Legal legend Roger M. Adelman was a trial lawyer in DC for more than 40 years. He passed away in September 2015. Earlier in the year, he was honored with the Justice Potter Stewart Award from the Council for Court Excellence. The entire room rose to give Roger a standing ovation after he was presented the award by former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
Roger was a giant in the law, Dick says—not only because of his impressive height—and commanded a lot of respect and love. He had a physical presence in the courtroom that was hard to overlook, but his brainpower was even greater.
Roger spent 18 years as a US assistant attorney. He tried more than 200 cases as a prosecutor and was known for his thorough preparation and presence in the courtroom. Roger was well known as the chief prosecutor of John Hinckley, who attempted to assassinate President Reagan; the case led to changes in the insanity defense. In another high-profile matter, Roger helped prosecute Rep. Richard Kelly as part of Abscam. He was awarded the US Attorney's Office's highest honor: the Harold Sullivan Award.
He called being an AUSA "the best job a trial lawyer will ever have."
In '88, Roger joined Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, the firm that later became K&L Gates. He later left the firm to start a solo practice litigating complex civil cases, such as class actions against Enron and the tobacco industry. In 2003, he was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers.
For 25 years, he taught at Georgetown Law, where he received the Charles Fahy Distinguished Adjunct Professor Award. After his passing, former students recalled him as an inspiring professor who was unfailingly giving of his time, kindness and knowledge.
A tribute to Roger was held in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, where he'd argued many cases. It's rare for such a proceeding to be held, we heard, but Roger was an exceptional lawyer. Lawyers filled the seats to pay tribute to Roger. Many of them had known him for decades, having met and been impressed by Roger along the course of his long legal career.
The Honorable Paul Friedman, second from left, presided over the program in the ceremonial courtroom at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse. Other speakers included Stephen Grafman, Jerry Spinelli, D. William Subin, Patrick Coughlin, Denise Simmonds, Kenneth Robinson, David Sanford, James Lyons and Daniel Toomey.
Roger had been close friends with the late Judge William Bryant, after whom an annex to the courthouse is named. Judge Bryant's son William "Chip" Bryant Jr., left, was in attendance, as was Georgetown Law professor Sherman Cohn, with whom Roger co-founded the William B. Bryant American Inn of Court in '87.
Roger's first big case, according to his Legends in the Law profile, was with Steve Grafman in '73, co-prosecuting a man who shot senior US Sen. John Stennis. Steve, second from left, remained a close friend of Roger's for the rest of his life.
Jerry Spinelli, an author, had been lifelong friends with Roger since the two were children in Norristown, PA. In addition to having a brilliant mind, Roger was known for his talent in sports. He was inducted into Norristown High School's Hall of Fame for football, and received a scholarship to Dartmouth, where he lettered in football and rowing. Roger then went on to the University of Pennsylvania Law School, after which he served as a Russian linguist in the US Army.
Among the many attendees at the memorial, Roger was remembered as a man of great integrity, talent, graciousness, steadfastness and dedication.
Many had stories of times Roger went out of his way to help his colleagues, students and friends. Those ranged from memories of Roger staying late into the night to help them refine their courtroom technique; to bringing bagels and cream cheese to his evidence students at Georgetown Law for a Saturday 8am class; to traveling many hours to a wedding in upstate New York, even after he had to abandon his car, which had broken down along the way.
Roger was also a mentor to many. One longtime friend brought in this copy of a newspaper she'd saved from 1978, when Roger spoke to her high school class. She tells us that she skipped school for the first and only time to visit the US Attorney's Office the next day. That inspired her to become a lawyer. Roger was her friend and mentor since.
Roger attended her high school graduation. Then, when she graduated from Howard University, Roger flew back from Berlin—where he had been representing the US in a criminal case involving an airplane highjacking—to surprise her at the ceremony. She went on to attend Georgetown Law, where Roger was one of her professors, and later worked for him. She would meet up with Roger every year for the rest of his life to celebrate his birthday.