Goldberg Segalla LLP

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Municipal and Governmental Liability

Goldberg Segalla is proud to offer comprehensive counsel to a wide range of municipal entities and to defend them in state and federal courts, as well as in all types of alternative dispute resolution. Whether our clients need day to day advice on issues affecting municipalities, or representation in litigation, our team has the depth and experience to help. Our team includes former government attorneys knowledgeable in all facets of government including, but not limited to, budgeting, legislative proceedings and resolutions, open meetings law, Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), civil service, constitutional claims, General Municipal Law 207-a and 207-c and the many unique issues affecting state and local governments. We guide municipalities through compliance with applicable state codes and laws, and we have a strong track record of successfully representing them in claims stemming from alleged violations of those codes and statutes.

Our clients include towns, cities, villages, counties, school districts and boards, public colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, jails, fire districts, public utilities, and other governmental agencies. We have successfully defended these clients in premises liability actions, motor vehicle negligence and other torts, constitutional challenges, excessive force allegations, labor and employment matters, employment discrimination and harassment claims, sexual abuse claims, Title VII and Title IX actions, and construction defect claims. We also represent municipal entities in matters involving collective bargaining and labor relations, contract negotiation, capital improvement undertakings, risk management, zoning, administrative investigations and proceedings, accident investigation, and insurance coverage.

Our attorneys work closely with our clients to share the wealth of experience we have in the municipal field, providing alerts, news, and commentary on current issues and developments that could affect them, and offering in-house training on subjects spanning employment policies, risk management, insurance, and civil rights, as well as emerging issues like data breaches and cyber liability and the use of body cameras in law enforcement. We are able to offer these educational opportunities because many of Goldberg Segalla’s municipal attorneys hold leadership positions in both state and national municipal associations, including:

  • Defense Research Institute (DRI) Governmental Liability Committee and Law Enforcement Sub-Committee
  • International Municipal Lawyers Association
  • Association of Towns
  • County Attorneys Association of NY
  • Organization of Public Employer Negotiators
  • New York State Bar Association, Local and State Government Law Section
  • New York State Public Employer Labor Relations Association
  • National Public Employer Labor Relations Association

Civil Rights and Constitutional Claims

Working closely with our Constitutional and Civil Rights and Appellate Practice Groups, our municipal attorneys have defended numerous government agencies, elected officials, police officers, corrections officers, and counties and local governments in civil rights suits in federal and state courts. We’ve successfully defended free speech claims, allegations of police misconduct, and general municipal liability claims.

Our attorneys proactively counsel on policies and matters related to violations of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the due process and equal protection clauses, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1983, and 1985. We also have extensive experience handling the unique challenges presented by the complex, myriad laws found in state constitutions as well as local ordinances. Our capabilities range from cases involving state-specific human rights laws to the codes impacting project finance, development, and land use. Our team has extensive experience representing governments facing challenges in state court, for example in New York CPLR Article 78 proceedings, arising out of government decision making, whether through enacting local laws, or through other agency action. We also have extensive experience bringing and defending proceedings to vacate and confirm arbitration awards. Besides representing clients in court, our attorneys regularly deliver presentations and seminars to individual municipal clients and regional and national organizations of municipal entities on the full range of civil rights and discrimination claims, and frequently author articles for leading publications on subjects ranging from the use of body cameras in law enforcement to FOIL requests.

Employment and Labor

As trusted counselors to a vast number of public employers, large and small, we can help our clients avoid unnecessary litigation involving the workplace issues facing public employers with a unionized workforce. At Goldberg Segalla, we represent numerous employers, offering assistance with:

  • Contract negotiations and disputes
  • Grievances
  • Civil Service administration
  • General Municipal Law section 207-a and 207-c benefits
  • Hiring and termination under collective bargaining agreements or Civil Service Law § 75
  • Requests for reasonable accommodations, FMLA administration and leave administration
  • Discrimination and civil rights claims
  • Developing and updating employment policies
  • Social media, cloud computing, and other technology policies
  • Conducting mandatory sexual harassment training for management personnel
  • Conducting workplace violence training, as well as counseling on investigations conducted by PESH or OSHA
  • Creating a workplace free from any violations of any state and/or federal codes
  • Workers Compensation

Goldberg Segalla also provides full representation in any Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or State Division of Human Rights (DHR) claims. We aggressively defend any charges brought against employers in all administrative proceedings and judicial forums. Our team of knowledgeable litigators has had great success in defending claims based on alleged age, sex, and race discrimination, as well as claims based upon alleged retaliation. Of course, our defense of these claims also includes training our clients so that they may avoid claims and litigation in the future.


