JUDGE SHURE: Mr. Prescott.
MR. PRESCOTT: May it please Your Honor, at this time I would like to introduce Mr. Steven M. Cooper, who will speak on behalf of Marvin E. Preis.
MR.COOPER: Marvin Preis and I became law partners back at the close of 1968. We remained partners until the time he died at age 41. Over a period of the last almost ten years that we were partners, I came to know Marvin Preis extremely closely both personally and as an attorney. I, therefore, feel most qualified to tak about him, both as an attorney and as a human being. However, in the atmosphere of this courtroom in which Marvin, himself, appeared on many, many occasions, and considering the fact that there are so many judges and attorneys here, I would like to talk primarily about Marvin Preis, the lawyer, and I think my remarks about him as a lawyer will give you some idea about Marvin Preis, the man, the human being.
Marvin, as an attorney, had many, many qualities that we, as attorneys and judges, should all strive for. To give you a sense about it, it was Marvin’s extremely high integrity as an attorney that I think distinguished him above all else. As we are all aware, our code of professional responsibility as attorneyes deals in part with two issues that we, as attorneys, face almost daily. Those beng the concepts of, one, attorney-client privilege, and the concept of conflict of interest. For those people here who are laymen, that is non-attorneys, let me explain briefly what they mean. The attorney-client privilege in substance means that any communications between an attorney and his client are sacred to the attorney and the attorney cannot reveal those communications without the permission of the client. Conflict of interest in essence means than an attorney may not represent conflicting interest in basically the same case. A clear example of that or a simple example of that would be an attorney can’t represent a man and wife in a divorce case, a buyer or seller in the purchase of a business.
Those two responsibilities, professional responsibilities to Marvin were absolutely sacred. In his daily practice Marvin did many things, some quite unusual, I think, to guard against the violation on his part of his professional responsibilities. As an example, with regard to the attorney-client privilege, I remember being reprimanded by Marvin on more than one occasion when and I were in a restaurant and I would mention a client’s name. Marvin preferred to refer to that client as the man with the beard of the tall man or the skinny man and so forth. He did not want anyone to know even that he was representing the client, let alone what he might be concerned about in connection with the representation.
He had many personal, social friends who were his clients, and oftentimes his wife, Barabara, would not even know that a personal, social friend was a client of his.
Every new employee in our office received, when they were employed, at least a one-half hour dissertation concerning the fact that the employee was absolutely prohibited from revealing to anyone anything about the firm’s clients. When a new client would come into Marvin’s office, I often remember seeing him turn his files over on his desk so the new client would not see the names of those people who were on Marvin’s files.
In connection with conflict of interest, another doctrine that was sacred to Marvin, even the slightest hint of any conflict would cause Marvin to refuse to take a case. As an example, if he had represented a man in a personal injury case which had been closed and completed some five years earlier, he would not want to represetn the wife of that former client in a divorce case. Marvin sough to avoid even the most minute inference of any impropriety on his part, but I think it was Marvin’s relationship, personal relationship, attorney-client relationship with his clients that distinguishes him most as a lawyer and as a human being.
Marvin sough to keep his relationship with his clients one of pure attorney-client. An an example, he refused to ever refer any one of our clients over to the accounting firm that represented our law firm. He wanted his relationship with the client to be pure and unencumbered by any possible relationship between the law firm and the accounting firm. This might seem somewhat extreme, but such was Marvin’s desire when it came to the attorney-client relationship.
When Marvin was retained to represent a client, he dove into the case head first. He spent time with his clients. Sometimes I think the client left our office with the impression that his or her case was Marvin’s only case. He had a manner of instilling confidence. He was available to his clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, though it may seem strange, I think Marvin got a kick out of a client calling him in the middle of the night with a problem. Being an attorney to his clients and for his clients at all times was what he wanted and what he gave of himself. He would sit, for example, for hours listening to a client, for example, a distraught wife involved in a contested divorce, not interrupting her when much of what she was saying might be even irrelevant to the legal aspects of her case because Marvin felt that this was what was needed of him by his client.
