Profession Mourns the Loss of John H. Pickering and Lloyd N. Cutler, IRR Charter Members
This spring, IRR said goodbye to two long-time supporters, and Section leaders—John H. Pickering and Lloyd N. Cutler—friends for over sixty years and longtime leaders in the legal profession. Mr. Pickering died at age 89 on Mar. 19, following a stroke; Mr. Cutler, 87, passed away just two months later, on May 8, after a long illness. Both brilliant lawyers, Mr. Pickering and Mr. Cutler embodied the ideals of IRR. Mr. Cutler worked tirelessly for civil and human rights, served as counsel, commissioner or consultant to six presidents. He was a founding member of the Section and from 1968 to 1969, served as Section Chair. Mr. Pickering, a Charter Member of the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, was dedicated to the cause of equal justice and a strong advocate of pro bono service. He served as the Section’s liaison to the ABA Senior Lawyers’ Division until his death. Both men were long-time friends of the Section and the legal community, and promoted the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in the law.
In 1962, the two friends became law partners when they formed Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. In 2004, the firm merged with Hale and Dorr in 2004, forming Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Both men were experts in U.S. Supreme Court practice and procedure. Mr. Pickering had a major role in a number of high-profile cases, including the "steel seizure" case defining the limits on presidential authority ( Youngstown v. Sawyer), the attempted ouster of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell from the House of Representatives ( Powell v. McCormack), civil rights ( NAACP v. Claiborne County, Mississippi ), physician-assisted suicide ( Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill) and the University of Michigan's use of race as a factor in admission decisions ( Grutter and Gratz). Mr. Cutler similarly appeared as counsel in nine U.S. Supreme Court arguments including the case upholding the constitutionality of the post-Watergate campaign finance reform law ( Buckley v. Valeo), the Regional Rail Reorganization Act Cases upholding the Act that took the property of the Northeast railroads to create Conrail, and the reversal of an antitrust judgment against the NAACP ( NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware).
Mr. Pickering received numerous awards and accolades from organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Women's Law Center, Council for Court Excellence, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and National Council on Aging. In 1996, he was named "Lawyer of the Year" by the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and in 1998, he received the William J. Brennan Award of the District of Columbia Bar. In 1999, Mr. Pickering received the ABA Medal, the highest award of the American Bar Association, for "conspicuous service in the cause of American jurisprudence," and in 2002, he received the Robert F. Drinan Distinguished Service Award by the ABA's Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities. In 2004, Mr. Pickering received a Lifetime Achievement in the Law Award from The American Lawyer. In the American Bar Association, he served as delegate from the District of Columbia to the ABA House of Delegates.
As a founder and Co-Chairman of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a founder of the Southern Africa Legal Services and Legal Education Project, Mr. Cutler set an example in the field of civil liberties. He fought apartheid in South Africa at home and abroad, and was Co-Chairman of the Committee on the Revision of the Czechoslovak Constitution. He was a Member of the Council of the American Law Institute, the Yale University Council, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Mr. Cutler was recognized by numerous institutions in his lifetime, and received such awards as honorary Doctors of Law degrees from Princeton University and Trinity College, the Jefferson Medal from the University of Virginia, the Fordham-Stein Prize from Fordham University, the Marshall-Wythe Medallion from William and Mary, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the American Lawyer Lifetime Achievement Award and the Yale Medal.
John H. Pickering and Lloyd N. Cutler were a continuous force for good, setting the standard for the legal profession. The Section, the ABA, and indeed the country are indebted to these two determined, innovative and courageous men.