Our attorneys counsel educational institutions, school and district administrators, and school district boards and boards of trustees on a wide variety of matters, including:

  • Student disciplinary procedures and codes
  • Tenure denial and other faculty employment issues
  • Title IX administration and compliance, including training and policy development
  • Compliance issues arising out of applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations
  • Disciplinary proceedings under New York Education Law § 3020-a
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other privacy matters
  • Labor, employment, and employee benefit issues, including matters involving administrators and staff
  • Discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation claims
  • Federal and state tax exemption
  • Corporate and governance matters

With issues involving students, our experience allows us to review student disciplinary procedures and codes, assist in hearings related to student discipline, and render advice regarding search and seizures in the school, as well as drug testing. Our experienced litigators have handled numerous cases involving student injuries on campus or in the classroom, and we have the experience to assist school districts in investigating these claims.

Our team has extensive experience drafting policies under Title IX and providing advice during internal investigations of charges of harassment and discrimination. We have a strong track record representing and defending institutions during investigations conducted by state and federal agencies, including, but not limited to, the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

Our experience and knowledge have also allowed us to successfully defend numerous school districts in claims involving sexual abuse or harassment of students by teachers, as well as claims of sexual abuse or harassment committed by one student upon another. Of course, we understand that these are often extremely sensitive issues, and we pride ourselves on handling each case with the dignity and confidentiality required by our clients as well as the courts.

When public colleges and universities call on us for help, our municipal and governmental liability attorneys team up with the attorneys in out Higher Education Practice Group — including seasoned litigators and several lawyers with experience from in-house legal and human relations roles with public educational institutions — to offer comprehensive counsel and meet the unique challenges and liability issues that those clients face.

Construction Projects

Our municipal attorneys work seamlessly with the accomplished practitioners in the firm’s Construction Practice Group to provide an extensive array of construction-related legal services for municipalities and school districts. Our experience includes:

  • Financing and transactional issues
  • Environmental law matters
  • Labor issues and disputes
  • Negotiating contracts, including subcontract agreements
  • Helping with the preparation of bid documents and proposals

Our attorneys are highly skilled in the defense of claims involving all construction issues from the beginning of the bidding, to the inception of the contract, throughout the building process, and to the completion and issuance of the certificate of occupancy. Our experienced team of trial lawyers handles all contract disputes and other claims arising out of the building process, including litigation involving mechanic’s liens and arbitration of disputes.


When our municipal clients face issues involving environmental law or toxic exposures, our municipal and government liability attorneys draw on the insights, resources, and unmatched experience of the firm’s Toxic Tort and Environmental Practice Groups. Our team is at the forefront of toxic tort litigation nationally, and fully equipped to defend environmental contamination and personal injury actions involving exposures including:

  • Asbestos
  • Silica and mixed dust
  • Lead paint
  • Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE)
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Benzene
  • Caustic chemicals
  • Teratogenic substances
  • Mold
  • Legionnaire’s disease

Goldberg Segalla’s attorneys also have extensive experience defending generators, transporters, manufacturers, contractors, property owners, and their insurers against claims relating to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and New York’s Navigation Law.

Our municipal clients will benefit from our perspective in handling these types of claims, as well as our experience with issues involving environmental compliance, insurance, and financing of projects. The legal advice we provide encompasses all areas of compliance, including matters involving the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), RCRA, CERCLA, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and other issues. Our attorneys can also help municipalities deal with any recovery costs associated with a clean-up project.

Zoning and Land Use

Our attorneys often work with municipalities and boards on applications for developmental projects. Given our experience, we can provide complete guidance to help municipalities and applicants comply with all local and state codes and statutes, including SEQRA. Our attorneys have represented developers, business owners, zoning boards of appeal, and planning and town boards in a variety of settings, including applications for variances, and Article 78 proceedings, and tax certiorari proceedings. Many of our lawyers have firsthand knowledge of the inner working of government agencies from past and present experience as members of zoning, planning, and town boards and city councils.

In addition, the Goldberg Segalla team can assist in all aspects of land use and zoning issues and provide the necessary legal advice in handling all regulatory issues that might arise. Risk assessment and management are built into everything we do at Goldberg Segalla, where our priority is delivering cost-effective value through strategies tailored to the needs of every client. For municipal clients, that means identifying future areas of concern and taking early steps to address them — as, for example, protecting property rights and governmental interests from the very beginning of a rezoning initiative. Should litigation result out of SEQRA claims or other issues involving the actions of a planning or zoning board, our team of attorneys will be available to guide our clients through the process.

Data Breaches and Cyber Risks

High-profile ransomware and malware attacks, breaches, and leaks have brought attention to the major cyber-related risks facing individuals, companies, organizations, and governments. For governments, these risks don't stop at data loss, disrupted services, and shaken credibility — beyond the initial breach and response lies the potentially greater risk of liability.

