Litigator Debbie Berman is co-chair of the firm’s Complex Commercial Litigation, Trade Secrets and Restrictive Covenants and Media and First Amendment Practices. She assists clients with complex commercial matters such as broken deals or business relationships and has deep experience in trade secrets matters as well as defamation and First Amendment-related tort cases, among other areas. During her career, Ms. Berman has provided extensive counseling services to clients and been involved in hundreds of litigated matters where she typically serves as first-chair.
Ms. Berman’s litigation experience extends to many other areas of sophisticated, complex civil litigation. For example, she is lead international coordinating counsel for a series of interrelated matters against the client’s former senior executives and its former major distributors for conspiring to compete against it while they were still affiliated with the client. These matters include litigation in federal district and appellate courts, bankruptcy court, EUIPO and in Switzerland. She also was the lead lawyer representing a Fortune 500 company in a race discrimination suit brought under Title VII, successfully obtaining summary judgment for her client which was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She also has represented clients in bankruptcy-related litigation, such as fraudulent conveyance and preference actions; shareholder derivative cases; complex multi-party, multi-state class actions; breach of contract matters; and business tort actions.
Ms. Berman also represents clients in a variety of government contracts litigation. For example, she was trial counsel for General Dynamics Corp. in a complex tax accounting matter with issues related to a multi-year procurement contract with the US Air Force. As a result of the favorable verdict, the client saved significant sums in potential taxes and interest. Ms. Berman also has represented defense contractors in other types of litigation against the US government, including contract terminations and indemnification suits. She has also represented defense contractors in litigation with other defense contractors, including issues related to teaming arrangements on major government contracts.
In the First Amendment and defamation areas, Ms. Berman has extensive experience in both state and federal courts. In particular, she has defended media and non-media clients in numerous defamation and defamation-related tort cases. In many of these cases, she has successfully obtained dismissals of these actions. Notably, she successfully defended Paramount Pictures in Muzikowski v. Paramount Pictures, et al, in which the plaintiff claimed the movie Hardball was based on his life and portrayed him in a defamatory manner. Ms. Berman initially defeated the plaintiff’s attempt to enjoin the movie’s release and then obtained summary judgment. A federal appeals court upheld the trial court’s summary judgment ruling. She also has represented media companies in other First Amendment matters, such as in quashing subpoenas to obtain outtake footage or testimony from reporters about their newsgathering activities.
In addition to her roles as Co-Chair of the Trade Secrets and Restrictive Covenants Practice and Co-Chair of the Media and First Amendment Practice, Ms. Berman is a member of the firm’s Complex Commercial Litigation Practice and its Trademark, Advertising and Unfair Competition Practice. She also is Chair of the firm’s Litigation Associate Assignment Committee, Chair (Emeritus) of the firm’s Women’s Forum Steering Committee, and a member of the Management, Finance and Associate Development and Evaluation Committees.
A recipient of numerous recognitions for her work, Ms. Berman is AV Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer recognition for ethical standards and legal ability. In 2006, Lawdragon magazine named her to its "New Stars, New Worlds" list of 500 lawyers who are "carving the path to the new heights of the legal profession.” In 2017, she was recognized by Legal 500 US in its Trade Secrets category. The JUF/Jewish Federation honored Ms. Berman with its coveted Davis, Gidwitz & Glasser Award, which recognizes “young leaders who represent an ideal of dedication and service to the Jewish community.”