Bar Memorials: 2007
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEHIGH COUNTY
CHARLES HANSFORD, JR.
WALLACE C. WORTH
GERALD I. ROTH
RICHARD F. STEVENS
HON. JAMES DIEFENDERFER
HONORABLE WILLIAM H. PLATT, P.J.
HONORABLE CAROL K. MCGINLEY, J.
HONORABLE EDWARD D. REIBMAN, J.
HONORABLE WILLIAM E. FORD, J.
HONORABLE ROBERT L. STEINBERG, J.
HONORABLE J. BRIAN JOHNSON, J.
HONORABLE KELLY L. BANACH, J.
HONORABLE JAMES T. ANTHONY, J.
HONORABLE MARIA L. DANTOS, J.
HONORABLE MICHELE A. VARRICCHIO, J.
FEBRUARY 4, 2008
OLD LEHIGH COUNTY COURTHOUSE
ALLENTONW, PENNSYLVANIA 18101
JUDGE PLATT: Good morning. On behalf of my colleagues on the Court of Common Pleas, I welcome you to this annual Lehigh County Bar Association’s Memorial Ceremony. This is a special session of court convened to honor the memories of those members of our Bar Association who passed away during the previous year.
The Court recognizes Alfred K. Hettinger, President of the Bar Association of Lehigh County.
MR. HETTINGER: President Judge Platt, the Honorable Judges, Judge Young, Senior Judge Brenner, Judge Cahn. I trust I haven’t missed any other judges. Members of the
Bar of Lehigh County, family and friends of those we honor today.
I am honored to be here as president of the Bar Association of Lehigh County and to participate in these proceedings. This memorial service is one of the great traditions of our Bar, a eulogy, a speech or writing in praise of a person.
Today, we eulogize six of our members who died during this past year. We are not maudlin today; rather, we remember their passing, but celebrate their lives.
Today, we will be remembering Peter Karoly, Charles Hansford, Junior, Wallace C. Worth, Junior, Gerald I. Roth, Richard F. Stevens and the Honorable James Diefenderfer.
They will be eulogized by John Karoly, Gerald Strubinger, Mark Fisher, Judge
Arnold Rappaport, District Attorney James Martin and Robert Donatelli.
MR. KAROLY: May it please the Court, President Judge Platt, family, honored
guests and friends. It strikes me as at least symbolically significant this year that our Bar Memorial take place between yesterday’s Superbowl and tomorrow’s Super Tuesday primary. Like the participants in those events, I truly believe that those who were lost to us last year were among some of the best our Bar had to offer.
Among those whom we honor and remember today are my brother, Peter John Karoly,
who along with his wife of twenty-two years, Lauren Angstadt and their pilot, were tragically killed in a plane crash in Massachusetts one year and two days ago today.
Peter was both the youngest and first of those to leave us in 2007. Peter was born
on March 1st, 1953, the third of six children born to the late John and Stella Karoly.
He graduated from Louis E. Dieruff High School in 1971 and received his BA degree
from Kings College in 1975, where he held a double major in government and business.
Upon graduation he became a senior accountant with the accounting firm of Cooper and Lybrand, New York City, where after three years he was hired away as another senior accountant by another big eight accounting firm, Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Company.
He then attended Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, where
he received his Juris Doctorate in 1981. He then joined my law firm, first at 1132 Hamilton Street and then at 141 North Seventh Street here in Allentown.
He married the local dentist Lauren B. Angstadt, whom he nicknamed Sunshine, and
they resided together in Bethlehem until their death.
Peter’s childhood story was all too common for members of our neighborhood. My father
was disabled from a work-related accident when I was in seventh grade and Peter was
in fourth grade. It took seven years before my father got his first Workers’ Compensation check of forty-two dollars and fifty cents per week.
In the meantime, we survived as a family through two newspaper routes delivering
both the Morning Call and the Evening Chronicle, through shining shoes on the
street corners and in the local bars, which we referred to at those times as gin mills,
I think you’ll remember, and doing odd jobs.
Peter never complained, though. First, he, in fact, often commented he was unaware
that those were tough times. Secondly, he realized that much of his people skills,
business skills, industry and competitiveness, as well as his ultimate desire to become an attorney, were developed through those difficult years; as was his compassion and desire to help people less fortunate than he.
He got used to the hand-me-down clothes from our cousins, most of whom were female,
and we were always on the church list for food baskets during those times. And it was a while before there was ever a television in our home.
Peter didn’t get to see a movie unless it was at the Jenette or the county theaters on food day where they accepted a can of food for admission. He didn’t own a car
until he graduated from college and his job required one.
Few of his legal contemporaries knew what a gifted athlete Peter was. In high school,
Peter played soccer, basketball and ran the hurdles in track. He was also the captain
of the school’s championship water polo team.
At Kings College he played basketball as a walk-on his sophomore year and started his
junior and senior years. He was literally the smallest guy on the Court, but he could really shoot the lights out.
When he wasn’t playing basketball at Kings, he played quarterback on the college’s club football team, where in his senior year, he led the club to the national championship.
Peter was also an accomplished musician. He played the guitar, drums, piano and even the tuba. Although he would never call himself an actor, he was a standout in the play Music Man and he placed third in the international key club oratorical contest.
He helped put himself through law school by playing the guitar at local bars and at special events.
Peter became an accomplished litigator during the approximately six years we practiced together, but he really wanted to enter full force into the business world and so he opened his own office just a half a block away on the same side of Seventh Street.
There he started up an MRI business first in Allentown and then in Wilkes Barre, then he sold the two centers and then purchased centers in Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina.
Some of you may remember he bought and managed the Haviland Grille, at least until he gained thirty pounds. He formed a pioneer internet medical imaging company named eRad, Inc., with offices throughout one hundred twenty-five locations around the world.
With this PAX technology, the doctors could read X-rays and other diagnostic tests the moment they were completed from the doctor’s personal offices or really anywhere in the world.
Peter’s entrepreneurialship included bringing professional baseball back to the Lehigh Valley. Peter and my brother Joey once held the record for the most double plays turned by little league players in the valley for many years.
But Peter’s idea of bringing baseball to the Lehigh Valley probably stemmed from the days when he was with me and we represented Doctor McMullen and the Houston Astros.
His real desire was to make professional baseball exciting and affordable to everyone in the community. Peter’s Ambassador team manager, Hall of Famer Ed Ott, brought a league championship to Allentown and several records for fan attendance along the way.
Peter’s litigation successes were numerous. He was very capable in medical malpractices, as I think most of you know. And at a time when we visited my father, and Peter stayed there with me for a week during his convalescence, it took the doctors that full week to find out that he himself was not a physician.
He had a twenty-two million dollar medical malpractice verdict against Sacred Heart Hospital, for which he worked very hard on. But in his typical charitable style, Peter immediately became a regular Sacred Heart Foundation contributor, and even provided
and subsidized a PAX system, an imaging system for them, which they couldn’t afford.