With the full support of Goldberg Segalla’s pioneering Cyber Risk Practice Group, our attorneys assist all types of municipal and governmental clients in understanding new technologies as they emerge and develop; drafting and updating policies for data storage and security, social media use, and privacy laws and regulations; securing maximum cyber risk insurance coverage and reviewing policies; and crafting training and protocols for breaches or other tech-related crises.

In the unfortunate event of a breach or other crisis, our team delivers vigorous defense and a comprehensive crisis management strategy. As a firm founded by trial lawyers, we bring to each matter the savvy and successful track record of our Business and Commercial, Professional Liability, Global Insurance Services, and Class Action Litigation Practice Groups and other litigation-oriented teams within the firm. Beyond any initial response and trial, our attorneys are also highly skilled at helping municipal bodies recover from data breaches and tech-related crises, helping them to restore credibility and craft stronger technology policies, data breach response procedures, and other protections.

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for John M. Allen by a Associate on 05/04/16 in General Liability

    John is an excellent civil defense attorney. Most importantly, he seeks resolutions that are fair to the parties. This is a trait not often found in litigation matters. Given that John and I were on opposite sides of the fence in a recent case, my... Read more

    Read more

    John is an excellent civil defense attorney. Most importantly, he seeks resolutions that are fair to the parties. This is a trait not often found in litigation matters. Given that John and I were on opposite sides of the fence in a recent case, my comments stem from personal knowledge of this gentleman. Read less

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Michael Rubin by a Partner on 05/28/15 in Civil Litigation

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary.

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary. Read less

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Both within our own firm and across the wider business and legal communities, Goldberg Segalla’s commitment to diversity is strong, sincere, and a critical component of our firm’s mission and culture. Our philosophy has always been that we hire people who are excellent at what they do, and even better human beings. Period. We feel we would be doing a disservice to our firm and to our clients if we didn’t include contributions from every available resource.

We are extremely proud that our commitment has received regional and national recognition for the innovative programs we have developed and the results we have been able to achieve. The following is a sampling of the firm-wide or individual honors we have received for implementing initiatives that make a difference:

  • George B. Vashon Innovator Award, Minority Corporate Counsel Association
  • MCCA Firm Affiliate Network
  • Vault/MCCA Commitment to Diversity
  • Community Service Award, Defense Research Institute
  • Good Works Award, American Bar Association Section of Litigation
  • Outstanding Committee Chair, ABA Section of Litigation
  • Diversity Trailblazer Award, New York State Bar Association
  • Legal Service Award, Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • Lawyer of the Year, Bar Association of Erie County
  • Legal Community Leader Award, National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York
  • Diversity Excellence Award, Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association
  • Value Award for Diversity, Leadership Buffalo
  • Western New York Game Changers, Buffalo Spree magazine

What we are most proud of, though, is that our efforts have shown significant results and continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of many.

Leadership and Action

To put our philosophy and commitment into practice, we have a Diversity Task Force, which includes our managing partner, in place to conceptualize and implement diversity-focused programs as well as give diversity a voice in our decision-making at the highest level. The individuals on this task force share the firm’s strong commitment to increasing diversity, and they use their unique experiences and backgrounds to support and advance that goal. The team meets regularly to create programs, schedule events, establish diversity initiatives both inside and outside of the firm, set long-term goals, and develop the strategy to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds.

The chair of our Diversity Task Force, Joseph M. Hanna, has spearheaded numerous diversity initiatives in various organizations and outreach programs, serves on several diversity-related committees, and is a frequent author and speaker on diversity. Among other positions, he is co-chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyer Leadership Program, former chair of the association’s Minority Trial Lawyer Committee and its Special Committee on Human Rights, and former editor-in-chief of the ABA’s Minority Trial Lawyer; a 2014 fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD); a past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY) and the MBAWNY Foundation; and the Diversity Liaison for several committees at the 22,000-member DRI.

For more than a decade, Goldberg Segalla has proudly supported the ABA’s Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, which provides racial and ethnic minority law students, along with members of other groups underrepresented in the legal profession, opportunities to serve as an intern with a judge during the summer after their first or second year of law school. Joe Hanna — an alumni of the program himself — acts as a mentor and leader in the program, through which he has conducted more than 100 interviews for students across the country.

In 2017, Goldberg Segalla participated in the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, the New York City Bar Association’s flagship pipeline program for high school students. As a participating legal employer, we hosted high-achieving inner-city students for the summer and collaborate with the NYC Bar to provide them with additional programming before, during, and after the summer designed to help them prepare for a legal career.

