Vivian Olivia Berger

Vivian Berger is the Nash Professor of Law Emerita. Before taking emerita status in 2000, she was an Assistant Professor from 1974–77. In 1977 she became an Associate Professor (with tenure). Berger took an extended practice leave, during which she resigned her tenure. She returned as a Visiting Professor from Practice in 1982 to co-found the Clinic in Advocacy for Children. She was then awarded tenure again in 1983. She served as a Full Professor from 1983–2000 and as the Nash Professor of Law from 1994­–2000. During her time on the faculty, Berger also served as Vice Dean for Administration from 1989–93 and as a Director of the Samuel Rubin Program for Liberty and Equality Through Law from 1993–97. Her teaching areas have included: criminal law and process, contracts, family law, a seminar on the death penalty (her special area of expertise), and a seminar on organized crime control.

A practitioner as well as a scholar and teacher, Berger took a number of practice leaves. She worked as an Assistant District Attorney for the Office of the District Attorney of New York County, doing both appellate and trial work; her last position was Deputy Chief of the Appeals Bureau. She also served as an Assistant Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. Among other things, she briefed and argued Saffle v. Parks, 494 U.S. 484 (1990), in the United States Supreme Court. And for several years she was of counsel to the firm of Hoffinger Friedland Dobrish & Stern, P.C., N.Y.C. During this time she did criminal and civil litigation in state and federal courts.

First trained as a mediator and arbitrator in the mid-1980s, Berger became a full-time neutral after she retired from Columbia. She has served on court, AAA and FINRA panels as well as running her own private practice. Her specialty is handling employment disputes. She has been designated an Advanced Practitioner in employment mediation by the Association of Conflict Resolution Workplace Section and was recently elected to the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. She is widely published in her area of expertise.

Berger has always been very involved in the legal profession. She has served on numerous bar committees and was appointed a Special Master in a case pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She is also an elected member of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation Fellows. She has served on several boards, including that of the American Civil Liberties Union for 30 years (20 of these as a General Counsel and Executive Committee member), The Bridge, Inc., and currently the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania.

Berger received her B.A. in American History and Literature from Radcliffe College (Harvard University) in 1966, having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduating first in her class. She was awarded the J.D. by Columbia Law school in 1973, again graduating first in her class and with numerous honors. From 1973–74, she served as a law clerk for the Hon. Wilfred Feinberg, on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Updated February 7, 2024