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Peter F. Vaira

Special Counsel


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Peter F. Vaira, one of our country’s preeminent white collar criminal defense lawyers serves as Special Counsel to Weir Greenblatt Pierce LLP. During Mr. Vaira’s over 50 years of practice he has handled the most complex criminal and civil matters in state and federal court, having earned him a well-known reputation as one of the most respected attorneys in the region. Mr. Vaira is also a widely sought after arbitrator, mediator, special master, and independent hearing officer with numerous years of experience in the field of alternative dispute resolution. Mr. Vaira directs WGP’s alternative dispute resolution practice.

Mr. Vaira is a member of the Pennsylvania, Illinois, and District of Columbia Bars and he is a certified national and international arbitrator who serves as a Special Master in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Commerce Court program and who previously acted as the Independent Hearing Officer for the Laborers’ International Union of North America. As Special Master, Mr. Vaira has the experience to solve problems in complex civil litigation in state and federal courts. Mr. Vaira assists the court and parties when normal statutory procedures cannot adequately serve the court or the parties in a timely manner. Mr. Vaira, in his role as Special Master, arbitrates and mediates commercial litigation disputes, oversees court authorized settlements, arbitrates litigation discovery disputes, litigation ethical conduct complaints, and labor union trusteeships, mediates ongoing construction disputes, acts as union election officer, acts as receiver pendente lite or receiver in liquidation, and oversees investigations of gas wellsite accidents. Throughout his career Mr. Vaira has also handled every kind of white collar criminal defense matter imaginable as well as antitrust cases, internal and parallel investigations, corporate crisis management matters, and complex civil litigation cases. Mr. Vaira was appointed by former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to serve as the Executive Director of a Commission formed to investigate the Department of Licenses and Inspections subsequent to a tragic building collapse in Center City Philadelphia.

A graduate of Duquesne University and the Duquesne University School of Law, Mr. Vaira served in the United States Navy from 1963 to 1968 in the Judge Advocate General Corps. Mr. Vaira is also a fifteen year veteran of the United States Department of Justice where he served as the Attorney in Charge of the Philadelphia and Chicago Organized Crime Strike Forces. In 1978, the President of the United States appointed Mr. Vaira to serve as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where he acted as the chief federal law enforcement official for five years. Upon leaving the Justice Department, Mr. Vaira was later appointed as the Executive Director of the President’s Commission on Organized Crime. After entering into private practice, Mr. Vaira worked in various prominent law firms in both Chicago and Philadelphia.

Mr. Vaira is a Fellow of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Law Institute, and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Mr. Vaira is a frequent lecturer on a variety of legal topics both nationally and internationally, while he also serves on the editorial boards of The Legal Intelligencer. Mr. Vaira is the author of Eastern District of Pennsylvania Federal Practice Rules Annotated from Lexis Publishing and Corporate Responses to Federal Grand Jury Investigations published by Lexis.

  • Education

    • Duquesne University, B.A.
    • Duquesne University School of Law (J.D., 1962)

  • Bar Admissions

    • Pennsylvania (1962)
    • District of Columbia (1968)
    • Illinois (1984)
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
    • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circui

  • Honors

    • Who’s Who in America
    • Who’s Who in American Law
    • Distinguished Law Alumni Award, Duquesne University Law School, 2005
    • Legal Intelligencer Lifetime Achievement Award, 2016
    • Philadelphia Inquirer Influencers of Law Lifetime Achievement Award, 2019