He was a regular sponsor of numerous charitable events, including much beloved golf outings, in which he and his wife Lauren often participated.
When a Lehigh County deputy sheriff was shot and killed in the line of duty, Peter
immediately supplied the entire department with bullet proof vests.
Peter was a member of numerous law-related and other associations, including the
Roscoe Pound Foundation, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the American
Association for Justice, the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, Phi Delta Honor
Society, and he was a member of several country clubs.
He was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the United States District Court, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
People who knew Pete here knew him best for his sense of humor. Less than two weeks
before Peter’s crash, Peter was visiting me in the hospital during my heart surgery. In fact, he was there before, during and after and would frequently stay overnight.
One night at the Lehigh Valley Hospital, a nurse, who was attempting to place some tubes in me, recognized Peter as a medical malpractice attorney. As she was fidgeting with my tubes, Peter attempted to break the ice by telling her, I’m just here to see that there are no mistakes. John waited so long for this penile implant, we wanted to make sure it worked.
When he first brought the Ambassadors to the stadium here in Lehigh County, it was in terrible shape. My entire family went there to help clean the stadium with high pressure hoses and armed with putty knives to take care of the chewing gum that people had deposited on the seats over the years. Unbeknownst to me, Peter dressed in a coat and tie, and the president of the league also dressed in a coat and tie, traveled down the stairs. He wanted them to meet his brother who was a prominent attorney in Lehigh County.
They startled me and I stood up from my crouch, I was dressed in a backward hat, big plastic goggles, a wet T-shirt, and trust me, that was a site in and of itself, shorts, flip-flops. I was armed with a putty knife and gum dripping from it, and without even showing whether he was embarrassed or amused, Peter walked by and said, it’s good work if you can get it, and continued down the steps.
I know Peter never forgot that incident because it was a full year later we were sitting at a game behind home plate – and Peter and I shared both sides of home plate during all of the season, just like we shared seats at my boxing. And he happened to mention the configuration of the league in which I decided to give him my opinion for about five minutes.
He left me un-interrupted but when I concluded he said, you know what? And I said, what? He said, I think I feel some gum under my seat.
Though the youngest attorney we honor today, Peter lived his life well beyond his fifty-three years. He and his wife Lauren traveled to over thirty countries, from the Serengeti to the Chinese Republic, from Italy to Australia, Bangkok to Bali. And in fact, when I took a look at his passport, he had been to several countries I didn’t even know existed, like X-I-A-N.
Together with others, Peter and I enjoyed shooting sporting clays, fly fishing, attending concerts and traveling to social events, including those boxing matches and baseball games.
Peter was an excellent cook and a decent golfer. He loved food. And, in fact, he and Doctor Shane traveled so often to New York to eat, he visited more restaurants than food critics for the New York Times.
When Peter went into the Apollo Grill, before he even took his coat off, they would have at least two orders of clams casino ready for him.
Peter also gained weight, as I was, and I purchased him a two-year charter membership
to L.A. Fitness when they opened near my office. I discovered that he had just hired a personal trainer, who I happened to meet two weeks later. Peter was persuasive about taking people out to dinner, and I asked the trainer how Peter was doing. He said, well, I can’t speak for Peter, but after two weeks I gained ten pounds.
Because Peter had no children he became very close to our sons, JP and Josh, and to his nephews, Greg and Jason. And he was looking forward to the day when old age could help him best our younger brother Joey, who was an all American in swimming and cross country, and always seemed to get the athletic best of Peter.
He made many stops at my home delivering cabbage, stuffed cabbage, strudel, kibbe and kiffels and stuff like that so that I could catch up to his weight category. He would also stop at nights at my office to discuss the law and things that occurred during the week with him.
Peter especially enjoyed helping others, and despite his worldly experience, he took great pride in the fact that some of the most important experiences in his life took place within a dozen blocks of where we grew up.
He was confirmed, he was an acolyte, a Cub Scout, Boy Scout and he was married at Dubbs Church at Fifth and Allen Streets in Center City. He practiced law, as I said, with me at 1132 Hamilton Street, at 141 North Seventh Street, and established his own practice at 223 North Seventh and then 1511 Hamilton. His wife’s dental practice was across the street, as was his life-long family physician.
Peter really enjoyed being a member of this Bar. Some of the most heart-warming and praiseworthy letters we received after his death came from members of the two Bars of
Lehigh and Northampton County, especially with people who he had done serious battle with in the courtroom.
One of the letters I particularly enjoyed captured Peter, the litigator, very accurately. It said in part, despite the fact that he would fight and become combative, I always considered Peter a friend. He was someone I knew I could curse at directly and in the same conversation share close confidences. I will forever remember the endless hours where both my doctor and myself sweating and squirming during his rigorous deposition questioning.
His preparation was impeccable. I quickly learned never to underestimate his knowledge of the facts and the medicine. However, when it was all said and done, we would shake hands, share a laugh and move on to the next case.
I knew if we had a problem on a case, all that was needed was a simple phone call and we would work it out. I always looked forward to the next challenge with Peter.
He will be greatly missed.
In looking over all those letters, the family does appreciate them. They all shared a common theme, that Peter was an able and respected adversary, whom they were very proud to call a fellow member of the Bar. Peter would have liked that very much.
In fact, I want to share with you as I close the story that Peter used in his oratorical competition when he won that he used compassionately. He adopted a story that had been related to him in junior high school by Doctor Carol G. Parks, who was the principal at that time.
Doctor Parks told a true story about a boy named Tommy who attended Central Junior High School when it was located in Center City Allentown. Tommy was a member of the school football team in seventh, eighth and ninth grade. Tommy wasn’t all that accomplished. In fact, by the ninth grade and the final game, he had not played a single minute, had not seen a moment on the football field.
Central Junior High School, even though it was a championship game, was losing by two touchdowns, and there was only a few minutes left. So the coach thought that he couldn’t lose anything by putting Tommy in. In those days, if you remember, football players played both ways, both on offense and defense.
Tommy got into the game, he intercepted a pass, he recovered a fumble and he scored
two of three of the winning touchdowns himself. When the game was over, Tommy, who hadn’t been in on every play of the game, was carried off the field on the shoulders of his fellow teammates.
The coach didn’t want to spoil the celebration, but he went over to Tommy and said, Tommy, I just have to talk to you. I’ve been coaching for seventeen years and I’ve never seen a performance like that at any level at any time in my life. What happened out there today?
And Tommy turned to the coach and said, coach, I don’t think you knew my dad, but he was blind and he died last week. And this was the first time he had ever seen me play football and I wanted to make him proud of me.
That’s the story from Peter’s own words. That story touched Peter. And he related it with conviction and persuasion in his speech. That story now touches us.
Among family, friends, peers and neighbors, we can all say without reservation, it is you who have made us forever proud.
MR. HETTINGER: Thank you. Gerry Strubinger will eulogize Charles Hansford, Junior.
