Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Rae Draws Plaudits From Those Who Knew Him Through Various Activities
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Comments on the passing of Los Angeles attorney Matthew S. Rae came yesterday from persons who knew Rae through a variety of the activities in which he was involved.
Conference of Delegates
●Former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp—like Rae, a perennial member of the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. delegation to the Conference of Delegates—commented that Rae “reveled in the camaraderie” within the conference “and actively participated until his death.”
He observed that “Sandy loved the law,” was “a very good listener” and “while his specialty was probate and trust law he took an active interest in other areas of the law.”
Van de Kamp hailed Rae as “a very fair man.”
●Patricia Phillips of Phillips Jessner LLP, a former LACBA president, recalled that during the 1970s and 1980s, Rae and she served “as co-sergeants-at-arms under the ‘command’ of Stanley Gleis [since deceased] at the State Bar Conference of Delegates.” She remarked:
“While Sandy remained my friend and active in all respects in our joint bar junkie activities, I will remember him best from those years when we worked together on the serious task of vote-counting and the not so serious tasks of acting as the disciplinarians and minders of the Conference.
“Sandy was such a loyal friend, an adroit and skilled lawyer and totally dedicated to our profession. Sandy never gave up.”
●Grace Midori Danziger, director of Governance and Corporate Affairs for LACBA, offered these words:
“Sandy knew many legislators, yet unlike others who might then push a personal agenda, Sandy believed in the worth of the statewide Conference of Delegates. He may have been the longest serving and most constant delegate in the Conference, as a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association delegation for about 50 years.
“He served the larger organization too, as a Resolutions Committee chair and member of the Executive Committee. Sandy’s dedication stemmed from his love of the law. The Conference was one avenue for him, the Law Revision Commission another.
“He was also incredibly active in both the State Bar and LACBA Trusts and Estates Sections as a widely-known expert in probate law.
“Since a stroke about a decade ago, his strength abandoned him, but his words continued to have impact; his statements always based on careful thought. Sandy was sharp mentally until the end, which made his physical decline seem sadder still. Outside of bar activities, Sandy’s conversation would always turn with pride to talking about his daughters and grandchildren.”
Danziger quoted past LACBA president Hathaway as calling Rae “a lion in the bar.” She added:
“Many of us knew him since he stood tall, with his brushed back pompadour, booming out a hearty laugh, hello and strong handshake.”
●Valerie J. Merritt, of Calleton, Merritt, De Francisco & Real-Salas, LLP, said:
“I first saw Sandy in action in 1981 or 1982 when I joined the Los Angeles County Bar Association Delegation to the Conference of Delegates. Sandy was the voice of the trusts and estates bar—because he was knowledgeable and he had a wonderful speaking voice that commanded attention and respect.
“Over twenty years later, Sandy still was listened to with great respect by members of the Los Angeles Delegation. He was in the same group as I was on many an occasion, studying the proposals for new legislation and giving good analyses.”
“Sandy Rae also spent decades monitoring legislation in Sacramento in the trusts and estates field. He would make comments for improvement to legislation, and he kept in touch with his local assembly representative. He would also alert the rest of the Bar if he felt legislation was moving the wrong direction and needed the intervention of numbers of constituents.”
The probate practitioner said that Rae “shared his great knowledge with others by giving lectures for CEB, the Trusts and Estates Section of the State Bar and the Los Angeles County Bar Association” and “has spent years monitoring the work of the California Law Revision Commission as they rewrote the Probate Code and have continued to make changes in the area.”
Phi Alpha Delta
●Rae was supreme justice of Phi Alpha Delta, then a national (now international) legal fraternity, in 1972-74. Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kenneth Chotiner noted:
“For the more than half a century that Sandy Rae and I were friends, he was always known as ‘Mr. PAD.’”
“At a professional level, he was known throughout the state as a probate expert. On an avocational level, he devoted his life to his beloved law fraternity.”
“His distinctive laugh that would echo through a room has been stilled, but the honor and integrity that motivated his life garnered the respect, admiration and affection of all who knew him.”
●Attorney John Weitkamp returned a telephone call from Tampa, Florida, where Phi Alpha Delta International is holding its bi-annual convention. Weitkamp, the organization’s international justice in 2006-08, said that Rae “was on his way here” when he had to change his plans and was hospitalized about a week ago.
Weitkamp noted that Rae joined the fraternity in 1946, and that “this would have been his 33rd straight convention.”
He mentioned that Rae was “very much involved with our law students.”
Weitkamp said he was 9 when he met Rae. His father John Weitkamp, with whom he practices, was executive director of PAD for 40 years.
●Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Norman Epstein said:
“I knew Sandy almost since I became an attorney, principally through Phi Alpha Delta, the law fraternity. He was ever giving of this time to new attorneys and law students.”
Epstein went on to say of Rae:
“He was dedicated to upholding the highest ethics of the profession, and was recognized as one of the leading probate attorneys in the region.”
National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws
●Pamela G. Chin, vice president and associate general counsel for Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group, said:
“I first met Sandy when I became a California commissioner for the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1994. Sandy was a giant in his field, a wonderful supporter of many bar associations and an impressive beach volleyball player.”
