This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Spring 2018 (Vol. 87, No. 1), pp 62–66.
Marvin E. Barkin
Marvin E. Barkin, former chair of the NCBE Board of Trustees (1993–1994), passed away on February 7, 2018. The following is a tribute to Marvin written by Robert L. Potts, chancellor emeritus of Arkansas State University, president emeritus of the University of North Alabama, and former chair of the Alabama Board of Bar Examiners, who chaired the NCBE Board of Trustees from 1994 to 1995.
By Robert L. Potts
Marvin Barkin, highly regarded former chair of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and of the NCBE Board of Trustees, passed away at the age of 84 on February 7, 2018. Known for his sharp mind and quick wit, Marvin was a lawyer’s lawyer, providing superb legal services to his clients and extraordinary work for his law firm colleagues and the profession. He was my dear friend and collaborator during our years on the NCBE Board of Trustees, as I described in the essay I wrote for “Reflections from Past NCBE Chairs” in the September 2017 issue of the Bar Examiner.
Marvin was born in 1933 in Winter Haven, Florida, a city then of approximately 7,000, in the midst of the Great Depression, to Isadore and Jean Barkin. Known for its 50 lakes (half of which are interconnected by canals), mild climate, area citrus groves, water sports, spring training site for major league baseball teams, and some 30 parks, Winter Haven boomed during the 1920s but later fell on hard times, and its population declined during Marvin’s childhood.
The Barkins operated a dry-goods store in Winter Haven. Marvin was expected to work in the family store after school and during vacations. According to family lore, he spent more time at the back of the store reading books and dreaming of becoming a lawyer than he did helping out with the business. He was an excellent and popular student, graduating from Winter Haven High School in 1951 as a class officer and with several awards, including the Faculty Outstanding Service Award. Matriculating at Emory University in Atlanta as a political science major, Marvin was editor-in-chief of the school paper and president of his fraternity, and he had an academic record that gained him admission to Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1958. He made the highest score on the bar exam in Florida that year.
Marvin obtained a judicial clerkship in Miami and met his beloved Trudy there. They were married, and after concluding his clerkship he accepted a job as an associate with a leading Tampa law firm. He made partner in that firm, but he and several other young attorneys left in 1970 to form their own practice group, now known as Trenam Law, a major law firm in the Tampa Bay area with over 80 attorneys. Marvin made his mark as a renowned litigator in complex civil cases, and as managing partner of the firm for many years. He received awards for his excellent legal work from a number of prestigious organizations. He never retired.
Although he slowed down a bit as he aged, Marvin still kept regular office hours until a few months ago and was the go-to person in the firm for wise counsel on thorny issues of all types. His able and trusted assistant for many years, Patti Sutherland, spoke to him every day. The week before he was admitted to the hospital, she told him she was going to bring some papers to his house for him to sign for a client, and, quick-witted as always, Marvin retorted, “And what will you have, Scotch or whiskey?” Upon his death, his Trenam Law colleagues described him as “a brilliant lawyer, an engaging storyteller, [and] a practical leader with incredible judgment” and as having “a gift for demonstrating loyalty, showing confidence in others, and transferring [to] them his judgment and passions.”
Marvin’s contributions to the profession included, in addition to his outstanding service on the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and the NCBE Board of Trustees, chairing the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission and the Eleventh Circuit Committee on Lawyer Qualifications and Conduct.
In spite of his many professional accomplishments and dedicated public service, Marvin would tell you that his family was his greatest achievement. Beautiful Trudy, who could match him intellectually quip for quip, is a much better golfer and a more dedicated bridge player than was Marvin, who, because of his love for her and not the games, nevertheless played golf and bridge with her frequently. They raised three accomplished children, Tom, Michael, and Pam, who—with their spouses, Robyn, Chantal, and Daniel, and six grandchildren—brought them much joy and happiness.
Marvin, old friend, you left us too soon. We shall never forget how diligently and effectively you served the bar examining community with your splendid service in Florida and nationally. In many ways, bar examining, by its very nature, is thankless work, but the opportunity my wife Irene and I have had to make close personal friendships with people like you and Trudy reminds us that selfless service for the greater good brings its own intangible rewards that are impossible to replicate elsewhere. Rest in peace. You have been a good and faithful servant to your family, friends, clients, professional colleagues, and the thousands of bar examinees and lawyers who have benefited from your good work.