MR. STRUBINGER: May it please the Court, family, friends. I’m here this morning to
tell you about my mentor and friend, Charlie Hansford. Charlie was born in Philadelphia, January 17, 1938. He went to West Catholic High School and followed at Villanova University. Charlie’s wife, Pat, tells me he went to Villanova because they guaranteed anyone from West Chester Catholic admission.
Charlie later followed college with law school. Law school was interrupted for several years because Charlie had put himself through law school and worked for PMA as an adjuster. Following graduation from Villanova and passing the Bar, he returned to PMA as house counsel. He worked for PMA until 1973 when he went into private practice in Philadelphia.
After a short stint in private practice, he joined some of the local firms, some of which have offices here in Allentown, Schwartz, Campbell. He then went onto Commercial Union as house counsel. And it was at Commercial Union where he met someone from Schaffer Brewery who offered him a position here in the Lehigh Valley.
In 1979 Charlie left Philadelphia and came up here to the Valley and stayed for a short stint at the Cloverleaf Hotel until he was able to find a house for his wife and his son.
Charlie worked for Schaffer Brewery in the human resources department negotiating contracts against the union for several years until Strobe Brewery came and he went
into private practice. One year in private practice on North Seventh Street here in the Valley, in Allentown, and one of his first clients through the door at his private practice was the union who he was representing Schaffer against.
In 1987 Charlie, while keeping his office here on North Seventh Street, came up to Palmerton, where I met him, and he had the practice up in Carbon County and Lehigh
Charlie had a reputation of being a Workers’ Compensation claim attorney. There was a certain referee here in the Valley that every case Charlie appeared before him, asked the judge to recuse himself because he lost that many cases in front of him.
One of Charlie’s favorite adversaries was the IRS. Charlie had a running dispute with them for many, many years.
In 1989 Charlie had the pleasure of representing one of the youngest individuals charged with murder, a nine-year-old boy up in Monroe County.
August 26th, 1996, my friend and mentor was stricken. A short time after that, in this courtroom, I had to ask this bench to declare my friend and mentor incapacitated. Charlie remained incapacitated until his death last year.
Much of who we are is what we are as lawyers. Here today I’m here to remember the lawyer, Charlie Hansford, my friend and my mentor. Charlie left us much too early, left a wife, Pat, a son Bill, two daughters, Lori and Susan, and four grandchildren. Charlie was married thirty-six years. Thank you.
MR. HETTINGER: Now, to eulogize Wallace C. Worth, Junior, Attorney Mark Fisher.
MR. FISHER: May it please the Court, President Judge Platt, judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, members of the Bar Association of Lehigh County, members of the Worth family, Eileen, Jeff, Betsy and invited guests.
Some twenty years ago I attended my first Bar Memorial. Four lawyers were being recalled that day, the first three of whom I never had the pleasure of knowing. Each of their presenters came and spoke in a very dignified manner from prepared remarks and recalling the professional achievements of their colleagues.
I did know the fourth lawyer being recalled that day, his name was Attorney William J.
Morrissey, because he had rented space in our building. When Attorney Morrissey’s name was mentioned, his presenter sprang from his chair as if shot from a cannon.
He strode to the podium with a very powerful gate, not a note in his hand and began his remarks with words to the effect, folks, I am not here to speak about Attorney William. J. Morrissey. In fact, I did not even know an Attorney William J. Morrissey.
And with that, the entire courtroom was hushed and the Morrissey family was somewhat taken aback. No, said the presenter, I am here to talk about my friend, Billy Morrissey, because that’s how Billy would have wanted it. And within a few short moments the presenter, Attorney Worth, had the entire courtroom, and especially the Morrissey family, reveling in laughter.
In that spirit and with that admonition, let me tell you folks, I am not here to speak about Attorney Wallace Clifford Worth, Junior. I didn’t even know Attorney Wallace Clifford Worth, Junior. I am here to speak about my friend and colleague, Wally Worth, because that’s how Wally would have wanted it to be.
My friend was born in Bethlehem in 1922. He graduated Muhlenberg College in 1948 and Dickinson School of Law in 1953. Among his many accomplishments as a lawyer, serving as first district attorney here in Lehigh County from 1960 to 1968. Acting as solicitor for many municipalities throughout the Lehigh Valley and representing thousands of individuals in businesses at trials in state and Federal courts throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
But what made Wally truly unique and what distinguished him as a lawyer were some of his deeply held convictions. Now, some of you may not know this, but Wally was a strong proponent of the military. No, it’s true. It’s true.
Maybe that stemmed from the fact that he lied about his age to enlist at age seventeen as a machine gunner in the Army, or perhaps it was because of his twenty years of active military service, including stints in World War II from 1940 to 1945, Korea from 1950 to 1952, or perhaps it was his service in the French Foreign Legion.
Wally was also a student of the Civil War. Not that he fought in the Civil War, but he
would have if they gave him the opportunity.
Interviewing with Wally was a truly unique experience. He would silently review your resume, and invariably the same first question came out of his mouth. What branch of the service were you in, son? And the interviewee would respond, I never was in the — in the service.
And Wally would immediately pounce upon the candidate with a second question. Why not? And it was at this point that the candidate was being judged for the position, for if the candidate did not come up with a clever response, or worse yet, gave any sort of a negative comment about the military or any war, he or she was in for quite a lengthy lecture. And worse than that, had no hope of employment whatsoever.
Wally was also a constitutional scholar. In fact, he had a particular affinity for the Second Amendment. He could quote you chapter and verse every single word of the Second Amendment and every punctuation mark contained therein.
He was a lifetime member of the NRA, and anyone who challenged his right to bear arms was in for quite a lecture. My friend Jack Stover tells a wonderful story about how as a young lawyer he accompanied Wally to a municipal meeting in what was then rural Upper Milford Township. Wally had lived in the Township at the time, and he knew most of the town folk.
Well, story has it that during the meeting, Jack whispers to Wally, Look over there, the man in the second row has a gun in his waistband, at which point Wally whispers back, You don’t have to worry about him, I can see his gun. It’s all the other guys out there who are carrying tonight, they are the ones you have to worry about.
At that point, Wally is said to have slid open his own jacket, and Wally turned to Jack and said, Son, you’ve got nothing to worry about. This kid is not going to be a statistic tonight.
Wally was also a heck of a lawyer. He was a trial attorney, and he was proud of it. He championed representing unpopular people and unpopular causes. He had a charismatic ability to charm juries with his folksy appeal.
I can still picture him, and many of you may recall this, as well, how in the face of representing a criminal defendant in a homicide case, several eyewitnesses to the murder, multiple confessions by his client, here is Wally kind of reaching behind himself ready to pull one out, scratching his rear, onto his head, and with the greatest sincerity telling the jury, I don’t even know what we’re doing here today. Yet at the same time, he had the ability to carve up witnesses with deadly precision.
