Mortimer Caplin, 2001 Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law
Mortimer Caplin (right), with his son Michael,
after the Jefferson Medal Lecture, "The State of Lawyering"
"Mortimer Caplin has done it all," said Law School Dean Robert Scott. "His many-faceted professional career reflects the astonishing breadth of his service and accomplishments as academic lawyer, public servant and distinguished practitioner. From his tenure as a prominent law professor at the University of Virginia, to public service as President Kennedy's Commissioner of Internal Revenue, to his role as the founding partner of the leading tax law firm in the country, he has exemplified the Jeffersonian ideal of the lawyer as public citizen."
Born in 1916 in New York, Caplin graduated from U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences (1937) and School of Law (1940).
"He earned every honor as a law school student that it is possible to win, including editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review," Scott said.
In 1940, he clerked for Armistead M. Dobie in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court in Richmond. The next year he joined the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison as an associate, but World War II interrupted his career. Caplin joined the U.S. Navy and was at D-Day, the Allied invasion of France.
After the war, Caplin taught tax law at U.Va. from 1950 to 1961, when President John F. Kennedy tapped him to be commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Robert F. Kennedy (1951) and Edward M. Kennedy (1959) had been among his law students.
In 1964, Caplin resigned from the IRS and co-founded Caplin & Drysdale, the Washington, D.C.-based law firm where he still is a senior partner and practices as a tax law authority. He was a visiting professor in tax law at U.Va. for 22 years, retiring as a professor emeritus in 1987.
Strongly public spirited, Caplin has been chairman of the board of the National Civic Service League and the American Council on International Sports, trustee of the Peace Through Law Foundation in Washington and past president of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
His honors include the Tax Executives Institute's Distinguished Service Award, the U.S. Treasury Department's Alexander Hamilton Award and the American Jewish Committee's Judge Learned Hand Human Relations Award.
Caplin has been a generous benefactor to the University of Virginia, especially to the Law School. He has served on the U.Va. Board of Visitors, as a trustee of the Law School Foundation and as chair of the University's Council for the Arts since its inception in 1990.
Caplin's visionary gifts have funded the Law School's Caplin Auditorium, the Daniel Caplin Professorship, the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Scholarship, the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Award and the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center as well as several major improvements to the school's facilities.
|Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law|
|1977||Carl McGowan||1989||Sam Nunn|
|1978||Henry Friendly||1990||Collins J. Seitz|
|1979||Paul A. Freund||1991||Robert M. Morgenthau|
|1980||Erwin N. Griswold||1992||Marian Wright Edelman|
|1981||Lewis F. Powell, Jr.||1993||William H. Rehnquist|
|1982||Warren J. Christopher||1994||Richard A. Posner|
|1983||Sir Leslie George Scarman||1995||Lloyd Cutler|
|1984||Griffin Bell||1996||Rex E. Lee|
|1985||Warren Burger||1997||Ruth Bader Ginsberg|
|1986||William H. Webster||1998||Alan K. Simpson|
|1987||Sandra Day O'Connor||1999||Elaine Jones|
|1988||Edmund Muskie||2000||Guido Calabresi|