Tera Heintz, 38, associate
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
Heintz helped lead the trial team that won a $577 million jury verdict for client Asahi Kasei Pharma Corp. against biopharmaceutical firm Actelion Ltd. and other defendants for interfering with a contract to develop Asahi's cardiovascular drug, Fasudil. She was a principal architect of Asahi's pretrial and trial strategy and examined Asahi's lead witness, a non-native English speaker, over five days of direct and cross-examination. The win followed an earlier $91 million International Chamber of Commerce arbitration award for Asahi where Heintz examined the lead witness and expert witnesses, drafted Asahi's written submissions, and formulated the damages theory adopted by the tribunal. Also in 2011, Heintz co-authored a successful California habeas petition on behalf of a death row inmate, David Raley, arguing that he is "mentally retarded" and therefore constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia. Heintz worked extensively with a renowned autism and mental retardation expert in support of the petition. The California Supreme Court granted the petition and ordered an evidentiary hearing on the claim.
Word that best describes you?
Toughest moment in law school or as a lawyer?
During a recent case, the lead trial attorney on the other side constantly sought to intimidate and provoke me into losing my composure. He tried to create a record suggesting I had become "hysterical" during a deposition by repeatedly asking me if I needed time to regain my composure and get a hold of my emotions. Then he brought a personal sanctions motion against me for purportedly making "frivolous" objections during a deposition. I created a DVD showing the judge the video and audio of the portions of the deposition he referenced.
The judge told this lawyer his strategy might have worked if the deposition had only been transcribed, but when there was video showing me staying perfectly calm and cool while he kept asking me if I needed more time to "collect myself," it was clear what he was trying to do. So in response to his own sanctions motion, the judge ordered him to stand up in open court and apologize to me! It was one of the most satisfying moments in my career.
Most interesting place you've traveled?
Biking through central Vietnam. Most people in the country still travel by bike, so I often found myself biking next to people for kilometers at a time. It was such an easy, friendly way to meet people and see parts of the country I would never have seen any other way.
What you'd do if you could take a year off?
I'm expecting my first child in August, so if I had a year, I'd take my husband and my baby boy, rent a beach hut in Thailand, and play.
Most unusual hobby?
I was a competitive Hula-Hooper and rope climber when I was young: two very big sports growing up in the Midwest.
"There but for the grace of God go I." It reminds me that life could have turned out so differently. It's one of the reasons I'm drawn to habeas work. I would want someone to keep fighting for me even after I was beyond condemnation.
Trial or deal you wish you could have worked on?
The "Mississippi Burning" trial. To stare into the heart of darkness and to keep fighting in the face of a corrupt judge, a hostile community and hundreds of years of hatred and bigotry. The closing argument against Cecil Price, the sheriff's deputy who chased down and arrested the three civil rights workers and later participated in their murder, gives me chills: "Price used the machinery of law, his office, his power, his authority, his badge, his uniform, his jail, his police car, his police gun, he used them all to take, to hold, to capture and kill."