But folks, despite his military background, despite his constitutional scholarship, and despite his trial abilities, the legacy of Wally Worth will always be that of a story teller. He always had a story to tell. And then he liked to retell you that story, and then tell it again.
And somehow, no matter how the story originated, no matter what the subject of the story was, it would inevitably morph into a war story. He had great delight in telling those stories.
I would like to share with you folks, actually, a story of my own. And I think it truly illustrates the legacy of my friend, Wally Worth.
In the spring of 2006, Wally was first diagnosed with cancer. And by that time, he was only coming to the office three or four days a week. He would arrive at about ten thirty or so, drop into your office, tell you a few stories, rail about some democrat, about some issue, and then he would go into his office and he would be gone by two o’clock.
With his cancer, he had now begun his radiation treatment, and despite the stoic face, it begun to have some affects upon him.
One day my daughter came home from school and said, Dad, I need to do a story on World War II. And I need to have a personal account from somebody who was actually there. That was easy. I said, don’t worry, I’ll ask Wally tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll be willing to speak with you.
True enough, true enough, Wally came into the office around 10:30, told me a few stories, railed on some democrat and finally I said, would you do Rachel a favor? She needs to do a project on World War II and needs to interview somebody who was actually involved in the war.
And he said, sure. You have her here at 0900 tomorrow morning. I said, look, she’s got to go to school, I’ll have her here at the end of the school day. He said, fine, I’ll stay until 1500 hours. He had a little smile on his face.
He went into his office, came back a few minutes later, and he said, do you think she’d like to see my helmet? Now, those of you who have had the privilege of listening to a Wally Worth story, you know that the helmet was put to great use. You would dig with it. You would bathe out of it. You would brush your teeth out of it. And in his case, actually twice, it actually saved his life. I said, sure. And he had a grin from ear to ear.
Well, Rachel came at 2:30 the next afternoon because 1500 hours really meant 2:30 in our time. And off she went into his office. About after about an hour we began debating whether or not she really needed to be rescued or whether or not he had taken a nap in his office. We decided to let her go for some more time.
And about an hour later, the two of them finally emerged. Wally came into my office and he said, I showed her the helmet. She thought it was cool. He was grinning from ear to ear.
And as we walked to the car that afternoon, I said to her, you were gone for two hours, did you at least get the opportunity to ask all of the ten questions you had scripted out? She said, Dad, I only had a chance to ask one question. She paused and said something which I think truly encaptures Wally Worth, I didn’t need to ask anymore.
MR. HETTINGER: Thank you, Mark. Now, to eulogize Gerald I. Roth, the Honorable Arnold Rappaport.
JUDGE RAPPAPORT: The Honorable judges, guests, family. It sounds like a eulogy, it’s not intended to. In September 1943, first day of school, I found myself walking through the front door of Raab Junior High School having recently graduated from Muhlenberg Elementary School, and to a much bigger school full of people and a lot of business going on and melee.
Out of this there’s this kid walking around talking to everybody. And I remember, he — in telling that event today, I thought that if there had been a Wal-Mart he would have been the guy to do – to train all the greeters.
So that was an event, you know, usual tension and so forth that you remember, and it was double the fun because that’s the first time I met Jerry Roth. Once having done that, that man never could be forgotten.
And even then I thought, you know, here’s a guy sort of in a hurry. Let me tell you where that hurriness took him as he went through school. When we all started on that day we were all members of the class of — potentially, the class of 1949 of Allentown High School. Jerry, however, was a man in a hurry.
So he went to — I think his last year at Perkiomen Prep and he went through summer, and all of a sudden he’s a member of the class of 1948. And so while we were enjoying, you know, our last year of high school and all the bally that came with it, Jerry, poor guy, was a freshman at Muhlenberg. The school wasn’t even co-ed.
But he got — you know, he suffered through that, I suppose, but he looked for larger fields to conquer so he transferred to U.C.L.A. And while he was at U.C.L.A., he met another transferee, a lady named Selma. Keep that thought in mind.
He went on from there to North Western University School of Law. And he was very good at what he did. He was made a member of the Honorary Society Order of the Coif,
who recognized scholastic ability. He did well.
He came back and he, through U.C.L.A., he taught torts. And at that time, somewhere in all of that, since he was so smart, he couldn’t let her go. So he figured, listen, Selma is a keeper, I’m not letting her go.
So, you know, one thing led to another, and now Selma became Mrs. Jerry Roth, which I’m sure enriched her life. I can’t tell, you know, how much.
He taught there for a year, as I recall, and then he joined a high profile Beverly Hills law firm, which included a lot of well-known Hollywood actors and actresses, including Lana Turner, but I don’t know what relationship he really had with he. I never had the chance to really ask a lot about that.
But he remained a life-long friend of Donald O’Connor, who you may recall was a very talented dancer and singer and wonderful actor, you know, until their, you know, until lives ended.
So he came back here in 1960 to start his own private practice. Now, another date between Jerry and I, certain ties together. September 17th, 1965, which doesn’t mean anything to any of you, but this is what it means to me.
My son, Jed, our first child, was born, and on that day Jerry and Selma became parents of Melissa. Now, what’s interesting about that is that preceding her was the following four sons, Jud, Kyle, Adam and Douglas. Jerry dearly, dearly hoped and prayed for a little girl; and by God, it happened.
I got to the hospital, I’m standing in front of the nursery and there’s, you know, Rappaport, Roth, side by side. And Jerry is going — oh, boy, was he going on and on about this girl. One of the nurses brought this huge display of flowers, which came from Donald O’Connor, that made a slight ripple.
Jerry is going on and on, and I finally said Jerry, Jerry — I took him aside, Jerry, I don’t know how to say this to you, your daughter is one day old and your daughter is sleeping with my son. Jerry never at a loss for words, you know, that delayed him, you know, about four seconds and he said, he looked at me and commented and congratulated me on my son’s good taste. That was Jerry.
And in speaking of never really being at a loss for words, practicing law here, and he became the parent, creator of a classic defense in a driving under the influence case. It’s known as to — I don’t know if you remember, it’s known as the famous hollow tooth defense.
He had this gentleman who was obviously drunk driving, under the influence, and how he concluded this, I don’t know, stroke of genius, I suppose, attempted to convince the jury that the man had a mouth full of rotten teeth, and he paraded him in front of the jury and showed them, and tried to convince them that the alcohol pooled in the cavities and so it gave him a distorted reading. It was really, really creative work. It didn’t work.
Jerry Roth, but in terms of creativity, I can’t help but mention the late Attorney Bernard O’Hare, who used a similar kind of ploy, a different sort of argument in the closing in a D.U.I. case. He said to the jurors he was Irish and his client was Irish and Irish are born with a point one O. Neither one of those worked, but I’ve got to say it was really creative.
Jerry had a wild sort of being outgoing, you know, as he put himself, a happy Hungarian. His parents were from Hungary and they taught him a variety of things.
