Thomas M. Russo


Thomas M. Russo

Mr. Russo was an Assistant District Attorney for Queens County, New York from 1976 to 1984 and an Executive Assistant District Attorney from 1984 to 1988. During his career as a prosecutor, he was Chief of the Homicide Bureau, Rackets Bureau and Economic Crimes Bureau. As Executive Assistant District Attorney he supervised all the DA’s investigations bureaus consisting of 200+ lawyers. He was an instructor at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and a lecturer in trial advocacy at Hofstra University Law School.

Mr. Russo entered private practice in 1988 and in 1989 served as one of the lead criminal and civil attorneys in defending the Master of the Exxon Valdez. Since that time, he has represented numerous clients concerning environmental criminal law matters throughout the United States as related to oil spills, oil pollution violations and related governmental investigations.

For example, he has defended corporations and crew members in Oily Water Separator (OWS) criminal offenses in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts and California. Chambers USA notes that “Leading criminal lawyer Tom Russo is well regarded for a considerable amount of good work on oily water separator cases and dealing with the Coast Guard.” Mr. Russo has defended corporations and/or individuals on major oil spills involving various federal (and state) statutes such as the Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, Migratory Bird Act, Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and others in various venues such as, Prince William Sound, Alaska (Exxon Valdez); Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts (Bouchard Transportation); Charleston, South Carolina (Star Eviva); Puerto Rico (Morris J. Berman); Oregon (New Carissa); Providence, Rhode Island (Scandia). Chambers USA reports that sources describe Mr. Russo as “Excellent” and that he “earns praise for his skill in criminal matters.”

Mr. Russo has been admitted pro hac vice as lead counsel in criminal and civil cases in Federal District Courts in the following States: New Jersey, Texas, California, Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Connecticut.

He has spoken about criminal liability in Oil Spill Maritime accidents and OWS cases for P&I Clubs, and has been the featured speaker at seminars in Singapore, Hong Kong, Greece, Norway, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Australia and Russia. He recently conducted seminars in the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg in August 2010 on criminal liability of vessel owners for pollution and OWS violations.

Mr. Russo holds the highest AV preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell and has frequently been ranked as a leading maritime criminal attorney by publications such as The Best Lawyers in America Guide, Expert Guides Best of the Best USA, Chambers USA and The Legal 500. Chambers USA 2010 stated: “Sources agree: ‘If a criminal case comes in through the doors of a firm that’s not equipped to handle it you can bet your life that it’ll be referred to Russo.'”

William J. Pallas

Mr. Pallas graduated from Georgetown University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He received his law degree from Tulane Law School in 1994, cum laude, with a Certificate of Maritime Law, where he served as Managing Editor of the Tulane Maritime Law Journal. Having previously worked with the firm as a summer associate, he joined the firm in 1994 as an associate and became a Partner in 2003. Mr. Pallas’ practice concentrates on intermodal cargo loss and damage cases. He also has extensive experience with marine casualties, civil and criminal environmental defense, charter party disputes, commercial litigation, personal injury matters and ship finance. Mr. Pallas has been selected by his peers for inclusion in the The Best Lawyers in America Guide in the field of maritime law from 2017 through 2020 and has been highlighted in The Legal 500 – USA for 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Daniel J. Fitzgerald

Mr. Fitzgerald graduated with distinction from the State University of New York, Maritime College where he obtained a U.S. Coast Guard Unlimited Tonnage deck officer’s license. He has served in the U.S. Coast Guard for over 20 years, and continues to serve as a Captain (Select) as the Senior Reserve Officer at USCG Base Portsmouth. He earned his law degree attending the Evening Division of New York Law School while serving on active duty conducting casualty investigations and vessel inspections. He has been practicing maritime law since 2001, joined FHM in August of 2005 and became partner in January 2012.

Mr. Fitzgerald’s practice concentrates on maritime, international and environmental law. He regularly advises clients on environmental maritime compliance and pollution response and has conducted numerous on-board investigations in various U.S. and foreign jurisdictions. His litigation practice focuses on personal injury, wrongful death, oil spills, groundings and collisions.

Mr. Fitzgerald is a frequent presenter on environmental criminal, regulatory and compliance issues. He was recognized in 2017 by The Legal 500 – USA.

Mr. Fitzgerald proudly serves his community as a member of the Board of Directors of the Breezy Point Cooperative.

