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Judge James M. Kelly died Oct. 8 at the age of 98. Following graduation from law school, he served in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army in Normandy, the Ardennes and the Rhineland. He also served in the Pacific theater. Kelly practiced law in Port Huron, Mich., for 20 years before being elected to serve as a district judge. He retired from the bench after serving for 16 years.
Robert L. Corwin reports that he survived a heart attack about two years ago. “It is amazing,” he wrote, “what the medical profession can do today.”
Thomas E. Tisza died Nov. 16. He was 94. During World War II, Tisza was the executive officer on U.S. Navy landing ships in the South Pacific, earning the rank of lieutenant commander. He served in the Naval Reserve for many years. His legal career focused on railroad law.
In Memoriam: E. Barrett Prettyman Jr. ’53
Public and Private Litigator Involved in Historic Brown v. Board of Education Case
E. Barrett Prettyman Jr., a 1953 alumnus of the University of Virginia School of Law and a long-practicing litigator who was intimately involved in some of the most significant political developments of the past 50 years, including the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Cuba's Bay of Pigs invasion and the Abscam investigation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, died Friday.
In addition to his storied career working both in private practice at Hogan & Hartson — Hogan Lovells after 2010 — and as a special counsel for the U.S. government, Prettyman also held the distinction of being the first president of the District of Columbia Bar.
Prettyman was born in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 1925, to Lucy Courtney Hill and Elijah Barrett Prettyman Sr. His father was a lawyer who was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. After high school, Prettyman joined the Army to fight in World War II. Upon returning home, he enrolled at Yale University, graduating in 1949. He spent a year working as a reporter for the Providence Journal before attending law school at UVA. Although he stopped working as a reporter, he continued writing for the rest of his life, winning an Edgar Allan Poe Award for his 1961 true crime book, "Death and the Supreme Court."
Prettyman’s first job out of law school was working as a clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. From 1953 to 1955, he worked for justices Robert H. Jackson, Felix Frankfurter and John M. Harlan. Almost immediately after starting work at the court, he was thrust into the center of the momentous Brown v. Board of Educationhearings. He advised Jackson during deliberations over Chief Justice Earl Warren’s draft opinion of what would become the Brown decision. Jackson ultimately supported the decision, which was unanimous. In 2004, Prettyman told UVA Lawyer that when the chief justice declared that the Brown decision was unanimous, “The courtroom took in a breath. You could actually hear it because no one had expected that. It was very dramatic.”
In 1955, Prettyman joined Hogan & Hartson, where he stayed for the rest of his career, becoming partner in 1964. There, he established the first specialized appellate practice in the country.
His work at the firm was punctuated by occasional forays into public service. In 1961, he was appointed special assistant to the U.S. attorney general by his former classmate, Robert F. Kennedy ’51. Prettyman was closely involved in the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, traveling to Cuba in order to meet with President Fidel Castro and help negotiate the release of more than 1,100 prisoners in 1962. His record of public service continued in the late 1970s, when he served as special counsel to the House Ethics Committee during the Abscam investigations, in which seven members of the U.S. Congress were ultimately convicted of bribery and conspiracy.
Although Prettyman argued 19 cases before the Supreme Court, conducted significant trials nationwide and represented high-profile clients like John Lennon and Truman Capote at Hogan & Hartson, he did not waver from a commitment to pro bono work. After becoming the first president of the District of Columbia Bar in 1972, he made pro bono service a priority, establishing a precedent for his successors in that position. He was also on Hogan & Hartson’s executive committee when it established the first full-time practice dedicated to pro bono work. But perhaps the strongest example of his commitment to pro bono was his work for John Ferguson, a schizophrenic death-row inmate whom Prettyman represented for 37 years.
Hogan Lovells CEO Stephen Immelt wrote in a public message posted on the firm's website that Prettyman, regardless of the newsworthy clients or cases with which he was associated, will be remembered for his dedication to client service and his “inestimable intellect, charm, wit and style.”
Information about his funeral arrangements will be posted on the Hogan Lovells website.
—Alec Sieber and Rebecca Barns
Janet Blakeman reports: The Class of 1957 Runts continue to meet periodically for lunch. Noel Crowley, John Shroyer, George Gowen and Herb Glickman are still actively practicing law. Noel just argued a discrimination case before the New Jersey Supreme Court. John managed to fit in a trip to Krakow where he, with 47 others, played a Beethoven string quartet (and saw the original score written in Beethoven’s hand). I don’t know of any other 83-year-old still playing string quartets! Art Taylor, Ted Chapin, Larry Phillips and your class manager keep busy with other activities —Ted with travel, Larry with art. Larry hopes to be able to exhibit some of his work at our reunion in May. Meanwhile, John Corse continues his winning ways in the pool. John and his mixed relay teammates broke the international record (from 2005) in the 360+ age group for the 200- meter freestyle by over 17 seconds and also set a world record in the 800-meter freestyle relay. This was at the Rowdy Gaines Meet in Orlando in December. Pretty great for a bunch of 80- and 90-year-olds!
Judge Barbara A. Coppeto died on Jan. 5. Coppeto was a pioneer for women in law, serving as a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court from 1981-2001, and senior judge from 2001-15. She began her career as an attorney for Yudkin, Yudkin and Coppeto in Derby, Conn., where she worked until she was appointed to the court. She also served as a family court judge in many cities across Connecticut throughout her career. Some of her accomplishments include being a member of the National Association for Women Judges, a member of the New Haven County Courthouse Restoration Task Force and a past treasurer for the Connecticut Judges Association.