Tuesday, September 17, 2002

John P. Frank

I took a break from politics this week to write a tribune (in The Tribune!) to John P. Frank, the senior partner at Lewis and Roca here in Phoenix. John was a mentor and friend to my wife Beth and my partners Andy and Karen, and a good friend to good causes in Arizona. I hoped to capture some of JPF's accomplishments, but also some of his humor. I've reinserted a couple of phrases that got deleted due to space limitations.

Lewis and Roca hosted a memorial tribute to John on Saturday at the Phoenix Art Museum, which far exceeded what I could write, but this column is for those of you who couldn't attend, or who didn't know JPF.

East Valley Tribune, September 15, 2002

At age 84, the late John P. Frank still had more projects and plans ongoing than most people manage in a lifetime.

Frank, known to his friends as JPF, was a renowned collection of idiosyncrasies, including his omnipresent bow ties, his inability to drive a car safely, and his near-total ability simply to ignore things that did not interest him. But in a remarkable career, he deployed remarkable intellectual horsepower, limitless chutzpah, tireless persistence, and virtuoso ability to express complex and sophisticated legal issues in straightforward and compelling prose to change the law -- and the country.

JPF left many different legacies. While a law professor, he played a key role in the Supreme Court’s desegregation cases, writing a significant “friend of the court” brief in Sweatt v. Painter, the 1950 case that forced integration of the University of Texas Law School. He also advised the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., on constitutional and legislative history in Brown v. Board of Education.

As a parent, he and his wife of 58 years, Lorraine W. Frank -- a remarkable contributor to Arizona in her own right -- raised five children, who received their parents’ own Sunday School curriculum when they found the existing alternatives intellectually insufficient.

As a lawyer, he represented Ernesto Miranda, and in 1966, the Supreme Court required police to inform suspects of their constitutional right to remain silent and to be represented by a lawyer -- the famous “Miranda rights” that any connoisseur of TV crime dramas can recite from memory.

JPF enjoyed the practice of law, which he found endlessly fascinating as well as a powerful, necessary tool for achieving social justice and making this country even greater and more free. He earned a nice living, and clients nationally sought his advice. Some even paid handsomely for it. But unlike many athletes who claim they’d play for free, he actually did, taking on vast numbers of unpaid clients for the intellectual challenge, the joy of the fight, and the moral virtue of the cause.

As an author, he wrote 11 books, including Lincoln as a Lawyer, which the reviewer for The New York Times called “a classic,” and which remains the leading work on Abraham Lincoln’s legal practice.

But JPF did his greatest work with and through others. He asked his partner John J. Flynn to argue the Miranda case, because JPF previously had argued before the Supreme Court but Flynn had not. As JPF predicted, the case made Flynn’s national reputation.

As hiring partner for Lewis and Roca, he helped Mary M. Schroeder, now Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, become the first woman associate, and then the first woman partner, in a major Phoenix firm.

He taught, advised, and worked alongside Attorney General Janet Napolitano, and prided himself on being her first, and most fervent, supporter in her campaign for governor. He was extraordinarily generous with his time, insight, and wisdom with countless others, perhaps less famous but no less grateful.

While teaching at Yale Law School, he arranged for a black student with little money to see JPF’s friend Thurgood Marshall argue the Sweatt case - lining up the admission ticket and even paying train fare to Washington. The student, A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., described the experience as a turning point, which led to his own remarkable legal career, including serving as Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

In truth, JPF’s greatest legacy, and the one in which he took greatest pride, isn’t found in legal victories, court opinions, or between book covers. It is still being written in the achievements of those to whom he served as a tireless, brilliant, and creative mentor, colleague, and cheerleader.

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