Michael F. Hertz, a 36-year veteran of the Justice Department’s Civil Division and a False Claims Act pioneer, died Friday of cancer.
Hertz, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division, was 62.
A memorial will be held at Main Justice, but a date has not yet been set, said Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller.
Hertz, of Potomac, Md., was buried today in Crumpton, Md., according to an obituary. The Civil Division’s acting chief, Stuart Delery, attended the service, Miller said.
Miller said Hertz had a “very great impact” on the division and that “he’ll be missed” by those with whom he worked. Hertz championed the enforcement of the False Claims Act and its qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions. The law was updated by Congress in 1986 and has been an important tool for the Civil Division in its fraud enforcement across the country.
Hertz was born Sept. 16, 1949, in New York City. He is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and of Northwestern University School of Law. He served as a clerk for Judge Robert A. Sprecher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and he joined the appellate staff of the Civil Division in 1975. In 1982, he was appointed to the senior executive service as the Civil Division’s Appellate Litigation Counsel. He became chief of the Commercial Litigation Branch in 1984, and he held the position until 2007, when he was elevated to Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Commercial Litigation Branch of the division in 2007.
He won numerous awards during his tenure with the department, including the John Marshall Award in 1981, the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in 1988 and 2010, the Edward H. Levi Award in 2010 and Presidential Rank Awards for Senior Executives in 1989, 1997 and 2006.
Laurence Freedman, former assistant director of the Civil Division’s Fraud Section, wrote in an email to Main Justice that Herz was “the pillar of civil fraud enforcement” and the “intellect and the architect of all civil fraud enforcement since 1986.”
“We all have been reflecting on how deeply he affected all the attorneys who worked for him, with his enormous intellect and with deep integrity,” Freedman, now a partner with Patton Boggs LLP, wrote. “He held the deepest respect and highest confidence of every administration for his unrivaled knowledge, intellect and vision for enforcement under the False Claims Act.”
Daniel Spiro, senior trial counsel in the department, wrote on his blog that Hertz was “one of the great unsung heroes of the U.S. Government.” Spiro wrote that Hertz was a quiet leader, whose staff remained “fiercely loyal to him.”
“It is hardly a strained analogy to say that if the Civil Division of the Justice Department was the Star Ship Enterprise, Mike Hertz is our Mr. Spock,” he wrote. “And indeed, our Government is a lesser place today than it was [Friday], when Mike was still alive.”
Hertz is survived by his wife Ronnie Edelman; children Rachel and Jonathan Hertz; and sister Shelley Kempner.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include Laurence Freedman’s statement.