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DeVercelly update: Douglas Fierberg’s long career

A closer look at the DeVercellys’ trial lawyer      February 22, 2008
From the Rider student newspaper

By Paul Szaniawski

By typing in the words “hazing” and “lawyer” into an Internet search engine, the results will point to one man, who is one of the nation’s most prominent lawyers in wrongful death and serious person of injury cases involving colleges.

Way before he was hired as the attorney and spokesman for the family of Gary DeVercelly Jr., Douglas Fierberg was interviewed by numerous media outlets and has developed a reputation as an aggressive lawyer who stands up for victims against colleges.

“This guy is the man at cases like this,” said Darryl Isherwood, a reporter for The Times of Trenton. “I interviewed him for an article about hazing. The DeVercellys probably found him after I wrote that.”

One glance at Fierberg’s portfolio, which includes representing about 20 families of students who died during the shootings at Virgina Tech last year, and other wrongful death cases at institutions of higher education — especially hazing — proves that.

“I wouldn’t call myself an advocate against hazing, but an advocate for families, who as a result of hazing, had someone killed or injured for no good reason,” Fierberg said in a phone interview from his office in Washington, D.C.

Taking on high profile cases, many that have been featured on television news shows like 20/20 and Dateline, has given Fierberg the opportunity to appear on CNN, MSNBC and FOX as a credible legal know-it-all.

The attorney of 20 years didn’t change the direction of his law career for 15 minutes of fame. Fierberg began to specialize in wrongful death, serious personal injury and sexual assault cases in the early- to mid-1990s. He became passionate in the particular legal field while working on two cases, which seemed to strike a chord with him.

“Years ago I was representing a young woman sexually assaulted at a high school and at the same time a young man hazed at the University of Maryland,” Fierberg said. “It seemed to me at the time that young people needed consistent strong advocacy in this area of law and many weren’t getting it.”

Besides representing the DeVercelly family in its civil suit against Rider, Fierberg is currently working on other lawsuits involving fraternity hazing at colleges. Two of the higher profile cases include the alcohol poisoning death of Lynn “Gordie” Bailey after an alleged evening of hazing at the Chi Psi fraternity at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2004; and a similar case against the Chi Tau fraternity and California State University at Chico State, where Matthew William Carrington died in 2005.

In the past, the attorney has also served as lead counsel for a case involving a school teacher murdered during the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

On March 17, Fierberg’s experience will take him to Michigan State University where he will deliver the luncheon seminar at a national Clery Act Training Seminar. The Jeanne Clery Act impacts many areas of campus operation and administration.

Currently, Fierberg is employed at the Bode & Grenier law firm based out of Washington, D.C.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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