Marygold (Margo) Shire Melli
Marygold (Margo) Shire Melli, Voss-Bascom Professor of Law Emerita at the University of Wisconsin Law School and former chair of the NCBE Board of Trustees (1989–1990), passed away on January 6, 2018. The following is a tribute to Margo written by Robert L. Potts, chancellor emeritus of Arkansas State University, president emeritus of the University of North Alabama, and former chair of the Alabama Board of Bar Examiners, who chaired the NCBE Board of Trustees from 1994 to 1995.
By Robert L. Potts
Margo Melli, esteemed Voss-Bascom Professor of Law Emerita at the University of Wisconsin Law School, first woman chair of the NCBE Board of Trustees, and remarkable pioneer and role model for women in the legal profession, passed away at the age of 91 on January 6, 2018. Those of us who worked with her during her many years of dedicated service to NCBE remember especially her leadership role in developing and promoting the Multistate Essay Examination—a concept Margo first proposed when she was serving on the Board in 1982 and which led to her generally being viewed as the “mother of the MEE.” Margo also served for nearly 20 years as a member of NCBE’s Editorial Advisory Committee, which evaluates content for the Bar Examiner.
Margo’s interest in, and commitment to, bar admissions began in the late 1970s when she became a member of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin agency now known as the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners. She was ahead of her time in encouraging the concept of uniform testing that eventually came to fruition years later as the Uniform Bar Examination: in the 1980s, she was the author of an essay in the Bar Examiner on the future of the bar examination in which she predicted the creation of the UBE.
Margo was born on February 10, 1926, to Osborne and May Shire in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, a town of approximately 7,000 lying among picturesque lakes and wooded hills near the confluence of the Wisconsin and Pelican Rivers in the Northwoods area of Wisconsin. The family eventually settled in Madison when Margo was in the sixth grade. By the time Margo was in the eighth grade, she had developed a strong interest in politics and decided she wanted to become a lawyer. Matriculating at the University of Wisconsin with a major in international relations after graduating from high school, Margo walked a considerable distance to class each day to save the five-cent bus fare. She was an excellent student and named to Phi Beta Kappa before transferring to the UW Law School during her senior year.
As one of the few female students in her law class, she was well accepted by her male classmates (especially Joe Melli, whom she married upon their graduation in 1950!) and by the faculty, making the Law Review and graduating second in her class of 191 students. However, in spite of her excellent academic record, the dean of the law school (who controlled the hiring process at that time) would not recommend her for an interview with a law firm because, he said, “None of these firms would hire you. Why should I waste their time?” Likewise, she was discriminated against when applying for other law-related jobs in the Madison area but finally landed a fellowship with a new Legislative Council, an agency set up to study existing laws and proposed legislation and to recommend revisions to improve state laws in Wisconsin, which began by revising the Wisconsin Criminal Code.
She excelled in her position with the Legislative Council, was hired on a permanent basis, and was later employed by the Wisconsin Judicial Council. In those posts she made many important friends, including members of the UW Law School faculty who collaborated with her on various law reform projects. In 1959, she was the first woman in the history of the UW Law School to be offered a tenure-track teaching position.
Professor Melli quickly made her mark in American legal education by choosing what was then called “domestic relations” (now known as family law) as her field and then developing the curriculum in that area at the law school into a robust family law program, while also being very active in her specialty both nationally and internationally. She worked closely with then Assistant Professor Frank Remington on a revolutionary new idea concerning juvenile delinquency and co-authored a casebook with Remington and others presenting an entirely new approach to criminal and juvenile justice administration. Widely published, she authored or collaborated on scores of books and articles and became a highly regarded expert in the fields of family, juvenile, and criminal law. She also served as assistant dean of the UW Law School.
Balancing her teaching, research, and professional career with family responsibilities (she and Joe, who died in 2014, raised four children, one of whom preceded them in death), she nevertheless found time for mentoring and public service. Likewise, she and Joe were serious students and supporters of the arts, and they found time to travel the world widely, especially after their retirement from Joe’s active law practice and her professorship.