One of the most memorable people I think I’ve ever known was his late mother Julia. Many of you have seen or recall either the musical or the movie Auntie Mame. Julia Roth made Auntie Mame look like an agoraphobic introvert.
Well, you had to know her. She started taking Jerry to the opera I think when he was — maybe in utero, for all I know. He told me many times. So he developed a biding love for the opera and was a regular opera goer.
His father, on the other hand, taught him in a manner that was — I don’t know if it’s more practical, in some ways, but his father got him interested in horses, as in horse racing. And Jerry was a fan of horse racing. He owned horses. He went with the family.
I think it was mentioned in the obituary that he stood in the winners circle many, many times. What a perfect place for Jerry. Gregarious, outgoing.
Selma said to me the other day when I talked to her, you know, that Jerry Roth is the kind of guy who got into the elevator full of strangers, by the time he got off his floor, everybody would say, see you, Jerry. That was Jerry Roth.
He had his admirers. And he ran for the office of judge here in the Court of Common Pleas. He did not get elected, but, you know, not for not trying, and trying hard.
He always described himself as an old Hungarian who was doing pretty well, and the standard greeting to me and anybody else he knew when I saw him about a week before he passed away, he was standing there in front of the courthouse, the Federal courthouse, and he’s standing there and he goes, there you are. Well, that was the standard greeting. No matter who you were, that was Jerry.
He was truly an unforgettable character. Jerry and I — and by the way, his interest in horse racing — we had something in common, we knew about horses. My grandfather had a farm here in Lehigh County. An orchard on that farm was worked by horses.
There were many times when I was a kid back in the late thirties, I was sitting in the wagon while the horses were pulling, you know, wagons with sprayers to the orchard. Jerry and I could talk about horses and we realized we had, you know, sort of a common interest, except we were operating from opposite ends of the horse. He, of course, was on the money end. I won’t tell you which end I was in.
Jerry, as I said, an un-forgettable character. He described himself as a – I believe the exact words were a flaming liberal. I think in some ways a social worker at heart.
I was a solicitor for the County Director of Human Services. On occasion he called me about clients that he had a concern about, about their well-being, you know, and I directed him to the department that could help him. He was just that kind of guy.
All I can say, you know, by way of closing, is that if there is some other, you know, entity that we enter into or some other place, all I can say is that by this time, Jerry is the greeter. He may be general counsel for whoever is in charge.
If there’s anything in that whole imperial world he may be in now and any elective office he’s running, all I can say to Jerry is that you’re still a happy Hungarian and you’re still doing well. Thank you, everybody.
MR. HETTINGER: Thank you, Judge Rappaport. Now, to eulogize Attorney Richard F. Stevens, District Attorney James B. Martin.
MR. MARTIN: Good afternoon. May it please the Court, Senior Judge Brenner, Judge Cahn, Judge Young, Judge Rappaport, Joanne, Stephanie, Howard, Rick, Greg, Evelyn, Mary, family and friends of those others of our colleagues who we memorialize today, honored guests and colleagues of the Bar of Lehigh County.
It is my privilege to speak in tribute to my friend and former partner, Richard Fried Stevens who died September 22 at age seventy-five in his fifty-first year of practice before this Court.
Richard was born on November 28, 1931 to Howard and Marion Stevens. His middle name, Fried, was his mother’s maiden name. It also became something to tease my daughter Kristen about.
We once received an invitation with Dick’s full name rather than merely the middle initial. My then ten-year-old daughter Kristen saw it and queried, his middle name is fried?
Howard was a banker with the old Lehigh Valley Trust. Marion had been a teller. They had three children, Richard, David and Timothy. The family resided at 2849 Crest Avenue North near Cedar Crest College and near the home of the beloved family friend Marjorie Allison, who was like a second mother to Dick.
Richard was educated at the Swain School, Valley Forge Military Academy, Muhlenberg College where he received a B.A. in 1953 and was a brother in Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, class of 1956.
He was admitted to the Bar that same year and throughout his career was a member of the Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, American Bar Association. During the course of his practice he became a member of the Pennsylvania Defense Institute, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and a fellow in the prestigious Trial Lawyers. He was most proud to be the only fellow from Lehigh County of that organization.
Dick truly loved the law. As Stephanie recounted in his obituary, he requested that his tombstone bear the inscription, Continuance Denied. And it does.
In 1957, Richard married Mary Ambler and that union produced five children, our friend and colleague Howard, or Doc; Richard or Ricky; David; John; and Mary Ambler II, and also known as Two.
Richard, despite all of his success, knew tragedy in his life. John died shortly after birth. David died following an accident at the farm at age seven.
Richard and Mary later divorced. As those of us who have been through one know, divorces are wrenching experiences. Richard’s was no exception. However, as in most things, some levity can be found.
At a point during Richard and Mary’s divorce, Mary had possession of the family dog, a Great Dame named Thor. Richard considered Thor to be his dog.
My then partner, Bill Wickkiser, was representing Richard. Guess who got to go into the Court to present the Injunction Petition in the case entitled, In Re: Thor. That would have been me.
And that was pure Richard Stevens at his imaginative best as a lawyer. Let’s file a Replevin action, move the Court for a temporary injunction and we’ll get before the Court, and the judge will resolve the matter. I won’t ever forget the expression on Judge Mellenberg’s face as he read the first page of our petition and queried me, Thor is a dog?
Speaking of divorce, Richard once represented a man in a divorce action which had lasted, and I kid you not, twenty-five years. After this lengthy separation, the guy had fallen in love with a younger woman and they hoped to be married and have a child.
The wife refused to consent to a divorce. Richard’s successful argument to the Court on bifurcation went like this: Pointing to his client, the man, Your Honor, if this man had killed his wife twenty-five years ago, instead of merely separating, he would be out of jail by this time.
In 1974 Richard married Joanne Poklemba, formerly of Mount Carmel, and found great happiness over the last thirty-three years. Richard and Joanne became the parents of Stephanie in 1976.
I first met Richard when I was admitted to the Bar of this Court. There followed from that meeting a friendship of thirty-four years, which included over thirteen years as an associate and a partner in the practice of law.
Dick joined the form of Butz, Hudders, Tallman & Rupp following his graduation from Penn. His first year, and those of us who knew him later in his career find this hard to believe, were spent as a title searcher handling real estate transactions on behalf of the law firm.
In 1960 Richard joined the office of newly elected District Attorney George J. Joseph, and there served with the likes of first assistant District Attorney Wallace C. Worth, who is also being memorialized today, Bill Wickkiser, Tom Weaver, Wilber Creveling, Judge Madeline Palladino, and Fred Charles. No, not our current colleague, the modern-day Fred, but his late uncle.
Dick served until 1963. It was during that time that he developed his trial skills as a young prosecutor. It was also while he was assistant district attorney that he apprehended a free felon with a flying tackle. As Judge Ed Cahn remarked during his eulogy of Richard at his funeral, today’s DA, me, would encounter extreme difficulty emulating that tactic.