●A recent president of LACBA’s Barristers, Gavin Hachiya Wasserman, said:
“I first met Sandy in 1999 through the Breakfast Club. Sandy was generous with his experience and advice.
“We would sometimes carpool together to Breakfast Club meetings downtown, and even once to a conference in the Santa Ynez Valley. I remember looking forward to hearing his stories about Ed Shattuck, or politics, or World War II. I drove pretty carefully, remembering that my passenger managed to survive bomber assignments in World War II, so he’d better come out of my car without a scratch.
“Some years back, a vintage bomber flight crew took Sandy up for flight and believe me, his spirit soared.”
●San Marino attorney Mike Montgomery, who was state chair of the Republican Party in 1979-80, said that even though they were “on opposite sides of the spectrum of the Republican Party,” they were close friends. Rae had been chair of the California Republican League, representing the less conservative wing of the party.
●Richard L. Stack of Overton, Lyman & Prince LLP, expressed these thoughts:
“Sandy and I first met in 1973 when I was hired out of law school to be an associate at the firm then known as Darling, Hall, Rae & Gute. He and I were partners until the firm ended in 2006.
Sandy was always supportive and encouraging as a mentor and partner. His commitment to service to the legal profession was legendary. Although lovingly called a “Bar Junkie” by firm members, Sandy’s interests ran much deeper than this term implies.
He dedicated much of his life to the improvement of the profession and the legal system under which we live. A giant of the bar has passed.”
●Mark Sallus, of the San Fernando Valley probate law form of Oldman, Cooley, Sallus, Gold, Birnberg & Coleman, LLP, declared that Rae was what made the local probate bar “one of the outstanding bars in the nation,” adding:
“ He stood for excellence and integrity in all of his actions as a lawyer. Of great importance was how he treated any probate lawyer he met. He welcomed one and all to the ‘Probate Bar’ with enthusiasm, warmth and humor.
“It did not matter if you had practiced one month or thirty years, you were part of this wonderful club, known as the LA Probate Bar.”
Sallus, a member of the delegation to the Conference of Delegates, went on to say:
“I worked with Sandy my entire carrier both as a probate attorney and as a member of the Los Angeles County Bar. His smile made all of us glow with delight and his handshake always brought us into a brighter day.
“His participation in the debates on legislative issues as a member of the Conference of Delegates of the State Bar, gave all of us better insight, while teaching us that civility and tolerance is an important part in discussing differing views.
“Sandy Rae showed by example not only what an outstanding lawyer is, but how to be a good and caring person.”
●James R. Birnberg of Oldman, Cooley, Sallus, Gold, Birnberg & Coleman, LLP, said that he and Rae “worked together as lawyers, as co-panelists on many education programs, and as participants in state and local bar association activities for many years.”
He recounted that for at least 28 years, he and Rae participated in an annual dog and pony show—“we never decided who was which,” he quipped—on legislative developments in probate law.
“One of my fondest but probably most obscure memories is his and my futile attempt, in 1980, to convert California’s inheritance tax into a stand-alone estate tax,” Birnberg said.
●Another member of the delegation, Deputy Los Angeles Public Defender Mark Harvis, said:
“Sandy may have been on the old side physically, but he wasn’t really old. He was certainly mentally sharp. He retained his passion for what he believed in.”
“What a joy he was to be around.”
●Former LACBA president Harry L. Hathaway, quoted by Danziger, is of counsel to Fulbright & Jaworski LLP. He reflected:
“Sandy was a wonderful man. I always respected this knowledge of the law, his modest but avowed conservatism and the love and respect he showed for his devoted wife, as they were inseparable until she passed on several years ago.
“He set an example for all of us in the legal profession and the greater community.”
●Another former LACBA President, Gretchen Nelson, now a State Bar Board of Governors member-elect, termed Rae “a wonderful friend of the bar and a incredible mentor to many on so many fronts.”
●Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Arnold H. Gold, who presided over the Probate Department, had this insight:
“Sandy was brilliant. A few years ago Sandy and I were serving together on the Judicial Council’s Probate & Mental Health Advisory Committee when the staff to that committee announced at a committee meeting that the Legislature was about to enact a bill that would provide graduated filing fees for probate cases. The bill was in fact enacted a few days later.
“The announcement was greeted with generalized grumbling about unfairness, but Sandy immediately announced: ‘They can’t do that. It’s in violation of the initiative measure that repealed the inheritance tax–it’s an inheritance tax masquerading as a filing fee.’ Only Sandy spotted that issue. And that was exactly the ground on which the Court of Appeal subsequently ruled the graduated filing fee illegal.”
●Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eric E. Younger brought to mind that it was “right around 1952” that he first met Rae. Younger said that it was “when my dad returned to practicing law in Los Angeles from his Korean War interruption.”
(His father was Evelle J. Younger, now deceased, who served as California attorney general from 1971-79.)
The former jurist said he would have been 9 or 10 and the time, and remembers that “Sandy was one of those guys who was super around kids.”
Younger related that decades later, “from time-to-time,” Rae “would drop in my courtroom.” He said of Rae:
“What a super guy. I think everyone in town knew and liked him.
“His passing marks a sad day for the legal community.”
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company