Thomas Fortune Fay
Thomas Fortune Fay, a Delaware native, is a 1961 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and a Rutgers Law School JD who ditched a boring government job early in his career to become a $15-an-hour criminal defense attorney. Today he is based in Washington DC. a distinguished trial lawyer who has practiced for more than 50 years, winning judgments totalling over $9 billion on behalf of American victims of international terrorism.
A member of the bar in Maryland and the District of Columbia his practice has included more than 51 reported cases in which he has appeared as lead counsel.
Thomas Fortune Fay Original painting 2019. Collection of the artist.
He is a former President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D. C., a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, has been an AAJ member since 1975, and was named an AAJ Stalwart in 2015. Mr. Fay has taught continuing legal education courses on Trial Tactics in Personal Injury Cases and Problems in Proving Damages.
Tom Fay pioneered the concept of using U.S. civil litigation to pursue foreign terrorists for financial compensation for the victims of their attacks. It took more than ten years of difficult and prolonged litigation – often over the objections of the White House and the U.S. State Dept. – and constant and persistent lobbying in Congress to obtain special legislation subjecting sovereign foreign countries to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
He successfully litigated a landmark case on behalf of the families of 241 military personnel who died in the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Filing a civil lawsuit against Iran for providing financial and logistical support to the terrorist organization that carried out the attack, he received a multibillion-dollar judgment for the victims.
“When we filed it I don't know how many lawyers came up to me in Washington and said `you'll never get a dime out of it,’” Fay said, laughing. He is convinced American tort law can help reduce terrorism overseas.
Notre Dame Law School is now establishing a new fellowship in Fay's name for students interested in practicing in the field of national security law.
“There is no greater calling than to use your legal knowledge and training to protect the homeland, including from state-sponsored terrorist attacks,” Fay said. “It’s my hope that this fellowship will encourage law students to pursue a career in this important area of law.”