Each summer, Goldberg Segalla proudly welcomes interns through a formal Diversity Clerkship Program that was conceived by Joe while he served as president of the MBAWNY. The program was developed in collaboration with the MBAWNY and the SUNY Buffalo Law School to provide opportunities for minority UB Law students to gain firsthand experience in the legal system. Since it was launched in 2011, the program has placed more than 100 students in clerkships in area courts as well as in several area law firms, with more judges and law firms asking to participate every day. It provides participants with an in-depth look at the legal process and the interaction between the bench and the bar that they would not otherwise get. At our firm, a dedicated team of partners monitors the work of these law clerks and ensures they obtain valuable experience to help develop important legal research, writing, case management, and client service skills critical to their long-term success. Our program earned the firm the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2012 George B. Vashon Innovator Award.

We also have sponsored Success in the City, an annual diversity networking and mentoring event developed by Joe that brought together students, legal and business professionals, educators, nonprofits, and political leaders to make lasting partnerships. Many employment, business, and mentoring relationships resulted from this event. Past events have drawn more than 500 political and business leaders, legal professionals, and students. Success in the City has influenced the development of similar programs in Baltimore, Cleveland, Birmingham, Dallas, and elsewhere.

Our firm is committed to spreading the message throughout the broad legal and business communities that embracing diversity contributes to greater overall success. We conduct training sessions for in-house counsel at Fortune 500 corporations on increasing and promoting diversity. Our attorneys have authored articles and delivered presentations on diversity for various legal organizations, including DRI and the ABA, and our efforts and accomplishments in this area have been profiled in publications such as Law360, the New York State Bar Association’s State Bar News, Business First of Buffalo, the Buffalo Law Journal, and others.

In one example of our work to provide inspiration and raise awareness of diversity and women’s issues in the legal community, Caroline Berdzik, chair of our Employer and Labor Practice Group, spoke to Law360 for the publication’s “Female Powerbrokers” series. In the interview, Caroline discussed her career, the challenges of being a woman at a senior level at a law firm, the work-family life balance, and the importance of taking risks. She also offered guidance to female attorneys on moving their careers forward and advice to law firms on both increasing the number of women partners and retaining top female talent. Her longtime advocacy for women (at her previous firm, she served on the Women’s Business Development Committee and was a member of what became the national Women’s Presidents Organization) helped earn her a spot on the 2015 NJBIZ list of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business.

Joe Hanna also was featured by Law360 in its “Minority Powerbrokers” series, in which he shared his perspective on breaking the glass ceiling in the legal industry, the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level, how law firms can increase diversity in their partner ranks, and Goldberg Segalla’s core commitment to diversity.


Goldberg Segalla is proud to be a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Firm Affiliate Network, which was created by the MCCA to assist and acknowledge law firms that are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

We are also a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization of leaders in law firms and corporate legal departments dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession. As noted earlier, Joe Hanna was a fellow of the LCLD in 2014. In this position, he played a critical role in organizing the first-ever New York City LCLD Fellows Roundtable event, and he was instrumental in establishing a mentorship program in Hartford for local diverse first-year law students.

We support the diversity efforts of numerous organizations, including:

  • American Bar Association
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York
  • Columbian Lawyers Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Korean American Association of Greater New York
  • League of First Nations
  • Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • National Bar Association
  • Native American Rights Fund
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Seneca Free Trade Association
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Our outreach efforts led to the creation of a comprehensive database of more than 500 minority law organizations throughout the United States. Contact between these organizations takes place in anticipation of bringing CLE and legal programs together. This group of minority bar associations includes both local and national organizations, such as:

  • National Association of Women Lawyers
  • National Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • Hispanic National Bar Association
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar
  • Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
  • South Asian Bar Association of Philadelphia
  • Vietnamese American Bar Association of North Carolina

A Talented and Diverse Team

Diversity is further evident within our firm through the many languages and dialects spoken by members of our team, including Albanian, Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, and Urdu.

Goldberg Segalla’s culture is one that values team-spiritedness, collegiality, and interpersonal harmony within our working community. We are a firm that believes in diversity in the workplace, and we are proud to offer a professional and positive work environment for each and every member of our team.

On these values, and on our commitment to diversity, we will never waver. We are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, but we also realize that this is a long-term mission. We will continue to innovate and to improve diversity in law and business — both within Goldberg Segalla and across the communities in which we live and work.

Diversity Matters — Join the Conversation

If you have questions regarding any of the firm’s diversity initiatives or would like to discuss ideas regarding increasing diversity in the legal profession, please contact Joe Hanna (716.566.5447; [email protected]) or another member of our Diversity Task Force:

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