Neal M. Sher (29 August 1947 – 3 October 2021) was an American lawyer who served as head of the Office of Special Investigations and as executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Since 2002, he was a solo practitioner in New York City.
Sher graduated Cornell University in 1968 and New York University Law School in 1972. He clerked for Judge Barrington D. Parker for two years, then worked in a Washington, DC law firm from 1974 to 1979, before joining the United States Department of Justice.
From 1983 to 1994, Sher headed the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the Justice Department’s Nazi prosecution unit, where he oversaw the denaturalization and deportation of dozens of onetime Nazi war criminals. His investigation of the Nazi past of former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim resulted in Sher's submission of a report to the United States Attorney General. That report, in turn, led to Waldheim’s placement on the watch list of persons ineligible to enter the United States. In 1989, Sher received the Raoul Wallenberg Award for his work.
Sher was the executive director of AIPAC from 1994 to 1996. As director, he led AIPAC's support of the Oslo Accords, sparring with rival lobbyists Zionist Organization of America over the issue. He apparently clashed with the board of directors, however, and resigned shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu's surprise victory in the 1996 Israel prime ministerial election to return to work on Holocaust-related issues.
In the documentary I have Never Forgotten You about famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, Sher is shown criticizing Wiesenthal, saying, "There were and still remain today alive, many people who personally suffered at the hands of Joseph Mengele and to hold out hope to them, and these people held out hope, that their tormenter, their torturer, this mass murderer would be brought to justice, when the information was not accurate, I think is cruel."
In 1998, Sher became chief of staff of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims. He resigned in June 2002 after a Baltimore Sun investigation disclosed that he had received over $5000 for some first-class air travel to Europe, and he disclosed to the commission that he had received "unauthorized reimbursements." According to the chair, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Sher made "immediate and full restitution" after self-disclosing the violation.
In 2003, Sher consented to disbarment from the District of Columbia. He said he agreed to disbarment because he could not afford to litigate the matter, and remained a member of the New York bar, despite a provision of New York law, 22 NYCRR 603.3, which requires "reciprocal" disbarment for any attorney disbarred in another jurisdiction. The agreement means that there is no public record of the bar's investigation.
As of 2017, Sher represented a class action for the victims of the Fort Hood terror attack.
"What I hope and believe is that the announcement today by the Pentagon shows they have changed course... It's our expectation that this will resolve it and these people will get the benefits. We're going to be monitoring it and keeping a close eye on it and in touch with members of Congress to make sure this isn’t hocus-pocus and that they follow through."
Sher was admitted to practice before the US Supreme Court, the US Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit; US District Court, Southern Division; US District Court Eastern Division; US District Court Northern Division; and US District Court, District of Columbia.
- Cattan, Nacha (2003-09-05). "Restitution Leader Disbarred by Court After Investigation Of Job Misconduct". The Forward. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- Neal Sher, In hindsight, Carter book seen as part of an awkward pattern, December 26, 2006
- On April 22, 1987, the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of State announced that evidence amassed in an investigation conducted by the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) had established a prima facie case that Waldheim participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution during World War II and therefore that his entry into the United States was prohibited by federal statute. Sher's 232-page internal Department of Justice investigative report was released in 1994 by that agency, and it is available at the agency's website, at: https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/criminal-hrsp/legacy/2011/02/04/04-09-87waldheim-rpt.pdf.
- Tomasson, Robert (1989-03-26). "Social Events". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- Dorf, Matthew (1996-05-31). "AIPAC head of 2 years resigns amid mystery over reason why". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- "Israel's upset vote calls for new faces on Embassy Row". The Washington Times. 1996-06-04.
- Bazyler, Michael J. (2005). Holocaust Justice. NYU Press. p. 161. ISBN 0-8147-9904-3.
- Garland, Greg (2002-02-03). "Holocaust Heirs Fight 'Resistance' Over Reparations". Baltimore Sun. pp. 1A.
- Schoenberg, Tom (2003-09-12). "The Unraveling of Neal Sher". Legal Times. American Lawyer Media. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- "Board of Professional Responsibility report" (PDF). District of Columbia Bar Board of Professional Responsibility. 2003-08-06. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- District of Columbia Court of Appeals. "In the Matter of Neal M. Sher, Case No. 03-BG-841" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- "New York State Bar registration, Neal Sher". Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- "Appellate Division - First Judicial Department".
- "Talansky Lawyer Is Communal Insider With His Own Past Scandal". The Forward. 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- Hennessy-Fiske, Molly (16 April 2016). "First Purple Heart, now Army orders benefits for Ft. Hood victims". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 November 2017.