  • Publications

    • Author of Eastern District of Pennsylvania Federal Practice Rules Annotated, Lexis, published annually since 1998
    • Author of Corporate Responses to Grand Jury Investigations, Lexis, 1984, revised annually
    • Regular columnist, “Eastern District Practice” and The Legal Intelligencer, a daily commercial legal newspaper
    • “Changes in the Law Practice After COVID-19 … What Will Be the New Normal?,” The Legal Intelligencer, May 12, 2020
    • “Recommended Changes for Procedure of Supervising Grand Jury Judges,” The Legal Intelligencer, March 9, 2020
    • “A Primer: Warrants for Using Electronic Hearing Devices From the FISA Court,” The Legal Intelligencer, January 14, 2020
    • “An Overview of Exceptions to Grand Jury Secrecy Rules,” The Legal Intelligencer, November 19, 2019
    • “Primer in Federal Criminal Discovery for New Practitioners,” The Legal Intelligencer, September 25, 2019
    • “Federal Effort Against Organized Crime: How it Began and Where It Is Today,” The Legal Intelligencer, July 16, 2019
    • “What Are the Duties of the General Counsel to the Pa. Supreme Court?,” The Legal Intelligencer, May 14, 2019
    • Grand Jury Witnesses Subpoenaed for Subsequent Appearance Can Review Prior Testimony,” The Legal Intelligencer, March 12, 2019
    • “2019 Wish List: Changes I’d Like to See in the Courts, Gov’t Agencies, Law Profession,” The Legal Intelligencer, January 15, 2019
    • “Increased Use of Special Masters and How They Can Help,” The Legal Intelligencer, November 21, 2018
    • A Comparison of Pennsylvania State and Federal Grand Jury Procedure,” The Legal Intelligencer, September 25, 2018
    • “Department of Justice Needs an Internal Review of Its Operations,” The Legal Intelligencer, July 17, 2018
    • “The Eastern District in Transition: An Interview With Chief Judge Stengel,” The Legal Intelligencer, November 20, 2017
    • “Why State Prosecutors Lag Behind Feds in Corruption Cases,” The Legal Intelligencer, March 13, 2017
    • “The Important Role of a Trial Lawyer,” The Legal Intelligencer, November 14, 2016
    • “An Open Letter to the Chief Judges of Federal District Courts in Pa,” The Legal Intelligencer, May 17, 2016
    • “Long-Delayed Issues Face State Supreme Court,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 28, 2016
    • “Suggestions for Amending the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Statute,” The Legal Intelligencer, January 16, 2016
    • “Supreme Court: Address the Real Problem With AG Staff Emails,” The Legal Intelligencer, September 15, 2015

  • Professional Activities

    Professional Memberships & Leadership Activities

    • Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers, (by invitation only)
    • Chairman, Criminal Procedure Committee, 1991-1994
    • Member, Communications Committee, 1996
    • Member, International Committee, 2009 to present
    • Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, North American Branch
    • Member, American Law Institute (by invitation only)
    • Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL)
    • Executive Director, Mayor’s Independent Commission Regarding the Licenses & Inspections Department, 2013
    • Special Hearing Master, Commerce Court Program, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, 2012 to present
    • Member, Philadelphia Mayor’s Police Department Transition Team, 2008 Independent Hearing Officer, Laborers’ International Union of North America, 1995 to 2005
    • Member, Mayor’s Selection Committee for Philadelphia Police Commissioner, 1992
    • Member, Philadelphia Commission on Police Corruption, 1997-1998
    • Executive Director, President’s Commission on Organized Crime, 1984-85
    • Court Appointed Arbitrator, Fen Phen Diet Drug Class Action Suit settlement, Philadelphia
    • Certified Mediator, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • Discovery Master, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, 2013
    • Court Settlement Monitor, Federal District Court EDPA, 2012
    • Ethics Complaint Hearing Master, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, 2013
    • Litigation Mediator, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, 2013)
    • Arbitrator of Commercial Litigation, Seventeen Party Arbitration, NAM, Garden City, NJ, 2016
    • Ongoing Construction Dispute Mediator, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, 2013-2014
    • Arbitrator Labor Union Trusteeships and Union Election Officer, Independent Hearing Officer, Laborers’ International Union of North America, 1995-2010
    • Receiver Pendente Lite and Receiver in Liquidation, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, 2013

    Military Service

    • Officer, United States Navy (Judge Advocate), Active Duty, 1963-1968; Served in Republic of the Philippines, at sea in the-Mediterranean fleet; and Office of Judge Advocate General, Washington, D.C. Tried numerous courts-martial; acted as counsel to courts of inquiry and legal advisor to Flag Officer, commander of 15 ship flotilla, at sea; argued before the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

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