This is a website designed to provide information about Nick Hentoff.

Nick Hentoff has worked as an investigative reporter and independent journalist.  For the last twenty years he has worked as a criminal defense and civil liberties trial attorney specializing in drug defense, use-of-deadly force and police misconduct cases.  He is  admitted to practice law in New York State. 

Nick has developed extensive case-based research, interviewing and writing skills through his work as a journalist and the management of criminal defense and human rights investigations. He has written bylined articles in The Wall Street Journal and has had multiple op-eds published in The New York Times, the Washington Post and other national publications and online media.  He has interviewed and deposed hundreds of police officers regarding their training, departmental policy and the specific contents of individual police reports. He also has experience dealing with print and broadcast journalists in high profile cases, including numerous interviews and appearances on local and national news programs.

Nick Hentoff has also produced and hosted a two-hour weekly interview-based legal affairs radio program, “Citizen Lawyer Radio,” on 1010 KXXT Air America Phoenix. The program focused on social justice issues.

Letters and testimonials from former clients and employers can be found here.

Opening Statement in State v. Vincent 

Nick Hentoff graduated from Cornell University's College of Arts and Sciences earning an A.B. degree, with Honors in Philosophy. While at Cornell, Nick Hentoff was a staff member of the Cornell Daily Sun, a freelance writer for the Ithaca Times and was a founding member of The Point, an alternative weekly newspaper. He also was a member of the Cornell Rugby team. 

While a student at Cornell, Nick Hentoff was selected for a competitive summer journalism program in which he worked as a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal's Washington, D.C., Bureau. During the program, Nick Hentoff published six bylined articles and an opinion editorial, including a front page "a-head" article and a featured policy article on the Reagan Administration's cuts in aid to Indian tribes.

After graduating from Cornell Universityhe worked as a staff reporter for the White Mountain Independent in St. Johns, Apache County, Arizona.  At the time, Apache County was, per capita, the poorest county in the United States. Apache County is still home to the largest number of Native American language speakers in the United States. The history of Apache County had been marked by a bitter civil rights and political battle between the majority members of the Navajo nation and the predominantly White and Mormon members of the community of St. Johns'. 

Nick Hentoff was hired to expand the White Mountain Independent's coverage of news from the Navajo Nation. He wrote articles on cultural, educational, criminal justice and environmental issues impacting the Navajo Nation. He wrote a series of articles on the efforts of parents and teachers to close reservation schools contaminated with asbestos, including a two part profile of the activists and how they battled the Federal bureaucracy to accomplish their goals.

In 1985, Nick Hentoff enrolled in the University of Arizona School of Law where he continued to work as a freelance journalist, publishing op-eds in The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as articles in a number of national publications.   Nick Hentoff also published two articles in the Arizona Law Review where he served as an Executive Editor. 

While in law school, Nick Hentoff worked as a research assistant for Michael McCurry, the Communications Director for Arizona Governor  Bruce Babbitt.  In 1987, while still in law school, Nick Hentoff had the opportunity to work for seven months as a law clerk in the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. During this time he contributed medical and legal research and writing to the initial draft of , a Memorandum for the White House Counsel concluding that people with HIV/AIDS infection were protected from discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act. 

From 1988 to 1990 Nick Hentoff served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Charles L. Hardy, a United States District Court Judge for the District of Arizona. Following his clerkship, Nick Hentoff joined the Maricopa County Public Defender's Office where he worked as a trial attorney handling everything from misdemeanors to capital murder cases. 

In 1990, as a member of the Arizona State Bar’s Legal Services Committee, Nick Hentoff chaired a subcommittee that prepared a study on the legal service needs of Arizona's homeless population. The study resulted in the Arizona Bar Foundation funding both a legal services guide as well the Arizona Affordable Housing Project, which partnered pro-bono lawyers with organizations interested in developing low-income housing. 
From 1993 to 1998, 2001 to 2008 and beginning again in 2011  Nick Hentoff operated a solo law practice, Hentoff Law Office, which focused on criminal defense, police misconduct, civil rights and constitutional litigation in state and Federal courts. Hentoff Law Office also conducted and assisted with investigations into human rights violations impacting marginalized and vulnerable populations including poor communities being victimized by the police. 

From 1993-1998 Nick Hentoff was responsible for the management of two Maricopa County felony indigent defense contracts in conjunction with his private law practice.   From 2002 until 2008 he maintained death penalty defense qualification pursuant to Rule 6.8, Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Nick handled a number of high profile criminal cases and regularly won acquittals and case dismissals for his clients.

In 1994 Nick Hentoff won an acquittal for a man who had falsely confessed to sex crimes that he did not commit. The client was charged with crimes that carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted. The jury took just three hours of deliberations to return a not guilty verdict on all counts after an eight week trial. An analysis of the case was published as a front-page feature article in The Phoenix Gazette. A letter from a family member of the client can be found here

In 2008 Nick Hentoff successfully defended a client charged in Federal court with selling hundreds of firearms from his personal collection at gun shows without a Federal firearm dealer license. After a three day jury trial, following the presentation of the Government's evidence, the U.S. District Court Judge presiding over the trial granted Nick's motion for a directed verdict and dismissed the charges. 