That comment was both then, as today, met with uproarious laughter by those who attended Dick’s funeral, and I have been waiting now four months to make my defense.
I calculated that Richard’s heroic feat occurred at a time between 1960 and 1963, when he was, at the oldest, thirty-two years of age. I am presently at least thirty years older than he was at the time of his heroics.
So while technically correct, Judge Cahn failed to account for the vast age difference. At age thirty-two, I could have at least run after the guy. I could not have matched Dick’s speed, as a former cross-country runner while at Muhlenberg.
In 1963, the late Donald E. Wieand was elected to our Common Pleas bench, and prior to his election he had been the primary trial lawyer at Butz, Hudders, then Butz, Hudders and Rupp. Bill Hudders, who as stated, was an outstanding trial attorney, was spending more time on corporate matters, so was Bob Tallman.
The trial lawyer fell to Dick Stevens. He performed admirably and quickly established himself as the firm’s top litigator, a position he held for two and a half decades until the firm split in 1989. From that date until his death, he was the senior partner of Stevens & Johnson. And I know he found great happiness and pride in practicing with his son, Howard.
While concentrating his practice mostly with the defense side of the case, medical malpractice, insurance, and railroad defense cases, Richard occasionally took plaintiff’s cases and criminal defense cases.
One of Richard’s early successes was referred to as the bus case. This was a criminal prosecution brought against the owners of the bus and mechanic and bus driver involved in a tragic accident on Route 22 which resulted in the death of seven New York day school children and serious injuries to many others.
The defense team was Dick Stevens, Tom Weaver and Bill Wickkiser. And Judge Henry Schierer granted a demurer at the conclusion of the Commonwealth’s case. I’m sure George Joseph did not like losing that case; however, he was at the same time proud of this triumvirate of a former assistant DA who had done such an outstanding job representing their clients.
Dick Stevens had many memorable cases, which included on the plaintiff’s side several million dollar verdicts and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. He was a hard charging guy and when he was on trial in a case, that became the entire focus of his existence.
In the late 1980’s he represented Red Cheek Apple in the dispute involving construction of its new plant. A Philadelphia law firm represented the lead defendant and during the course of the trial in Reading, it became obvious to the defendants that Richard was prevailing. The lead Philadelphia lawyer asked to speak with him concerning settlement.
A meeting was arranged in the Berks County law library. And there, the Philadelphia lawyer in a rather haughty manner said, Mr. Stevens, what would you say to a million dollars?
And out of sensitivity to my surroundings, I’m going to paraphrase General Anthony McAuliffe in response to a German demand for surrender at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and say that Richard’s response was, I’d say, nuts to you.
Whereupon the Philadelphia lawyer spun on his heel and left. With that, a Berks County lawyer came out of the stacks and said, sir, I’d like to shake Richard’s hand. And Richard said, well, why, why would you want to shake my hand? The Berks County lawyer said, because I have never before heard somebody say, nuts to you, to a million dollars.
In 1979 Richard, Bill Wickkiser and I represented the survivors of a small plane crash which crashed into a home which crashed and killed twin sons aged six-years old. The case was tried before the late Judge E. Troutman of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in Reading.
And Richard was truly magnificent during that trial. He never missed an opportunity to drive his point home. And, ultimately, we were successful in a bifurcated trial and received a plaintiff’s verdict on liability. Judge Troutman asked both parties to submit findings of fact and conclusions of law as part of the memorandum, which was to be suitable for adoption as the Court’s Opinion.
Richard and I retired to his beloved Bell Gate Farm off of Limeport Pike to work on our submission. It was an idyllic setting within which to work, and the product that we produced was ultimately adopted by Judge Troutman as his Opinion.
Our work was helped immensely by Joanne’s lunches and afternoon snacks, and Stephanie, then age three, offering brief, pleasant distractions. She called me James
and sat on my lap.
Here it was late spring and I recall one day Richard and I taking a break in the afternoon and walking around the farm. There was a pond on the property and a canoe. So boys being boys, we climbed aboard the canoe and paddled about the pond until Joanne came to our rescue and ordered us back to shore.
Joanne is a registered nurse and she has remarked that while Dick was a brilliant lawyer, he occasionally failed the activities of daily living. I can attest to this on both counts.
But as to the ADL’s, for example, while we were on trial for six weeks and staying in a Reading hotel, I discovered that Dick was color blind, and at Joanne’s suggestion, I inspected him each morning before going down to breakfast before going to court.
One morning I failed in my assigned task because later when we were in chambers in a conference, I noticed that Dick’s suit coat and pants did not match. Oh, they were the same color, blue, but the jacket had a wide chalk stripe and the pants had a narrow chalk stripe.
And that was Richard. Richard’s mind was focused on the trial. It wasn’t focused necessarily on what clothing he was wearing. We learned during that trial incidentally that Richard had difficulty spelling.
One day, intending to write on the blackboard the word thunderstorms, he wrote instead thutterstorms. And that we kidded him about until his death.
After Judge Troutman entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, and post-verdict motions were denied, settlement negotiations ensued. Dick, Tom Thompson, his paralegal, Bill Wickkiser and I met for lunch at the Old Ale House, which was owned by Dick’s younger brother Tim.
Dick recounted the progress of the negotiations which were being conducted between himself and the senior attorney in the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Dick revealed that there was an offer on the table for a million dollars, but that he expected to get two million dollars in settlement of the case.
And with great bravado I told Richard Stevens that if he got two million dollars, I would kiss his behind in Center Square. Dick loved a challenge. And I stood to gain, at least in a manner of speaking.
That afternoon I was in my office in the middle of a real estate closing when my secretary brought me a pink message slip. The message was from Richard and contained two words: Pucker up.
Bob Johnson recounts a story from his experience with Richard in combat with the First National Bank during their representation of Fred Jaindl in a proxy fight. They were highly successful on behalf of Fred, and all that was left to negotiate was the legal fee to be paid by the bank.
Bob and Fred had agreed upon an acceptable fee and conveyed it to Richard who, of course, was sure he could get more. And in fact, he did. Bob tells how once the offer was well in excess of the amount he thought they had agreed to accept, but Richard kept pushing for more.
Bob kicked Dick under the table. And Dick asked to be excused from the meeting momentarily. And he and Bob went outside ostensibly to discuss the progress of the negotiations. Once there, Bob suggested to Dick that they take the amount offered as it was already more than what they were seeking.
Dick agreed on one condition, that Bob and Kathy Johnson would accompany Dick and Joanne on a trip. Bob agreed, and the matter was concluded. Negotiating the accompaniment of Bob and Kathy Johnson on vacation was not a new phenomenon for Richard.
In those days, there were two divisions in the law firm of Butz, Hudders, Tallman, and later Butz, Hudders, Tallman, Stevens & Johnson. At that time, the litigation division was Richard’s. And Bob Johnson was a member of the other division.