Saturday was always a working day. He did this as an accommodation to his clients who might suffer or be inconvenienced by having to take off for a week-day appointment. The same was true of his evenings, and the clients, believe me, appreciated and respected Marvin for what he did.
As a most recent example, I had the opportunity to meet with one of Marvin’s clients shortly after Marvin died. This was a client who Marvin had represented in the District of Columbia. In fact, it was Marvin’s last client and it was Marvin’s last court appearance. It took place I think something like ten days before he died or two weeks before he died. I had an occasion to meet with that client after Marvin died, to speak with him about another matter. The client broke down in my office, began to sob, and what was crying about was the fact that he felt that Marvin Preis had given him so much, and while crying, he said to me in memory of that man and in honor of that man, I will never again get in the trouble that I was in before.
Such was the way that Marvin affected his clients. This kind of an attorney-client relationship brought Marvin many referrals from his clients, and as I mentioned, his two-fisted approach to his clients’ cases brought him numerous referrals from other attorneys. Everyone knew this was a man who could be trusted, number one, and who would get the job done, number two, but depsite the seriousness with which Marvin took his work, he had a great capacity for humor. He would always find time to walk around the office during a heavy work day telling some jokes or engaging in some light conversation. Our office seems more somber now. His humor is greatly missed.
I think his humor, though, was one way he had of discharging his enormous energies. He seemed to be a tireless worker. Some of you, I am sure, someof the attorneys and judges here may have seen Marvin speeding down the hallways with his clients or associates twenty yards behind. I never saw him walk. He ran. It was the same energy that Marvin applied to his clients’ problems.
What I think really set Marvin apart and distinguished him both as a lawyer and as a man was that he was what I call a true gentleman. His courtroom decorum was absolutely impeccable. Even when he was faced with a hostile opposing witness he never forgot to refer to that person as “sir” or “madam”. His courteousness to all, including his clients, was always evident. He always rememberd that he was an officer of the Court and an employee of his client.
When I was a college fraternity pledge, I had to learn a short piece of prose, which I think seems to sum up best Marvin Preis. It is entitled, “The True Gentleman” and it read in part as follows: “The true gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not flatter well, cringe before power or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”
Though Marvin Preis lived for many years since we became partners in the shadow of death and with the burden of a physical deformity from his illness, he always retained his great humor and his high integrity. He was, until the time he died, a man to whom honor was sacred and virtue safe. He was in fact the truest of gentlemen.
I would like to thank the Court and you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to make remarks.
JUDGE SHURE: Thank you.
Judge Mitchell will respond for the Court.
JUDGE MITCHELL: Mr. Cooper, I know, as do my colleagues, that a partnership and its resulting relationship draws lawyers together more closely than non-lawyers will ever understand.
Marvin Preis was a lawyer well-known to me. I first became acquainted with him when I was the Public Defender in Montgomery County. Marvin would make himself available on one month’s notice or one week’s notice. He did not stand in. He gave the accused total representation.
Marvin was an aggressive advocate. He defended his client. He protected his client’s constitutional privileges as if his client were the most affluent client in the world. This young lawyer did in these situations more than many of his contemporaries.
In more recent years I was pleased tohave Mr. Preis appear before me in other matters. He was counsel for the supporting personnel for the Board of Education. He urged their contentions for equality in a competent, well-structured, proper, and tenacious manner. My use of the word suggesting tenacity is not meant to be a criticism. In fact, I admired and saluted his manner of proceeding before this Court.
Mrs. Preis, I do not know why God chose to call Marvin so early in this life. He was a fine gentleman. My feelings of regret and those of my colleagues are extended to you, but in reflection, the children of your marriage are lucky. Indeed their dad has been called by God, but, on the other hand, their dad has left behind a heritage that will enable these young people to achieve greater heights. For that matter, I hope and trust they will exceed his wildest dreams.
Marvin Preis was an honest member of the Bar of this Court. He is now and will be missed. It is, I hope, of significant consequence to his family that Marvin Preis was respected. He was a gentleman, an advocate, a friend, a good man, and a good father. The proper words of condolence escape me, but please accept these words at the unanimous statement of this Court.