April 24, 2015: New York State Bar Association Mourns Passing Of Former President Robert P. Patterson, Jr.

The New York State Bar Association today extends its sympathy to the family and friends of U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson, Jr., who served as its president from 1978 to 1979. He passed away April 21. He was 91.

“Robert Patterson used his intellect, energy and legal skills to pursue justice as a prosecutor, private attorney, investigator of Attica prison uprising, State Bar president and federal judge,” State Bar Association President Glenn Lau-Kee. "His legacy of public service is an inspiration to all attorneys."

His devotion to public service began during World War II when he left Harvard College to join the Army Air Corps. He was lead navigator on bomber missions over Africa and Europe and later was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. At the time, his father and namesake (who founded the law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler in 1919) was U.S. assistant secretary of war;  he later became secretary of war. 

The younger Patterson graduated from Harvard in 1947 and earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1950. His career included two stints as assistant U.S attorney for the Southern District of New York, and as a staff attorney for the New York State Crime Commission (waterfront investigation). 

As an attorney in private practice at Donovan, Leisure and later Patterson Belknap, Mr. Patterson continued to devote his energies to public service. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan appointed him as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  In 1998, he assumed senior status, but continued to be active on the bench until shortly before his death.

A longtime member of the State Bar Association, Mr. Patterson chaired its Special Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice and served on committees on Court Congestion, Legal Aid, the Bill of Rights, Professional Responsibility, and Penology. He was a Fellow of The New York Bar Foundation.

As the Association’s president, Mr. Patterson championed the legal needs of the poor and unrepre-sented, reminding fellow attorneys of their professional responsibility to serve the public good. He called for reorganization of the complex state court system and advocated for long-overdue pay raises for state judges. He grappled with a range of issues, including attorney advertising and the under-employment and unemployment of young attorneys. 

His other volunteer activities included: president, the Legal Aid Society; chairman of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York; chair of Judicial Nominating Committee, First Department; commissioner, Temporary Commission on the State Court System;  vice president, New York City Bar Association; and board member of the New York County Lawyers’ Association.

A wake for Mr. Patterson will be held Friday, April 24 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, 1076 Madison Avenue, New York City. The funeral service will take place on Saturday, April 25 at 11 a.m. at the Church of Our Heavenly Rest, Fifth Avenue at 90th Street, New York City. Memorial contributions can be made to Focus Forward and The Legal Aid Society. 

The New York State Bar Association, with 74,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.

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Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director, Media Services and Public Affairs
Lbang-jensen@nysba.org
518-487-5530