Michael Fernandez

Michael Fernandez graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York in 1981 and thereafter sailed as a deck officer on a various types of commercial vessels including tankers, containerships and others. He holds an unlimited Master’s license issued by the United States Coast Guard. Mr. Fernandez received a J.D. from Rutgers Law School and joined Freehill Hogan & Mahar in 1990, where he has been a partner for over 15 years.

Mr. Fernandez’ practice has a particular emphasis on litigation and arbitration involving: marine casualties (collisions, fires, groundings and sinkings), cargo and contamination claims, shipboard investigations of all nature (cargo, hull and personal injury), intermodal claims, hazardous materials, marine pollution, charter party and bill of lading disputes, investigations and proceedings by state and federal agencies such as the USCG, NTSB, DOJ and OSHA. He also advises clients as to contractual matters including: terminal/stevedoring agreements, slot charters, vessel sharing agreements, service contracts, contracts of carriage and insurance coverage.

His sea-going background and experience provide Mr. Fernandez with unique insight and expertise while conducting shipboard investigations, reviewing vessel records, interfacing with crewmembers and interacting with state and federal agencies.

Mr. Fernandez is also a member of the Maritime Criminal Defense Group at the firm and routinely defends both corporations and individuals in matters involving the alleged by-passing of oily water separators and other MARPOL related violations, pollution and civil/ criminal enforcement actions. He has dealt with such cases in numerous jurisdictions, including, for example, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, Maryland, California, Georgia and North Carolina.

Mr. Fernandez routinely conducts internal investigations and lectures clients on best practices for claims handling, enhanced MARPOL compliance, training of crews and the role of counsel during investigations both in the USA and abroad. He has been selected as a leading lawyer in publications such as Chambers Global, Chambers USA, The Legal 500 and The Best Lawyers in America.

Mr. Fernandez has been selected by Best Lawyers in America from 2013 through 2020 and was listed in 2008 and 2017 by The Legal 500 USA. He has been named a New York Super Lawyer from 2013 to 2017, and is listed among the world’s leading transport lawyers in Who’s Who Legal: Transport 2016 through 2017. Chambers 2018 designated him as a “notable practitioner.” In 2019, Mr. Fernandez was confirmed as an expert in maritime law by Euromoney’s International Trade & Shipping Guide.

Patrick J. Bonner

Throughout his career, Mr. Bonner has represented shipowners and their underwriters in defending personal injury claims including longshoremen, passengers and seamen cases. He has significant experience in oil pollution incidents, collision cases and proceedings before the United States Coast Guard. Mr. Bonner has also represented airlines in respect of passenger claims.

Mr. Bonner was a member of the U.S. delegation to the IMO Legal Committee from 2010 – 2012. He has published numerous articles and has been a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars on various maritime law topics. Mr. Bonner is a past president of the Maritime Law Association of the United States (2010-2012). He served as a deck officer in the Navy on a fleet oiler and an aircraft carrier.

Eric J. Matheson

Eric Matheson brings a diverse maritime background to Freehill Hogan & Mahar. Mr. Matheson is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, where he received a Bachelors of Science in Marine Operations and Technology, a marine transportation program enhanced with marine engineering studies. He served in the U.S. Navy on a guided missile frigate as both a deck and engineering officer. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard Unlimited Third Mate’s License.

Following his service in the U.S. Navy, Mr. Matheson obtained his law degree from Villanova University School of Law, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Villanova Environmental Law Journal.

Mr. Matheson works on a variety of matters, using his legal skills as well as his technical background in Marine Operations and Technology and his experience at sea on a variety of vessels. He has worked with Vessel Data Recorders (VDR) and other recording systems in accident reconstruction involving collision, grounding, sinking, and other vessel casualties. He has worked on cases involving modern vessel incinerators and oily water separators (OWS) which involve computerized data and the tracking of use and function of ship’s equipment. He is active in both litigation and arbitration involving ship sale, vessel collision, electrical fires, power outages, sinkings, loss of cargo, safe port/safe berth warranties, and the mechanical failure of intermodal equipment, including cranes, tractors, brake systems, and refrigeration systems. He also has experience in cases involving sensitive chemical cargo contamination claims.  Mr. Matheson has been named a Rising Star in the field of maritime law from 2015 through 2019 by New York Super Lawyers, and in 2018 was listed as a recommended attorney by The Legal 500. In 2019, The Legal 500 named him as a “Next Generation Partner.”