At any given time an average of 25% to 35% of Hentoff Law Office's active caseload was devoted to pro bono cases, including the representation of Native American defendants in two murder trials (one of them a death penalty case), and the representation of prison inmates in individual civil rights cases and two class action lawsuits challenging the conditions of their confinement.  Hentoff Law Office also represented individuals victimized by police misconduct. See e.g., Knox v. Southwest Airlines, 124 F. 3d 1103 (9th Cir. 1997)

In 1994 Nick Hentoff was a founding member of Citizens for Improved Community Police Relations (CICPR), a community group organized by concerned citizens following several fatal shootings and in-custody deaths at the hands of City of Phoenix police officers.  As a member of the CICPR steering committee Nick testified on behalf of CICPR before the Phoenix City Council's Public Safety Committee in a successful lobbying effort to change the Phoenix Police Department’s use of force continuum by increasing restrictions on the use of choke-holds by Phoenix police officers. See Richard Ruelas, "Group Gets Neck Hold Victory, Next Step Could Put Issue on Ballot," The Phoenix Gazette, March 3, 1995.

In 1995 Nick assisted in the monitoring of police activity in a poor South Phoenix neighborhood following several police shootings (see Richard Casey, "Police vs. Gangs, Intense Patrol of Neighborhood Criticized as 'Occupation,' The Arizona Republic, March 25, 1995 at A1.  See also "Police clampdown angers residents" Tucson Citizen, March 27th, 1995.  Nick has also acted as a mediator of citizen-police disputes, including an armed home barricade situation. 

In 1994 Nick began to notice an increase in complaints of brutality made by pre-trial detainees and sentenced inmates in the Maricopa County Jail. The surge of complaints followed a series of high profile changes in jail policy made by the newly elected Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Nick began to file civil rights lawsuits on behalf of jail inmates and kept a record of all the complaints received by his office in a spreadsheet. In February 1995 he forwarded copies of the spreadsheet to the Arizona U.S. Attorney and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, along with a letter calling for a civil rights investigation into the treatment of inmates in the Maricopa County Jail.

A September 10th 1995 article in the Arizona Republic reported on the launch of a civil right investigation against Arpaio by the U.S. Department of Justice:

"Phoenix lawyer Nicholas Hentoff, who filed all three suits, suspects that jailers have become more aggressive since Arpaio took office in 1993 because his tough talk gives the impression that he condones abuse of inmates.....

Napolitano and other Justice Department officials declined to say what sparked the investigation. But civil-rights probes commonly begin after complaints are made to the department.

In February, Hentoff wrote to the Justice Department, saying sheriff's officials may be violating inmates' civil rights."

See Susan Leonard, Arpaio Faces Rights Probe, The Arizona Republic, September 10 1995 at A1. 

In 2001 Nick's civil rights lawsuits on behalf of jail inmates were featured in a profile of Arpaio by Barry Graham that appeared in Harperś Magazine: 

Nick Hentoff is a lawyer who, in true Arizona style, is a member of both the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1993 he was representing indigent inmates of the county jails, and he began noticing similarities in their accounts of torture by Arpaio’s guards. He filed suit on behalf of several such inmates, including Richard Post. When the case load became too much for him, he brought in another attorney, Joel Robbins. The lawsuits alleged that Arpaio created and nurtured a climate that encouraged the guards to abuse inmates. 

The lawyers had a difficult task ahead of them. Arpaio’s popularity is like the summer heat in Arizona—it’s so relentless, so overwhelming, that it’s hard to imagine challenging it. When I told people what had happened to Richard Post, the most common response was, “Well, what had he done?” If Arpaio’s guards had tortured a paraplegic, he must have done something to deserve it. If other inmates were choked or beaten to death, it must have been their own fault. Criminals shouldn’t be mollycoddled. No one wanted to hear that 70 percent of those in jail hadn’t been convicted of anything. They were awaiting trial, didn’t have the money to make bail, and were presumed innocent. 

The lawsuits started coming down, nearly a thousand of them, and many are still pending. So far, the total bill for jury awards and settlements is approximately $15 million. It would almost certainly be a few million more if Richard Post had taken his lawsuit to trial.  Instead, just wanting it to be over, he accepted a settlement of $800,000. 
See Graham, ¨Star of Justice: On the job with America’s Toughest Sheriff," Harper's Magazine (April 2001)

In 1996 Nick Hentoff Nick was appointed by the U.S. District Court to serve as co-counsel on the capital Habeas petition that eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court as Schriro v. Summerlin, 542 U.S. 348 (2004) .

In  Does v. Stewart (D. Ariz. 1996), Nick Hentoff was one of seven attorneys who were appointed by United States District Court Judge Charles L. Hardy to represent a class of prison inmates who had been denied protective segregation, The inmates were facing imminent death or serious physical injury if they were transferred back into the general population.

In 2003 Nick Hentoff discovered, through a public records request, an e-mail that revealed undisclosed problems with the processing of DNA evidence in the City of Phoenix Crime Lab. The release of the email to the local press resulted in a review of crime lab procedures. See Susan Carroll, "Phoenix DNA evidence under fire: Possible contamination may hurt cases," The Arizona Republic, March 8, 2003. 

In 2008 Nick Hentoff closed his law practice and moved to Central Asia where he worked as a Long Term Legal Specialist for the ABA's ROLI program. Based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Nick Hentoff designed and conducted training programs for lawyers, judges and prosecutors on issues relating to human rights, the rule of law and trial practice skills. 

In 2011 Nick Hentoff opened a solo law practice in New York City.  From 2011 to 20012 Nick Hentoff was involved in the pro bono representation of several Occupy Wall Street Protestors who were wrongfully arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in the largest mass arrest in U.S. History.