. He has handled cases involving antitrust law, discrimination, securities law, separation of powers, the Supremacy Clause, and arbitration. 

Among the most gratifying cases Kaufman has briefed during his time at the Foundation are the “Daubert Trilogy” which established the criteria for admissibility of expert testimony in federal court. The “Daubert Trilogy” has also influenced the approach to expert evidence in the more than 30 state courts which model their rules of evidence on the federal code. Thanks to Kaufman working closely with the late Richard Wilson, Mallinkrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University, and a cadre of prominent scientists, including two dozen Nobel Laureates, the Foundation’s amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court, federal appellate courts, and state supreme courts have had significant impact, aligning courts’ analyses more closely with scientific principles. 

Kaufman is survived by his wife of over 53 years, Millicent, and three children: David, a physician, currently Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at NYULangone Medical Center and Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine; Andrew, a surgeon, currently Vice Chairman of Mount Sinai’s Department of Thoracic Surgery and Associate Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Kristina, until recently, Assistant Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Parsons School of Design at The New School. He is also survived by five grandchildren.

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