Monday, August 26, 2019
By a MetNews Staff Writer
THOMAS E. HOLLIDAY
Thomas E. Holliday, a retired partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, has died at the age of 71.
Memorial services were scheduled to be held yesterday at the California Club.
Holliday died Thursday from complications of pneumonia.
Kenneth M. Doran, chairman and managing partner of Gibson Dunn—from which Holliday retired in 2009—said in an email to members of the firm on Thursday:
“Early in his career, Tom developed a strong interest in white collar work, in large part, I think, because it presented so many opportunities for him to try cases which was his true passion. Tom single-handedly spearheaded our white-collar practice and served as its chair for many years. Today, the seed that Tom planted has mushroomed into the strongest white collar practice in the world.”
‘Larger Than Life’
“Tom had a larger than life personality. He was passionate about weightlifting and often described, with a lot of truth, as the ‘strongest man in Century City.’ In the old days, he could often be seen holding court and telling tall tales with his many close friends and colleagues at Jade West in Century City and Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills. Tom had many friends and was always intensely loyal to them.”
Holliday studied law at the University of Southern California, serving as executive editor of the law review. Admitted to the Order of the Coif, he received his law degree in 1974.
That year, he joined Gibson Dunn, and remained at that firm for 35 years.
In 1971, he served on the Counsel for the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, known as the “Christopher Commission,” formed in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, and chaired by attorney Warren Christopher (who later served as secretary of state).
Holliday was named “Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year” by the Century City Bar Association in 1997. The attorney was a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and was a past chair of the Federal Bar Association.
He is survived by his wife, Marci Holliday; his daughter Devon Pothier, son-in law Jeremy Holliday, and their five children; and by his son, Trey Holliday and his wife, Jenny Holliday.
Reminiscences About Tom Holliday
By Rob Bonner
(Robert C. Bonner was a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher from 1993 to 2001, and again from 2005-07. He has served as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (1989-90), head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (1990-93) and commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service (2001-05).)
HEN TOM HOLLIDAY passed away last Thursday, the Los Angeles legal community lost a titan and a visionary who changed the shape of law practice at big firms. His energetic and innovative presence will be missed.
I met Tom in 1976 when he was a young, dewy-eyed associate at Gibson Dunn and about third chair below the redoubtable antitrust lawyer and Gibson Dunn partner, Julian Von Kalinowski, defending a record company in an antitrust price-fixing grand jury investigation. I was with Kadison, Pfaelzer & Quinn which represented another record company targeted by the Antitrust Division. It was, as they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
It is a little known fact but this case inspired Tom to convince the Gibson Dunn elders (called the “Executive Committee”) that the firm should begin a white collar defense practice. It seems hard to believe now, but back then the major firms had no white collar defense lawyers; they referred all criminal defense issues involving their clients to boutique criminal defense lawyers, mainly former Assistant U.S. Attorneys, like Tom Sheridan, Steve Miller, and Bob Talcott. They wouldn’t want to have some indicted criminal sitting around in their office lobbies. God forbid. Back then, the white shoe firms looked down their noses at anything smelling of potential criminal liability.
BUT TOM SAW IT DIFFERENTLY. Somehow Tom convinced the elders and began building a white collar practice at Gibson in the late 1970s, long before the other major firms. Later he recruited me and many other talented lawyers to join the GDC white collar practice group, delicately called by Gibson “the Business Crimes practice group.” He was singularly instrumental in developing a formidable white collar practice at Gibson Dunn. It is now a significant part of Gibson Dunn’s practice, and that of many other major firms as well.
Tom represented someone in just about every major white collar case in the U.S. Attorney’s Office when I was U.S. Attorney. General Dynamics was one of the notable cases and it was through Tom’s efforts—working with the late Max Gillam—uncovering evidence unknown to the government that led to the dismissal of that case against all four defendants.
After Tom recruited me to join Gibson Dunn in the early 1990s, he insisted that I co-chair the white collar practice group with him, as he developed and expanded the practice group so that we had strong expertise and presence not just in Los Angeles, but in Gibson Dunn’s other major offices, New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and so on.
WHAT WAS MOST FUN is that I got to work with Tom on any number of grand jury investigations and we even tried a case together. The case involved the federal charges against Heidi Fleiss. After a two-week jury trial, we ultimately persuaded Judge Connie Marshall to give Heidi a sentence concurrent with her state sentence.
I recall that during a lunch break when we needed to prepare our client, Tom asked me where we should go to lunch. We didn’t have much time, and I knew that Tom was a member of the California Club. So, I suggested the California Club, and Tom, without missing a beat, said “sure.” I will never forget the look on the faces of the men in the California Club when Tom and I entered the main dining room with Heidi Fleiss in tow. Necks were swiveling so fast that I feared for the cervical spines of some of the elderly gentlemen sitting at one of the tables. And of course we were seated next to a table with Catholic cardinal. Oh, my, there was an audible buzz in the room. Incidentally, at Tom’s insistence, Heidi was demurely dressed for trial; a nice conservative gray flannel dress, as I recall.
Evidently bringing a 30 year old female client, often referred to in the media as the “Hollywood Madam,” did not go over well with the Club’s Membership Committee. That afternoon, Tom got a call from the chair who was furious and said, as Tom told it:
“Do you realize who you brought to the Club for lunch today?”
And Tom responded: “You mean Rob Bonner?”
Tom then suggested that it was not inconceivable that some of the outraged members may have been Heidi’s clients. That must have been a telling argument. Pointing out hypocrisy often is. The threat to toss Tom out of the California Club quickly dissipated.
Tom skillfully represented any number of clients, many big corporations and CEOs, not quite so famous, or infamous, as Heidi. That was Tom though. No airs. Big-hearted. Full of life. Full of energy and laughter, he never took himself too seriously. He was a gifted trial lawyer, always at ease in a courtroom trying cases, which he so loved to do. And he changed the dynamics of big firm law practice.
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