Hon. Sherry Klein Heitler (Ret.) joins JAMS with 28 years of experience on the bench serving New York State with excellence. During her career, in recognition of her work ethic and ability, four chief administrative judges appointed her to positions with diverse responsibilities. She served as chief of policy and planning for the New York State Unified Court System. Prior to this, she served as the administrative judge for civil matters in New York County and as an associate justice of the Appellate Term of the New York State Supreme Court, First Department.
During Justice Heitler’s lengthy terms on the bench, she handled thousands of cases in multiple areas of the law. Justice Heitler’s career has spanned the full breadth of matrimonial, administrative, appellate, criminal and civil matters involving asbestos mass tort cases, personal injury, commercial and residential landlord/tenant, business/commercial, insurance coverage disputes, as well as special proceedings. Her expansive experience also includes medical malpractice, dental malpractice, legal malpractice, property damage, sexual harassment and contract claims.
Throughout her career, Justice Heitler has been a leader in civic and community organizations and associations, and she frequently chairs and lectures for professional programs.
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Hunter College of the City of New York, Justice Heitler received a Master of Arts from New York University. Thereafter, she obtained her Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law.
Justice Heitler has experience in multiple spheres. She was elected to serve in the New York County Civil Court and the New York Supreme Court, where she evaluated, settled and tried all types of cases. Prior to becoming a judge, she served as an arbitrator in the New York Civil Court and founded her own law firm.
While serving as the administrative judge for civil matters in New York County, Justice Heitler was on call 24/7 for emergency applications, and she maintained and wrote multiple decisions for three asbestos dockets (accelerated, active and deferred), which had thousands of cases.
During her tenure as chief of the Office of Policy and Planning (OPP), Justice Heitler implemented new procedures and policies for approximately 300 problem-solving courts (PSCs), which included drug courts, opioid courts, integrated domestic violence courts, veterans’ courts, driving while intoxicated courts, human trafficking intervention courts, mental health courts and adolescent diversion courts. Justice Heitler was also responsible for reviewing and suggesting new policy for the statewide foreclosure inventory. This involved improvements to case processing and making the foreclosure process more transparent and user-friendly for litigants. She also met with plaintiff and defense practitioners, bank representatives and loan servicers to implement best practices.
- Broad experience handling business disputes, including breach of contract, insurance coverage and partnership dissolutions
Class Action/Mass Torts
- Facilitated numerous settlements as coordinating judge for the New York City asbestos litigation (NYCAL) over six years, often involving large groups of plaintiffs and defendants; issued hundreds of discovery and summary judgment decisions, and heard appeals from rulings by the NYCAL special master
- Presided over many cases involving the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws; issues included discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, wrongful termination, executive compensation and retaliation
Estate, Probate and Trust/Guardianship
- Oversaw numerous Mental Hygiene guardianship matters, conducted hearings to determine if a person was incapacitated and in need of a guardian, and monitored cases in which a guardian had already been appointed
- Handled numerous matrimonial matters as principal of her law firm
- As a judge, resolved or tried complex financial and custody disputes, and received referrals from other judges to settle high-conflict cases involving children
- Oversaw a Matrimonial Part with a caseload of matters involving custody, status of the divorce, equitable distribution, child support and maintenance disputes
- Presided over Mental Hygiene Law hearings in the following hospitals: Bellevue Hospital Center, Metropolitan Hospital Center, Manhattan Psychiatric Center and Kirby Psychiatric Center
- Presided over all types of personal injury and tort matters, including Labor Law, premises liability, general negligence, construction defects, negligent hiring and supervision, wrongful death and product liability
- Extensive experience settling personal injury cases involving New York City, the NYCTA, Con Edison, NYC Health and Hospitals, and other agencies
- Presided over many medical malpractice cases involving the failure to warn, wrong diagnoses, inappropriate care and follow-up supervision
- Presided over professional liability cases, including architectural and legal matters
- Presided over numerous cases involving both commercial and residential real estate, condominium and cooperative associations; issues included land use, interpretation of leases, mortgage foreclosures, receiverships and Mitchell-Lama Program
Justice Heitler is very committed to the ongoing process of legal education. She consistently participates in the clinical externship programs offered by metropolitan area law schools and regularly invited law students to intern in her chambers.
- Adjunct professor at Fordham Law School dedicated to issues concerning the role of the judge, decision-making, trial techniques and the settlement process
- Organized numerous foreclosure conferences to train judges and support staff how to ensure compliance with best practices, new legislation and case law
- Implemented and provided ongoing training for statewide working groups for judges and court personnel in the Problem Solving Courts
Justice Heitler presided over many different parts, including, but not limited to, Matrimonial, City, Guardianship, Individual Assignment System (IAS) and Complex Litigation; resolved most cases, which obviated the need for a lengthy trial