Stephen Daily Susman (January 20, 1941 – July 14, 2020) was an American commercial plaintiffs attorney and founding and name partner of Susman Godfrey LLP. He won some of the largest cases in U.S. history, including a $1.1 billion settlement on behalf of Texas Instruments in Samsung Electronics v. Texas Instruments; and a $536 million jury verdict in El Paso Natural Gas Co. v. GHR Energy Corp.
1 Early and personal life
3 Legal career
4 Professional recognition
5 Related work
6 Charitable giving
8 External links
Early and personal life
Susman was born in Houston, Texas. His father Harry (1899-1949), son of Abraham and Hattie Susman from Germany, a graduate of Yale University Law School, practiced law in Houston until his death at the age of 50. His mother Helene Daily Susman (1911-78), was the daughter of Sam Daily (of Rosenberg, Texas, born in Russia; 1884-1960, son of Zelman Lubchansky and Rissa Berkman) and Mary Schiff Daily (born in Poland; 1891-1964; daughter of Boris Schiff and Helen Katzhandler). She was a 1934 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, and returned to her law practice and raised Susman and his brother after the death of their father when Susman was eight years old and his brother Tommy was six years old. His mother became the first woman from Texas admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Susman said: "My mother and father were both lawyers, so I never even thought about doing anything else."
He and his brother also attended the University of Texas School of Law, at the insistence of their mother. In addition his son Harry attended the U of T School of Law; he also was Editor-in-Chief of the law review, and also clerked for a Supreme Court Justice.
His first wife, Karen Hyman Susman from Austin, Texas, married Susman in 1965, and died in 1997 at 55 years of age. Susman and Karen had two children; Stacy and Harry. He married Ellen Spencer Susman, at the time a television personality, in 1999. They had a home in Aspen, Colorado, and also lived in Houston and New York City.
On April 22, 2020, Susman sustained serious injuries during a traffic accident. He was in a coma for more than a week, and continued to be in a critical condition. After Susman was moved to another hospital, he contracted COVID-19 on June 24. He died on July 14, 2020.
Susman attended Yale University, where he earned a B.A. magna cum laude in English in 1962. While at Yale, to make ends meet he waited tables in the school’s dining hall, acted as a travel agent for his classmates, ran a student laundry, and leased out caps and gowns to his graduating classmates.
He then received his J.D. at the University of Texas School of Law with highest honors in 1965. While attending law school, Susman was Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Law Review, graduated first in his class with the highest grade point average in the school's history, was a member of the Order of the Coif, and was Grand Chancellor.
Susman then clerked for the Honorable John R. Brown of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and for Justice Hugo Black at the Supreme Court of the United States.
Returning to Texas, Susman joined the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski, becoming one of its first Jewish partners. For the first eight years of his career he was a defense lawyer, before becoming a plaintiffs' lawyer. After taking a leave of absence and teaching at the University of Texas Law School, and considering becoming a full-time law professor (a notion nixed by his then-wife), in 1976 he joined a small plaintiffs maritime commercial litigation firm, Mandell & Wright of Houston, that had a contingency practice, to start a new commercial litigation practice there.
Susman founded Susman Godfrey LLP in 1980. The firm specializes in representing plaintiffs in antitrust and securities class actions on a contingent fee basis. In January 2005 the firm was named one of the top two litigation boutiques in the country by The American Lawyer. It has been cited as the nation's top litigation boutique law firm in the Vault Rankings every year since 2012. In 2006 he opened a New York City office for the firm.
He won some of the largest cases in U.S. history, including a $1.1 billion settlement on behalf of Texas Instruments in Samsung Electronics v. Texas Instruments; and a $536 million jury verdict on counterclaim in El Paso Natural Gas Co. v. GHR Energy Corp. Susman won a verdict for the plaintiffs in the Corrugated Container Antitrust case, the largest verdict in antitrust history at the time, and the case ultimately settled for $500 million (A lawyer who joined the firm in 1990 was given an office tour by Susman. A large, irregularly cut piece of cardboard was stuck to the wall in Susman’s office, and the new hire asked if it was a memento from Susman’s famous Corrugated Container case. Susman's quick explanation: “No, f—face, it’s a Rauschenberg.”). He won a $140 million California jury verdict for the plaintiff in the antitrust case Masimo v. Tyco Health Care Group.
In 2010, Susman was among a team of attorneys that represented Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt in his divorce trial.
Susman split his time between his firm’s Houston and New York offices.
In 1994, Susman was one of 14 lawyers featured in America's Top Trial Lawyers: Who They Are & Why They Win, by Don Vinson. He was named the top litigator in 1996 in a worldwide poll of attorneys. In 2006, the National Law Journal featured him as one of the top ten litigators in the United States.
In 2015, the 50th anniversary of Susman's election as Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Law Review, the Texas Law Review Association established a scholarship in his name.
In 2016, Susman was one of six lawyers recognized by the American Lawyer for his lifetime achievements as a trial lawyer. As of 2019, The Best Lawyers in America had listed him in each of its 20 years of publication. Who's Who Legal: The International Who's Who of Business Lawyers twice named him the Leading Commercial Litigator in the World. Susman was consistently among Super Lawyers’ top 10 most-voted-for attorneys.
Susman developed trial agreements with the purpose of reducing litigation costs for both sides and bringing cases to trial more efficiently. As a result of Susman's belief in a contingency-fee model and the law firm efficiency necessary to make it work, in 2012 he launched "Trial by Agreement" as a repository of pre-trial and trial agreements that lawyers can use to reduce the expense of unwarranted discovery and associated motions.
Among his professional affiliations (2013-16) were State Bar of Texas (Chairman, Section on Antitrust and Trade Regulation, 1976-77); the American Board of Trial Advocates (co-Chair of its Jury Trial Committee); American Bar Association, member of the Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Profession and Legal Needs (Section of Antitrust Law); Director of Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists; University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors; and Charter Member of the Institute for Responsible Dispute Resolution.
Susman was Executive Director of the Civil Jury Project at the New York University School of Law and an Adjunct Professor, occasionally teaching the course, "How to Try a Jury Case Intelligently."
In May 2010, the University of Texas announced a $5 million gift from alumnus Susman in support of the university's law school. In recognition of this gift, the Board of Regents, the governing body for The University of Texas System, established the Stephen D. Susman Academic Center, which opened in August of the same year, and which Dean Lawrence G. Sager described the center as "the heart of the UT Law Enterprise."
In December 2011, Yale University announced an $11 million gift from alumnus Susman in support of new exhibition space at the Yale University Art Gallery. The newly renovated art gallery re-opened on December 12, 2012.
Along with his wife Ellen Susman, Stephen Susman sat on the boards of many arts organizations, including the 2015-2016 National Leadership Board of the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. Through the Susman Family Foundation, the couple has made financial gifts to The Aspen Institute, and other programs and non-profit organizations related to the arts, justice, and the environment. Susman also endowed the Karen & Stephen Susman Hall, Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University, the Harry Susman Summer Scholarship in Israel Scholarship at Yale, and founded the Helen D. Susman Woman of Prominence Award at the American Jewish Community.
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