It’s with great sadness that I’m reporting the death late yesterday at the age of 59 of one of New York’s top mediators, Michael McAllister. Anyone that has tried civil cases in New York over the last two decades knows who he is, and has most likely appeared before him at some point.
McAllister was the Neutral Evaluation Attorney in charge of the New York County Supreme Court Mediation/Neutral Program at its inception in 1994. This state didn’t have any official mediators before that, and this program was turned into a model to be used in other counties.
He was personally responsible for having settled thousands of cases, both through his role as official court mediator, and subsequently from March 2005 onward with the private mediation company JAMS. That included numerous million and multi-million dollar disputes including labor law, medical malpractice, toxic torts, municipal liability, and thousands upon thousands of slip/fall and auto cases.
He was a trusted and respected neutral, widely liked by both plaintiffs and defendants, on both a personal as well as professional level, and amazingly effective at what he did. He appeared just days ago as part of the faculty of a continuing legal education class, The Art of Negotiating and Mediation.
The letter below regarding McAllister appeared on October 1, 1998, in the New York Law Journal. How often does praise appear in print for someone who works out of the spotlight? It is republished here in full, with the permission of its author, Matt Kreinces:
Letter To The Editor: PRAISE FOR MEDIATOR
In the course of my short career I have had the opportunity to work for some of the best negligence/medical malpractice trial lawyers in this state, including Richard Godosky, Anthony Gentile, Raymond Furey, Joseph Awad, Joseph Miklos, Ivan Schneider and Harvey Weitz. While having worked for these individuals I have had the opportunity to appear before and meet some of the most distinguished jurists including Chief Judge Judith Kaye.
All of these are recognized by the profession and the public on a daily basis. However, one individual who I have come to know who seems to go completely unrecognized is Michael McAllister. Mr. McAllister, a court mediator in State Supreme Court, New York County, is currently settling cases that no one else can settle, clearing dockets that no one else can clear and maintaining a level of professionalism I can only hope to obtain during my career as a lawyer.
Within the past five years I have had the opportunity to appear before Mr. McAllister on a number of occasions and have come to know him personally. One instance that stands out concerned the death of a woman after childbirth. The woman gave birth to her third child, developed complications, was allegedly saved immediately after the birth, but died a few days later due to a redevelopment of complications. I was working on this matter as a plaintiff’s attorney. Prior to a note of issue being filed, Mr. McAllister came upon the case and called it in for a conference.
There were four defense attorneys as well as my boss and myself. The initial conference was an amazing tribute to Mr. McAllister’s ability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of this complicated medical malpractice action. After a number of conferences, and long before this matter ever would have reached a trial, Mr. McAllister was able to effectuate a substantial seven-figure settlement. Given the defendants and carriers involved, this was not an easy task.
Mr. McAllister does his job on a daily basis with the utmost of courtesy and respect for the lawyers who enter his courtroom, even when that respect and courtesy is not reciprocated. I am writing to thank Mr. McAllister for giving those of us who are still early in our careers an opportunity to see what being a lawyer is all about, as well as something to strive for down the road.
He is survived by his wife and four children. A funeral announcement has not yet been made, but is expected later today when JAMS will put out a statement.
Update: The wake for Mike will be held at Beaugard Funeral Home in River Edge:, 869 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge, NJ 07661; 201-262-5050.
The wake is tomorrow (Saturday, 1/29) from 7pm-9pm and Sunday from 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm. The mass is on Monday (1/31) at 11:30am at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 305 Elm St., Oradell, NJ 07649
There will be a celebration from 1pm-5pm at on Monday at Maggianos in the Riverside Mall in Hackensack, NJ. The arrangements are open to friends, family and clients. (of note, Mike will be cremated)
The family has set up The McAllister Education Fund for Vanessa and Brian, in lieu of flowers. Donations should be mailed to the funeral home (The Fund’s EIN is 27-4684686).