Steven L. Kessler

When attorneys across the country need counsel for difficult forfeiture cases, they turn to Steven L. Kessler. Mr. Kessler has been protecting the assets of clients from government overreach on the federal, state and local levels for more than three decades. An experienced litigator and nationally recognized authority in the field, Mr. Kessler is equally comfortable when defending a complex federal Ponzi scheme case in West Virginia, securing the return of marital assets in a mini-Madoff litigation in New York, protecting tens of millions of dollars of client assets in Texas or seeking the return of funds seized at Salt Lake City International Airport. Whether working with local counsel or directly retained by the client, Mr. Kessler and his firm provide the finest representation possible.

Asset Forfeiture Authority

Asset forfeiture attorney Steven L. Kessler maintains a national AV-rated white collar practice in New York. A nationally recognized authority in the field of forfeiture, Mr. Kessler represents clients in forfeiture, white collar and complex civil litigation in state and federal district and appellate courts nationwide. Mr. Kessler litigates cases of first impression and has been involved in many asset forfeiture cases of national significance.

Mr. Kessler is a member of the Joint Rules Committee for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York with regard to forfeiture-related local rules. In addition, he is consulted regularly by state legislatures regarding changes to state forfeiture laws, most recently with regard to New York’s overhall of their primary civil forfeiture statutes.

Mr. Kessler is the author of Civil and Criminal Forfeiture: Federal and State Practice (Thomson Reuters 1993 & Supp. 2023), a three-volume treatise analyzing the forfeiture and RICO statutes of all 50 states and the District of Columbia and the major federal forfeiture provisions. He received the Otto L. Walter Distinguished Writing Award from New York Law School in June 2000 for his highly acclaimed one volume handbook, New York Criminal and Civil Forfeitures (LexisNexis 2023), now in its 25th edition.

A contributor to the New York Law Journal and other publications on issues relating to forfeiture and criminal law, Mr. Kessler is the author and Revisions Editor of portions of the Civil Practice Manual (LexisNexis) and ten chapters of the renowned 15-volume treatise, Weinstein, Korn & Miller’s New York Civil Practice. He has served as Editor of numerous professional publications and has written articles for Law Reviews and other legal journals. He is widely quoted and citied in court opinions and media of general circulation nationwide, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Business Week, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle, The Kansas City Star and the ABA Journal, among others, and has been interviewed for television and radio programs nationwide. Mr. Kessler was selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers and New York’s Top Rated Lawyers every year since 2012, and his biography appears in Who’s Who in American Law, International Who’s Who in Business Law and similar publications. Mr. Kessler also received the Albert Nelso Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. A frequent lecturer at CLE programs, Mr. Kessler also is an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York Law School, a position he has held for more than 25 years.

Professional and Community Involvement

Mr. Kessler has lectured at the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Southern Conference of the Council of State Governments, and has testified before the New York State Assembly Codes Committee, the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on the Judiciary and the New York City Council. He is a member of the Forfeiture Abuse Task Force of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and served as Co-Chair of the Forfeiture Law subcommittee of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is also a past Treasurer of the NYSACDL and a member of its Board of Directors.

In addition, Mr. Kessler served from 1999-2001 as Chair of the 4,000 member General Practice Section of the New York State Bar Association. Between 1989 and 2001, he was the editor of One on One, the General Practice Section’s highly acclaimed newsletter and publication edited the Section’s monthly Fax Update. He served for eight years as a member of the NYSBA’s House of Delegates and was Chair of the Association’s Special Committee on AIDS and the Law from 1992 to 1996, a multi-professional committee responsible for the passage of groundbreaking legislation in Albany. Mr. Kessler served as a member of the Civil Courts Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and served for three years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Bronx County Bar Association. As an Arbitrator in the Small Claims Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York, Mr. Kessler served as member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Small Claims Arbitrators. He is a Fellow of the New York Bar Foundation.

A graduate of Cornell Law School, Mr. Kessler is a member of the New York and Connecticut Bars and is admitted to practice before and has filed Petitions in the United States Supreme Court. He has appeared before the United States Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Third, Fifth and Seventh Circuits and has assisted in matters pending in the Eighth Circuit and the District Court in North Dakota. Mr. Kessler also has represented clients in the District Courts in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Kessler was head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in New York, where he supervised and litigated all phases of forfeiture and related matters. In that capacity, he served as a member of the Forfeiture Law Advisory Group of the New York State District Attorney’s Association.

Away from the courtroom, Mr. Kessler enjoys his time working as a nationally certified Referee for United States Swimming. His work on deck earned him the Phillips 66 Outstanding Service Award from Metropolitan Swimming in 2016.

Bar Admissions

  • New York State Bar
  • Connecticut Bar
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • Central District of California
  • District of Connecticut
  • Southern District of Florida
  • Northern District of Illinois
  • District of Maryland
  • District of Massachusetts
  • Eastern District of Michigan
  • District of Minnesota
  • District of New Jersey
  • District of New Mexico
  • Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western Districts of New York
  • Eastern District of North Carolina
  • Northern District of Texas
  • District of Vermont
  • Northern District of West Virginia


  • Cornell Law School, J.D.
  • Cornell University, A.B. with distinction in all subjects

Current Professional and Community Memberships and Associations

  • Joint Rules Committee for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York on forfeiture-related issues
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Forfeiture Abuse Task Force
  • New York Council of Defense Lawyers
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Federal Bar Council
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law School
  • United States Swimming, Certified Official
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