With more than 40 years of experience as a trial lawyer and judge, Judge Heckman (Ret.) has an active practice as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association and conducts arbitrations in most major metropolitan areas with a particular concentration in New York City.  In addition to arbitrations and mediations, Judge Heckman was selected as a Fellow to the College of Commercial Arbitrators, an exclusive group of commercial arbitrators representing the best in the United States, where she serves as co-chair of their Education Committee. In her arbitration practice, she is widely regarded as efficient, open-minded, and fair.  She is chair of the firm's alternative dispute resolution team

Judge Heckman also handles litigation counseling and trial work for American Indian tribes and a group of business clients, as further detailed below. 

Judge Heckman served as a Magistrate Judge in the Western District of New York for eight years where she was selected to sit on the Federal Judicial Conference’s Education Committee for Magistrate Judges and served as an Officer in the Federal Magistrate Judges Association.  She has also served as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Buffalo, New York, and as a law clerk for Hon. John T. Curtin, former Chief Judge of the Western District of New York.

She has significant training and experience as a mediator and has trained federal judges in mediation techniques. She is admitted to the American Arbitration Association's panel of commercial and employment arbitrators and to their panel of mediators. She is also a certified mediator for the Western District of New York.  Successful mediations include the full range of federal court cases, including class actions, high stakes business disputes, employment disputes of all kinds, environmental claims, products liability and other tort claims, securities claims, patent claims, and §1983 claims.

Judge Heckman's arbitration experience includes all aspects of executive compensation, complex and high-dollar commercial disputes, employment litigation, FLSA, non-compete agreements, construction cases, ERISA liability, international cases involving contractual matters, contract claims, mass claims, and process arbitrator assignments under the AAA's Mass Arbitration Supplementary Rules effective August 1, 2023. 

Her private client representation includes advising Fortune 500 companies and closely held companies on major litigation strategy in commercial cases, particularly in the areas of health care, false claims act, federal court procedure and strategy, and mediation preparation and strategy.  She frequently serves as valued local counsel for cases in the Western District of New York.

In addition to Judge Heckman's arbitration experience, she is also Co-Leader of the firm's Indian Law practice team and advises select business clients on trial and appellate issues. Her experience representing tribal governments spans state, federal, and tribal courts as well as arbitrations, and has involved taxation, land claims, sovereign immunity, tribally-owned businesses, gaming compacts, IGRA, the Nonintercourse Act, insurance, the Indian Child Welfare Act, tribal civil jurisdiction, land claims, constitutional claims, tort claims, treaty issues and contract claims.

Representative matters in Indian Law include:
  • Winning a major victory in the Second Circuit on behalf of the Seneca Nation in long-term litigation brought by anti-sovereignty groups against the Buffalo Creek casino.    
  • Negotiating the placement of two Indian children into tribal foster care, and the transfer of their case from Illinois to tribal court, in a heart rendering case under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
  • Successfully arbitrating a gaming compact dispute with the state of New York, saving multi-millions of dollars for our client.
  • Filing amicus briefs in state and federal courts to assert our clients’ interests in areas involving state taxation, sovereignty and economic development.
  • Defending tribal subsidiaries in lawsuits implicating tribal sovereign immunity.
  • Winning a major victory in the D.C. Court of Appeals on tribal funding under the CARES Act using tribal enrollment rates rather than block grant formation. 

For more information on the firm's Indian law practice team click here

Judge Heckman is a frequent speaker and panelist at bar association meetings and at CLE programs across the state. She also has presented at AAA trainings and webinars sponsored by the College of Commercial Arbitrators. 

  • New York
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of New York
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court

  • Cornell Law School, J.D., magna cum laude, 1977
  • Lawrence University, B.A., magna cum laude, 1974

Judicial Clerkships
Hon. John T. Curtin, former Chief Judge of the Western District of New York

Professional Associations
  • College of Commercial Arbitrators
    • Education Committee, Co-Chair
    • Subcommittee - Best Practices Webinars
  • Bar Association of Erie County
  • New York State Bar Association
    • Commercial Federal Litigation section
    • Dispute Resolution Section 
  • Federal Magistrate Judges Association, Member
  • Federal Courts Law Review (electronic law review associated with the Federal Magistrate Judges Association), First Editor-in-Chief
  • Cornell Law Review, Editor

Community Involvement
  • Catholic Health Systems, Board of Directors
    • Catholic Health Systems Ministry Services, Board Chair
    • Compliance, Nominating and Advocacy Committees  
  • Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Board of Directors and Past Board Chair

Past Activities
  • United States Courts, Education Committee for Magistrate Judges
  • Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, Board of Directors
  • Cradle Beach, Board of Directors
  • American Lung Association, Western New York Chapter, Board of Directors
  • Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Inc., Board of Directors

Honors & Awards
  • The Best Lawyers in America©, 2019-2024
    • "Lawyer of Year," Appellate Practice, 2024
    • “Lawyer of the Year,” Mediation, 2015
  • Upstate New York Super Lawyers®, 2011-2023
  • Chambers USA: Americas Leading Lawyers for Business, Native American Law (USA Nationwide)
  • Buffalo Business First, “Power 125 Women,” 2020
  • Buffalo Business First’s Legal Elite of Western New York, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2016
  • Business First of Buffalo and Buffalo Law Journal, Legal Elite of WNY, 2013
  • Litigation Counsel of America, Trial Lawyer Honorary Society, Fellow
  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Business First of Buffalo/Buffalo Law Journal, Who's Who in Law, 2011-2012
  • Business First of Buffalo, “Women Who Mean Business” Award, 2005
  • Order of the Coif
  • Second in graduating class at Cornell Law School
  • Fraser Prize (undergraduate award)
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Women’s Bar Association of Western New York, Achievement Award, 1992

  • "Improving Arbitration Processes for Tribal Governments" American Bar Association, May 2023
  • "Improving Arbitration Processes for Tribal Governments," Indian Gaming Association, April 2023
  • "Summoning Third Party Witnesses in Arbitration," College of Commercial Arbitrators Annual Meeting, October 2022
  • "The Floodgates Open: Managing Mass Arbitrations in the Wake of Epic Systems and Lamps Plus," Commercial Arbitrators, January 2022
  • "Summoning Non-Party Witnesses in Arbitration," College of Commercial Arbitrators, July 2021
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