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November 01, 2017

In Memoriam: Charles Ray “Chas” Merrill

By Stephen S. Wu and Michael S. Baum

Charles Ray “Chas” Merrill, 76, passed away on April 25, 2017, in Denver, Colorado. In his practice, he served as a partner in McCarter & English’s Newark, New Jersey, office for many years. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1965, he began his career in the area of tax law, estate planning, and corporate law. He received a tax LLM from New York University in 1970. However, he later moved into information security and electronic commerce law. He served as an active member of the Section’s Information Security Committee (ISC) in the 1990s and 2000s before he retired in 2006.

In his work for the Section, he was a pioneer, an intellect, and a patient mentor. He provided wise counsel to ISC leadership, and was a dear friend to many in the ISC. In the earliest days of the development of e-commerce—when it was still called electronic contracting—Chas quickly distinguished himself as a thought leader in the frenetic world of digital signature law and policy. Chas was a co-reporter and key leader in producing two of the Section’s path-breaking publications on public key infrastructure: Digital Signature Guidelines and PKI Assessment Guidelines.

As the ISC leader for these two publications, Chas maintained a steady (and often paternal) hand in leading the many (sometimes vexing) drafting initiatives. He often exercised his unique personal charm and humor to help maintain a shared mission and organize diverse legal and nonlegal professionals into teams that produced sections of the Digital Signature Guidelines and PKI Assessment Guidelines. These two publications were the heart of the ISC’s work plan for many years, and both publications had a worldwide influence on digital signature laws and industry practices for many years.

Chas also helped the ISC present programs at the RSA Conference, the world’s leading information security conference. For instance, he acted as the judge in the very first mock trial that the Section cosponsored with the RSA Conference in 2007. Audience members raved about the mock trial program in their reviews.

Chas had a special ability to inspire and lead teams of people, an activity that sometimes resembled “herding cats.” His leadership also included an over 20-year involvement as an adult Scout leader for the Boy Scouts of America. He received the Silver Beaver Award from his local council, the highest award a council can bestow on an adult leader.

Denley Chew, an attorney working at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, wrote, “Chas was an early pioneer of this new emerging field of ‘information security law’ who really helped make the ISC into what it is today—intellectual, social, constructive—and for that I think we will always be grateful and aspirational.”

Chas’s work is for the ages. He was a true gentleman who will be sorely missed.

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By Stephen S. Wu and Michael S. Baum

Stephen S. Wu ([email protected]) served as the 2010–2011 Chair of the ABA Section of Science & Technology Law. Michael S. Baum ([email protected]) served as the founding Chair of the Section’s Information Security Committee and Electronic Commerce Division.