During the first six years of his legal career, Stephen served in a variety of federal government positions. He spent his first two years out of law school as a federal law clerk, to now-Chief Judge Mark Wolf on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (in Boston) and then to Judge Rosemary Barkett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (in Miami). He served briefly in the Appellate Section of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida and then joined the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where he served as a trial attorney in the Civil Division's Federal Programs Branch for nearly three years. After the birth of his first child, Stephen returned home to Miami, where he joined Podhurst Orseck.
Stephen devoted his first five years at the firm to trial work, where he first-and second-chaired jury and bench trials in plaintiffs’-side tort and commercial cases in federal and state courts. Eventually Stephen shifted his focus to appellate work, an area that allowed him to combine his experience as a trial lawyer with his passion for legal argument and writing. Stephen has since argued 20 appeals in federal and state courts. Among the significant and high-profile appeals he has handled are his representation of the President of Miami-Dade College in a First Amendment case, Vila v. Padron, 484 F.3d 1334 (11th Cir. 2007), the interests of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez in a challenge to his bid for “strong mayor” powers, Citizens for Reform v. Citizens for Open Government, Inc., 931 So. 2d 977 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2006), his protection of a $6 million judgment in a complex commercial case, Driscoll v. Gould, 2007 WL 3005579 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2007), and a million-dollar tort judgment against a former major-league baseball player, Canseco v. Cheeks, 939 So. 2d 1122 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2006).
Stephen has developed particular familiarity with cases having an international dimension, particularly in resisting defendants’ forum non-conveniens motions, the Alien Tort Claims Act and Anti-Terrorism Act, class actions using the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”) and litigation over attorney’s fees in wrongful death cases. He has presented papers on the last two of these subjects, as well as on the Fabre doctrine, the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, and the religion clauses of the First Amendment.
Stephen has done considerable pro bono legal work for political candidates and campaigns. In 2008, he was appointed Florida State Counsel to the Obama-Biden campaign, serving as general counsel to the campaign in Florida and managing a 4,000-lawyer voter-protection network. In 2006, he helped run the Florida Democratic Party’s statewide voter-protection network. He played a similar role in the 2004 presidential election, where he also litigated an important case for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. See Reform Party of Florida. v. Black, 858 So. 2d 303 (Fla. 2004).
Stephen maintains an active role in community and civic affairs as well. He served as President of the American Constitution Society’s South Florida Chapter (2005-2006), is currently a board member of the Florida Justice Association, the American Jewish Committee’s South Florida ACCESS Program and an advisor to the technology company, Linxter, Inc. He was selected as a member of Leadership Florida in 2007.
Stephen has been recognized for his litigation skills by the following organizations: "The Best Lawyers in America" 2010; Chambers USA (litigation; 2007, 2006); Benchmark (Florida "litigation star"; 2010, 2009, 2008); Florida Trend's Legal Elite (appellate practice;2009, 2008, 2007); Lawdragon Top 500 Plaintiff’s Lawyers (2006); Martindale Hubbell ("AV" rating). In 2007, he was also selected by the Daily Business Review as a finalist for its “Most Effective Lawyers” award in the area of Appellate Practice.
Stephen is married and is the father of two children.