Beverly Hills Bar Assn. Honors Two Legal Eagles: Mathew Rosengart and David Cowan

Portrait of Mathew Rosengart
Adam Amengual for Variety

It’s midnight on a hot July Thursday at the David Kempinski hotel in Tel Aviv and Mathew Rosengart is in the lobby poring over a legal brief. A litigator-cum-shareholder at Greenberg Traurig law firm  who rocketed to fame representing Britney Spears in her victorious courtoom fight to terminate her 13-year-long conservatorship, Rosengart has traveled to Israel to address a crowd of attorneys at Tel Aviv U.  While not a vacation, per se–“I feel really privileged to have been able to speak in Israel ,” he notes–Rosengart rarely allows himself even a moment of relaxation, so devoted he is to his slate of high-profile clients in and out of the entertainment biz, from Verizon and Michael Mann to Sean Penn and Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), the non-profit Penn co-founded in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. 

“Going back to working for Justice [David] Souter as a law clerk in my first job after law school and then working at the Justice Department—and even based on literature and art I avidly consumed when I was much younger, ranging from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ to ‘The Verdict’ and even the great play ‘A Man for All Seasons’ about Sir Thomas More—I always romanticized the law and felt it was a noble calling and profession,” says Rosengart, who will be honored on Sept. 21 by the Beverly Hills Bar Assoc. with its Excellence  in Advocacy Award. 

Advocate is what Rosengart does–and fiercely so. His work ethic is unparalleled. 

“Vince Lombardi once said ‘winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,’ and putting it in the context of law and clients and winning cases, they place their trust in you,” says Rosengart, a Long Island native based in LA. “It’s a tremendous trust and a bond, and I always feel a great, overriding responsibility to the client.” 

From where this indefatigable dedication arises, Rosengart can’t point to just one factor but a combination thereof: “Whether it comes from wanting to prove myself to my father, who died when I was 13, keeping up with my heart surgeon brother, picking it up from Justice Souter, or just in the DNA–it’s probably all of the above.” 

The accolades continue this autumn, when Rosengart will travel to Dublin, Ireland to accept the prestigious Trinity College Praeses Elit Award, an honor rarely given and previously bestowed upon such global figures as musician-turned-humanitarian Bob Geldof  and F.W. de Klerk, former president of South Africa. 

Such honors are as “remarkable” as they are “humbling,” says Rosengart, whose professional priority forever remains the singular pursuit of justice. 

“Every single client and case on my docket are important to me,” he continues. “In terms of new cases and clients, I am always interested in fighting for what I believe in and when that meshes with the interests of justice and what the client or prospective client believes in, that’s the holy grail.”

David Cowan

On Sept. 21, the Beverly Hills Bar Association (BHBA) will honor David Cowan, supervising judge of the Civil Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court, with its Ronald M. George Award for Judicial Excellence, named for the former California Supreme Court Chief Justice. 

The event will take place at the outdoor terrace of the Maybourne in Beverly Hills.

“Whatever excellence I may have demonstrated is really, in large part, due to the excellence of my colleagues in the Civil Division,” says Cowan, whose myriad duties include running the master calendar for assignment of trials throughout LA county. 

“I am surrounded by amazing talent, energy, commitment and diversity,” adds Cowan, who was appointed to the bench in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. 

A native Londoner, Cowan is also an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School and a member of the Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee to the Judicial Council of California. One of the more famous cases over which Cowan presided was the one revolving around then-nonagenarian billionaire media mogul Sumner Redstone and his mental competency. 

“I didn’t come from an impoverished background and was fairly privileged,” says Cowan. “And yet, is it amazing to me sometimes that I am sitting as a judge in this country. This is not something that happens in many other countries and it shows that we are still an open society.”