Robert "Chip" Birthisel

Robert "Chip" Birthisel: Attorney with Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel LLP AV stamp icon
Attorney Awards


Former Trial Attorney, United States Department of Justice and Special Assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of Virginia and Eastern District of North Carolina.

Chip Birthisel is a founding partner in our Tampa office. He practices transportation and maritime law. His practice includes international and domestic litigation and transactions.

He formerly served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Aviation and Admiralty Litigation Section where he was lead counsel for the United States in numerous pollution incidents, including the Tampa Bay and Eagle Point, New Jersey oil spills and he represented the National Pollution Funds Center in actions brought against it seeking payment from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. His practice at DOJ also included defense of the United States in a variety of tort and contract matters including multiple wrongful death claims. Prior to DOJ, he was a Law Specialist for the U.S. Coast Guard, from which he is retired.

Since entering private practice, Chip has represented a wide-range of transportation, maritime, and general litigation clients, providing a myriad of services including litigation of maritime and land-based wrongful death and injury, and contractual matters (charters, sales, brokerage and finance agreements, concession agreements, franchise and license agreements, vehicle lease and purchase agreements), maritime lien, bunker, P & I, and hull and machinery claims. He has provided coverage opinions and defense, including declaratory judgment actions on behalf of insurers, and has litigated numerous cargo and breach of warranty claims.

His practice also includes rendering advice and performing transactions regarding coverage placement flagging of vessels, classification society compliance, and U.S., flag state, and international (i.e. SOLAS, IMO, and Law of the Sea Conventions) regulatory compliance. In addition, he has provided counsel regarding the establishment of a variety of maritime businesses including cruise line operations, cargo lines, and marine and land-based terminal operations. In addition to chartering, ticketing, concession and crew agreements, services provided in this regard included compliance advice regarding U.S. Customs, Coast Guard, Immigration, Federal Maritime Commission, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and other international and domestic regulatory schemes.

Chip has represented and represents a variety of foreign entities and clients in international business transactions and litigation including clients in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, the Marshall Islands, England, Norway, Venezuela, Ireland, Korea, Costa Rica, Brazil, Honduras, the Philippines, most every island nation in the Caribbean, and Canada.

Chip is a member of the Florida and Virginia state bars. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Armed Forces, the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eastern District of Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the United States Court of International Trade. He is active in the Propeller Club, the Retired Officers Association, the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute, the Maritime Law Association of the United States, and the National Cargo Security Council. He is also a member of the Florida Bar Association, American Bar Association, Hillsborough County Bar Association, American Institute of Marine Underwriters, Virginia Bar Association, Tampa Bay Mariners Club, and the Fort Lauderdale Mariners Club.

He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of San Francisco in 1983 and his master's degree from The Johns Hopkins University in 1987. He earned his juris doctor degree, cum laude, from the University of Miami in 1991.

Chip is rated "AV" by Martindale Hubbell and has been selected as a top attorney by Super Lawyers every year since 2006.

Speaking Engagements:

"The Effect of Homeland Security Enforcement" (Atlanta, GA)

Areas of Practice (3)

  • Admiralty and Maritime Law
  • Transportation
  • Personal Injury Defense

Education & Credentials

Contact Information:
813-223-1900  Phone
813-223-1933  Fax
University Attended:
University of San Francisco, B.S., 1983; Johns Hopkins University, M.S., 1987
Law School Attended:
University of Miami School of Law, J.D., cum laude, 1991
Year of First Admission:
2002, Virginia and U.S. District Court, District of Virginia and U.S. Supreme Court; U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida; U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida; 1991, Florida, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, U.S. Court of the Armed Forces; U.S. Court of International Trade
Hillsborough County, Virginia and American Bar Associations; The Florida Bar; Maritime Law Association of the United States; National Cargo Security Council; Retired Officers Association; Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute; Tampa Mariners Club; Mariners Club of Fort Lauderdale; Tampa Propeller Club; Tampa Chamber of Commerce Port Maritime Committee; Propeller Club of the United States.
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.)
Birth Information:
Hollywood, Florida, 1957

Peer Reviews

  • 5.0/5.0
  • High ethical standing icon
  • A Martindale-Hubbell Peer Rating reflects a combination of achieving a Very High General Ethical Standards rating and a Legal Ability numerical rating.

*Peer Reviews provided before April 15, 2008 are not displayed.

Tampa, Florida

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