Annually, it fell to Bob to negotiate with Richard his division’s contribution to overhead. This was a task which Bob describes as not always about money. It seemed that Richard usually had something else on his agenda. One year it was a change to the name of the firm to include Stevens, and then at Dick’s insistence, Johnson.
These negotiations usually spanned two or three meetings between Dick and Bob, and often ended up with Bob agreeing that he and Kathy would accompany Dick and Joanne on a trip to some far flung place.
Dick loved to negotiate. Life was a negotiation as far as Dick was concerned.
Bob Johnson also recounts the story of his ten thousand dollar New York City lunch. Bob and Kathy, Dick and Joanne went into the City for the Pennsylvania Society weekend. They had a long, leisurely lunch in a posh, New York restaurant, and I’m guessing of Joanne’s choosing.
Bob foolishly allowed Richard to order the wine, something you’d never want to do. And not because it wasn’t good wine, it was extremely expensive. The lunch did not end up costing ten thousand dollars. That was a more reasonable amount. That was about four, as I recall.
But the balance was made up by a trip to Bergdorf-Goodman where Dick took it upon himself to negotiate the purchase of a fur coat for Kathy Johnson. The coat started out at fifteen thousand dollars, by the time Dick negotiated it down to ninety-five hundred, Bob threw up his hands and surrendered.
Dick had a great work ethic, better than anyone I’ve ever encountered. He was typically in the office by eight fifteen and hardly ever left before seven p.m. He frequently stayed later. If he was in town, he was always in the office by nine o’clock on Saturday and stayed until leaving for lunch sometime around one o’clock. He spent time working at home on weekends and in the evenings.
And as is the key for all successful litigators, Dick’s preparation was meticulous. During the airplane crash case that I mentioned, we had daily transcripts and spent the evenings at the old Abe Lincoln Hotel digesting those transcripts in order to prepare for Dick’s re-direct or cross examination for the following day.
Dick was one of the most well read persons I know. He was steeped in the classics and Greek mythology. He could quote from Bible verses. He could quote from popular literature. His curiosity extended well beyond the law.
He was literally a world traveler having been to Greece and the Middle East, throughout Europe and on to the Pacific Rim. And he loved Paris and visited frequently, including in the days immediately before his death.
Dick and Joanne have maintained a home in Saint Croix since 1993. Over the last dozen years of his life, Richard really began to take some time for himself, especially in the winter when he repaired to Saint Croix to recharge his batteries.
He loved the island life, scuba diving and acting as surrogate captain of his yacht. Dick was fond of the expression that many of us heard during our first year of law school, namely, that the law is a jealous mistress.
Over the years he owned several boats, I should say yachts, because they ran from twenty-six feet to finally sixty-eight feet in length. Each bore the name of Jealous Mistress. Dick fancied himself as a sailor, but was smart enough and pragmatic enough to hire a captain for his yachts.
I believe that initially this was to be a captain who would teach Richard how to sail and properly dock the craft and then retire. However, on one occasion while Dick was docking or attempting to dock The Jealous Mistress, he went over the side and into the harbor. That was enough for Joanne and from that point forward at Joanne’s insistence a full-time captain was employed.
Dick Stevens loved life. He loved his family. And he loved the law. His success permitted him to live life to the fullest, with extensive travel, a beautiful farm, and a vacation home in Saint Croix.
But, despite his great success, the creature comforts that success permitted, and his obvious love of finer things in life, he never lost his lust for the law, and maintained his work ethic right up until his illness last summer. He simply loved being a trial lawyer.
Richard Stevens was really in a class by himself. He was a preeminent lawyer, a skilled litigator, and a tireless advocate for his client’s cause. At the same time, he was generous, unfailingly polite and courteous, and capable of charming the most difficult of people.
He brought a certain grace to the way he lived his life and it’s too bad that his last request for a continuance was not granted, at least for a little longer. Thank you.
MR. HETTINGER: Thank you, Mr. District Attorney. And now, to memorialize the Honorable Judge Diefenderfer, Attorney Robert Donatelli.
MR. DONATELLI: May it please the Court, Johnny, Jane, ladies and gentlemen. I have on previous occasions had the honor of memorializing members of this association. But this occasion is different because I have been asked to undertake the responsibility of remembering not only a fellow member of the Bar, but a former judge of the Court. Not only a former judge, but a former president judge, the Honorable James N. Diefenderfer.
It is fitting that we remember him in this courtroom, because this is the courtroom in which his father, John H. Diefenderfer, sat as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. It is also here that he took his oath of office as a judge of this Court, being enrobed with the robe that his father had worn and a robe that he kept in his chambers until he retired as a senior judge.
In the early years of practice I knew him as Jim. When he became judge, it was the Honorable or Judge Diefenderfer; or as many of us would do, Dief, but never to his face.
Jim was born in Bethlehem on December 14th, 1930, the son of James H. Diefenderfer and Mildred G. Diefenderfer. Jim’s dad was a lawyer, and as I said, judge of this Court. Jim had a brother, John, who predeceased him.
Jim grew up in Bethlehem, attending the Bethlehem public schools and Liberty High School. He was president of his class there and played basketball. After graduation he went off to Cornell University intending to be a doctor. Knowing his father wanted another lawyer in the family, and he knew his brother was not going to go to law school, he switched to pre-law.
At Cornell, his success continued. He became a member of Sigma Chi fraternity and later became president of the student union. He graduated in 1952, in the middle of the Korean War.
A fellow classmate convinced Jim they should enlist in the Navy Reserve Officer Candidate program. So he agreed. His friend failed to qualify, but Jim was accepted.
After securing his commission, he was assigned to the Porter, a tired, old destroyer. He would later refer to the Porter as akin to the infamous Caine of the Caine Mutiny. Jim’s XO was an up from the ranks officer who had little use for ninety day wonders like Jim.
Therefore, when the Porter was in port and Jim requested shore leave, the usual response was, denied. The XO also had a habit of raiding the officers’ mess at night, and if that snack that he savored was gone because somebody else had gotten to it, he’d call Diefenderfer to conduct Caine, an investigation to find the culprit. He never did it.
Like the Caine, the Porter never had any real action and spent most of its days sailing from port to port. He would later say his most memorable experience in the Navy was crossing the equator and being inducted into the International Brotherhood of the Deep. Jim’s last Navy assignment was to sail towards her decommissioning.
After two years in the Navy he enrolled in Penn Law School. Although successful in law school, Jim often said he found law school to be bothering. When Jim and I were law students, it was required – and this is in the old days, it was required that every student have a lawyer who would act as his preceptor with whom we were required to serve a six month clerk-ship.
Three of those months were while attending law school and three of those months after graduation and taking the Bar exam. His preceptor was Ray Brennen, a distinguished member of the Bar.
After graduating and successfully taking and passing the Bar exam, not an easy feat in those days when the pass or fail rate was fifty to fifty-five percent, he opened up his own law office. One of his first moves, and arguably his best, was to hire Sandy Stupak as his secretary, a position she filled with him until his retirement from the bench. I’m glad to see Sandy is here today.
