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Justin Green ’84

Justin Green ’84

A life of law and flight

By Molly Congdon '12

Justin Green ’84 grew up in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. His mother was a school teacher, until Green’s older sister was born and then she worked at home. His father, who was a doctor, died on Green’s 16th birthday.

The unexpected loss took a toll, emotionally and financially. “We sold our house, moved into a small apartment and my mother went back to work,” Green said.

Now a successful attorney with leading aviation law firm Kreindler & Kreindler (N.Y.), Green represents families in major airplane disasters. His own experience with tragedy has given him an intimate understanding of what his clients are going through.

“Losing my father suddenly at 16 made me appreciate that life goes on after a loss,” he said. “The financial compensation that I obtain for my clients means that maybe they won’t need to move out of their home, that tuitions will be paid and that the life the decedent wanted for her or his family will happen.”

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Green’s major cases include the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001; the Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 disaster near Amsterdam, Netherlands; and the Hudson River midair collision near Hoboken, N.J.

But his most challenging was the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March 2014.

“The key evidence in aviation cases is the airplane wreckage. This includes cockpit voice and digital flight data recorders, commonly called ‘black boxes,’ even though they’re bright orange,” Green said. “Until the main wreckage is found and the black boxes are recovered, the disappearance of the flight and the 239 souls on board will remain the greatest aviation mystery in history.”

Also a CNN aviation analyst and military pilot, Green’s unique career path began at a Union College job fair, where the economics major struck up a conversation with a Marine Corps recruiter. Green later was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in Jackson Gardens during graduation weekend in June 1984.

From 1990-91, Green was as an attack helicopter pilot in Operations Desert Shield and Storm. While serving in the Marines, he was in two accidents: a crash landing of a commercial passenger jet and a fiery helicopter crash. This sparked his interest in aviation safety and Green later graduated from the Aviation Safety Officer’s program at the Naval Postgraduate School, and served as his squadron’s aviation safety officer.

He then graduated from Fordham Law School and for the past 20 years has devoted his professional life to advocating for aviation disaster victims.

“I have been fortunate in my career as an aviation lawyer,” Green said. “My time as a Marine Corps pilot and aviation safety officer provided technical training and experience that I use every day as a lawyer.”

“The plaintiff, in most cases, bears the burden of proving why an airplane or helicopter crashed and who is responsible in order to win the case,” he continued. “I do a pre-litigation investigation, which includes examining the airplane’s wreckage and its black boxes.

“I take defense witness testimony under oath. I use many different experts—accident recreation experts, pilot experts, metallurgists or material scientists, and engine and airframe experts. A case may take two or more years to go through discovery and go to trial depending on its complexity.”

It is work he’s proud of.

“In almost all my cases, families have lost loved ones,” Green said. “They want answers about what caused the crashes and want to make sure that no other families suffer the same fate. They deserve justice and I’m honored when these families trust me to represent their causes.”