04 May 2020

'A passionate champion for social justice' - victims of Covid-19 remembered

Steven Edwards is described as having been a superb lawyer and wonderful human being by Quinn Emanuel

Quinn Emanuel partner Steven Edwards, two distinguished retired judges and a prominent LGBT rights campaigner are among lawyers who have died

Quinn Emanuel partner Steven Edwards died aged 73 from Covid-19 on 8 April. He was known for his skill as a litigator and battled on behalf of health care companies and other larger corporations. “Steve was a superb lawyer, a wonderful human being and a long-standing fixture in the legal community,” Quinn Emanuel said in a statement. After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, Edwards joined Cravath Swain & Moore before forming a firm of his own: Davis Weber & Edwards. This then became the New York office for Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) where Edwards was head of litigation. He joined Quinn Emanuel in 2016. He was president of the Federal Bar Council from 1998 until 2000, an advisory committee member for civil rules of the United States District Courts of the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York; and founder and editor emeritus of the Federal Bar Council News. ‘Despite all these responsibilities, Steve was a passionate champion for social justice and served in various capacities at the National Center for Law and Economic Justice and the Pro Bono Partnership and as President of Nazareth Housing,’ said the firm. He was also a member of the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and played guitar in his band, The Law Dogs. 

Sir John Laws, who was the longest-serving Lord Justice of Appeal on his retirement in 2016, died on 5 April aged 74 in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, after testing positive for Covid-19. Prominent human rights barrister Dinah Rose QC tweeted that he was ‘a brilliant man and a great lawyer, also one of the greatest advocates I’ve ever seen and a man of enormous charm and erudition’. The uncle to Downing Street adviser and Brexit mastermind Dominic Cummings, Laws became a High Court judge in 1992 and was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1998. He was known for his extrajudicial writings on constitutional theory, in publications such a Public Law, in which he argued that the constitution, not Parliament, is sovereign in the British constitution. His judicial activism and position as one of the nation’s most prolific constitutional experts was showcased in Thoburn v Sunderland City Council, 2002, when Laws suggested there was a hierarchy of 'constitutional statutes' that Parliament can only directly repeal, and so are immune from implied repeal. He was elected a visiting professor of legal science at Cambridge University in his retirement. 

Kevin Duffy, a former federal judge in the Southern District of New York who presided over a series of high-profile trials, died on 1 April at Greenwich Hospital, Connecticut, after contracting Covid-19. His family said they were unable to see him for a period of four weeks before his death. Mathew Diller, dean of Fordham Law School, where he studied, said: “[Duffy was] a giant in the legal community who devoted his life to serving our country. In his 44-year career  he presided over one critically important complex trial after another – demonstrating how the US district courts are an engine for justice. He will be missed.” Duffy presided over trials of the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, the alleged leader and members of the Gambino organised crime family and the mastermind of the Manilla bombing conspiracy. He retired in 2016. In his early career, in the 1960s, Duffy was an associate at New York-based Whitman Ransom & Coulson before becoming a partner for three years at Gordon & Gordon.

Richard Weber died on March 19 after complications from Covid-19. Weber, who was 57, was a partner at New York- and New Jersey-based law firm Gallo Vitucci Klar. He was also a board member of the LGBT Bar Association of New York, also known as LeGal, and spearheaded the establishment of a legal clinic for the LGBT community in New Jersey in partnership with Rutgers Law School and the New Jersey Bar Association.  LeGal executive director Eric Lesh told the New York Daily Post: “He was a loving, kind and caring human being who gave generously of his legal talents and his energy to the LGBTQ community.” Two days prior to his death, Weber had emailed that he had tested positive and has been hospitalised but was improving. His firm said: ‘Everyone at Gallo Vitucci Klar is heartbroken and devastated by the loss of Richard”. He was a litigator whose areas of expertise included general liability defence, premises liability, defense of false arrest/wrongful detention claims. A gofundme page has been set up to raise money for his family.

Matthew Seligman, 64, died on 17 April in St. George's Hospital, London, after contracting Covid-19. Though trained as a barrister, Seligman was practising as a human rights solicitor for Campbell-Taylor Solicitors where he specialized in mental health matters including First Tier Tribunals and unlawful detention claims. He was called to the bar in 1994 and initially concerned himself with personal injury and accident litigation at 39 Essex Street Chambers, working on the Marchioness disaster, before developing a mental health practice. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Seligman had a successful career as a bass guitarist, rising to prominence a member of psychedelic rock band The Soft Boys before joining his friend Thomas Dolby’s solo group and playing bass in the hit single “She Blinded Me With Science”. As a session musician Seligman performed on music released by Morrisey, Sinéad O'Connor and Transvision Vamp among others, and played bass with David Bowie as part of his backing group at Live Aid. Dolby said: “Matthew would want us to remember the good times and have a party.”

UK barrister Mohammed Shabir Sarwar, 55, died on 28 March. Nearly £17,000 has been raised on a Just Giving page in memory of Shabir, who worked for the Muslim Resource Centre in Coventry. All proceeds will go to the Kashmir Orphan Relief Trust (KORT). His family, who set up the page, said: “Throughout his life, our father was committed to fighting hard for his community. He used his voice to stand up for the vulnerable and always found time to help those who were most in need.”

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