Jim later associated with John Metzger and Dave Mellenberg. Dave later became a judge of this Court. I’m also glad to see that Dave’s wife, Eileen, is here today with us.
Their firm was Metzger, Mellenberg and Diefenderfer. He later became associated with Roy Reabuck on South Fifth Street. That practice later expanded to include Jim Kellar, John E. Backenstoe, who later became a judge and president judge of this Court, Jack Kauffman and Bill Doyle.
In addition to associating with lawyers, who later became judges, and lawyers, who were all respected practitioners, Jim’s association with Ray Brennen and Roy Reabuck would stoke his interest in Democratic party politics, since both Roy Reabuck and Ray Brennan were both former chairs of the Lehigh County Democratic Party.
In the time of Jim’s early practice, it was considered a good practice builder for a young lawyer to run for some public office to get his name out there. He did. He ran for State Senator against the then very popular incumbent Johnny Van Sant. Jim lost.
He later became an assistant city solicitor and a county solicitor. In the midst of starting a law practice and becoming politically involved, Jim married his wife, Ellie. They had two children, Allyn Jane and Jason. Unfortunately, that marriage later ended in divorce.
Jane and her husband, Bill, are with us here today. Jason, who lives in Texas, could not be here. He has one grandchild who lives in Texas, which, to his regret, limited the amount of time he could see her.
In 1970 I really began to know Jim much better when I became involved with Milton Shapp for governor. Jim and Max Davison, later to become judge, and local business man Jack Greenblatt were the local chairs of the Shapp campaign. Governor Shapp won.
Jim was rewarded by being appointed as a deputy attorney general handling Workers’ Compensation case. I also received an appointment as an assistant deputy attorney general. Both Jim and I were glad to know that patronage was alive and well at the time.
One of Jim’s passion in life was golf. He belonged to Lehigh Country Club and was always ready for a round. Unfortunately, his love of the game did not match his talent, which can be attested to by his golfing partners.
In 1979 Jim decided to become candidate for judge. His opponent was the formidable and respected trial lawyer Wallace C. Worth, whom we also remember today. Jim won the nomination on both ballots and was later appointed to the bench.
And on July 6th, 1979, he became Judge Diefenderfer. He became president judge on January 6, 1992, becoming the first president judge to be elected by his peers on the bench. 1992 was also an especially good year for him because it was in that year he married Joanne, who was his constant and loving companion until his death.
He retired in 1997, electing to be a senior judge. He carried on as a senior judge until leaving the bench in 2005. When he went on the bench, he became the domestic relations judge, and throughout his career on the bench he remained active in the domestic relation area of the law. He found custody cases most difficult because they involved the fate of children.
As a jurist, he was patient and courteous to the parties as well as counsel. He was famous for his open door policy to his chambers. In an age of security checkpoints and buzzers into offices and video cams, Judge Diefenderfer’s office door was always literally wide open and anyone could and did walk in and ask to see the judge, and on most occasions they were quickly admitted.
After the courthouse was declared a smoke-free zone, his chambers became a haven for both he and Sandy and those lawyers who were in need of a quick smoke.
Although laid back in demeanor, he was an astute student of the law. He was not a person of pretense, rarely referring to himself as a judge outside the court house. And to show his pretense, I would like to tell a story that Judge Reibman told me and said that I could tell.
One day at the end of the day he got a call from Judge Diefenderfer saying, come over to my chambers, I have some things I would like to discuss with you. Judge Reibman went over. Judge Diefenderfer said, would you like a drink? Judge Reibman said, no. Diefenderfer said, come on.
He took him down the hallway. Those of us who practiced in front of Dief remember Dief walking down the hallway, no jacket on, no robe on. They walked down the hallway, got on the elevator and got to the courthouse canteen, which was on the
Judge Reibman said they got to the doors and they were locked. Diefenderfer unlocked it, went in and got a chair. And he stood on the chair in front of the ice machine and scooped out a cup of ice, put it back and locked it up.
They went back to his chambers and he reached into his drawer and pulled out a bottle and made himself his famous Old Fashion that he liked and discussed with Judge Reibman whatever he wanted to discuss.
He was in many respects a lawyer’s lawyer. He was always considerate to lawyers, in most cases rendering a prompt and well-reasoned decision. I think the words that he spoke upon his installation as judge best describe the type of person, lawyer and judge that he was: My responsibility to my fellow man. To me, this breaks down into three categories: My responsibility to the bench, to the Bar and to the public.
To the bench I owe a responsibility of cooperation, hard work, and an eagerness to learn as quickly as I can. To the bench I make this promise, that I will do the best within my ability to fulfill these responsibilities.
To the Bar, I owe the responsibility to be patient, understanding, fair and impartial. Although these attributes are highly important, I feel I must add one more, and that is to promise to the Bar that I will not forget that for twenty-one years I was on the other side of this bench. I will forever keep in mind the trials and tribulations that confronted us as lawyers as we tried to practice law the best way we know how.
To the public, who have placed their faith in me, I owe the responsibility that I will perform my duties in a dignified manner, that I will be stern when sternest is required, compassionate when compassion is required, fair and impartial at all times. I will give conscientious attention to every matter that comes before me, and further, maintain an awareness of what the public is expecting from its judicial system.
Jim, Dief, The Honorable James N. Diefenderfer died on November 14th, 2007. In the words of his secretary, Sandy Stupak, this was a good man. Thank you.
MR. HETTINGER: Thank you, Bob. Judge Platt, if I may just have a word. I want to thank the Court for this opportunity and the Association to honor the departed colleagues. I want to thank the speakers for their eloquence and for their compassion and for their ability to convey, sometimes with great humor and sometimes with passion, those persons and friends of ours who are not with us.
I want to thank you, the family, friends, members of the audience for your patience and for your ability to come here and also pay your respects. I want to make special thanks to Attorney John Baker and Attorney Sam Kasick who organized this presentation this morning.
On behalf of our Association, I invite you all to stay for some refreshments at the rear of this courtroom. Thank you, Your Honor.
JUDGE PLATT: Thank you, Mr. President. The Court wants to express its thanks to the Bar Association of Lehigh County for continuing this fine tradition. This has helped to continue a great tradition in Lehigh County and allowed us to share the lives of our departed members.
The speakers this year, I have to add, had a very easy task. There were many titans in the Bar eulogized today and their speeches were easily delivered.
The official court reporter is directed to transcribe the notes of testimony of these proceedings and make a digital copy available to the Bar Association.
This has been our tradition since the year 2002. The Bar Association will then publish it on its home page, lehighbar.org. Anyone interested in a copy will be able to read, print or download it from that site.
Are there any members of the bench who wish to make any comments?
If not, then we will adjourn this ceremony and it will be out of respect for our departed colleagues.
MR. RABER: Please rise. This Court is adjourned. (Proceedings concluded.)