Margo’s contributions, both as a scholar and as a role model for women, have been widely recognized. Among many other honors, she received the University of Wisconsin System Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of Women in Higher Education and the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, an award that recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of women lawyers who have excelled in their field and have paved the way to success for other women lawyers. In 1994, the Legal Association for Women of the State Bar of Wisconsin established the annual Marygold Melli Achievement Award to recognize and celebrate individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the interests of women in law.
Farewell, Margo, and thank you for your signature accomplishments during your academic career—and specifically for your service to NCBE. You were a lady of high intellect, good humor, and impeccable style through it all. Your well-lived life will be long remembered and much celebrated by your family, friends, and colleagues. Generations of law students and lawyers to come will benefit from your vast body of scholarly work, and your example will continue to inspire women lawyers well into the future.
John W. Reed
John W. Reed, Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Michigan Law School, longtime chair of NCBE’s Multistate Bar Examination Evidence Drafting Committee, and five-time keynote speaker at NCBE’s Annual Bar Admissions Conferences between the years 2004 and 2014, passed away on March 6, 2018. The following is a tribute to John written by Hon. Solomon Oliver, Jr. Judge Oliver, who is a current member of NCBE’s MBE Evidence Drafting Committee, sits on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and is a past chair of the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
By Hon. Solomon Oliver, Jr.
I am honored to have this opportunity to pay tribute to Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law Emeritus John Reed of the University of Michigan Law School, who recently passed away at the age of 99. I first came to know John in 2001 when I was invited to join NCBE’s Multistate Bar Examination Evidence Drafting Committee, which John had chaired from its inception and which he continued to chair until 2003, after which he then served on the committee for four additional years. I was delighted to land on this committee. I saw it as an opportunity to learn from some of the best professorial minds in the field of Evidence and hopefully provide some practical insights from my judicial and other experience in the process of crafting appropriate questions in our subject area. I was not disappointed. I continue to serve on the committee to this day. I think it was largely John’s approach to the leadership of the committee that made its meetings enjoyable from the beginning. Our rigorous examination, refinement, and sometimes jettisoning of one another’s draft questions were always done in an egalitarian manner and in good spirit, enhanced by John’s sense of humor and clever quips.
Though I had great respect for John right away, that respect grew into admiration as I learned more of his long and distinguished career, a career that showed great promise from the start. After equipping himself with a law degree from Cornell Law School, a Jur.Sc.D. from Columbia Law School, and a few years of practice at a prominent Kansas City, Missouri, law firm, John embarked on a stellar academic career that lasted half a century, mainly at the University of Michigan Law School, though it was punctuated with visiting professorships at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Chicago, NYU, and San Diego. He also served as the director of the Institute for Continuing Legal Education at the University of Michigan; dean of the University of Colorado Law School; and, after his “retirement” from Michigan, dean of Wayne State University Law School.
John was an outstanding teacher, primarily of Civil Procedure and Evidence, and he garnered many teaching awards. Beyond the esteem in which John was held in academia, he was also one of the most respected members of our profession—deservedly so. While he was forever focused on the law school’s primary mission of preparing students for the practice of law, he was interested in efforts to ensure that the bar exam competently tested for admission and that continuing education on developments in the law and in professional responsibility was provided by the bar associations, law schools, and other entities. He was personally and intimately involved in such efforts.
John was a sought-after speaker not only at legal education conferences, but at bar associations and judicial conferences. His speeches at the annual meetings of the International Society of Barristers, for which he became administrative secretary in 1981, were renowned for their clear and compelling articulation of ethical and moral norms to this group consisting of lawyers from both inside and outside the United States. He was a keynote speaker at five of NCBE’s annual Bar Admissions Conferences between the years of 2004 and 2014. John always had a broad and uplifting message about the importance of lawyers in our society. In his keynote address at NCBE’s 2004 Annual Conference, he spoke of the “tension between the practice of law as means-of-livelihood and the practice of law as means-of-service.” Recognizing that such tension was inevitable, he viewed it as the responsibility of all lawyers in whatever sphere to work hard to make sure that the law business remained a profession. He spoke eloquently about the responsibility of lawyers not just to be competent and ethical in a narrow sense, but to model professional responsibility in their deeds and interactions.
John was not just an exceptional professor and a stalwart member of our profession, but a good man who cared deeply about his wife Dot and their family. He also cared for his friends. He saw law as a noble calling that provided an opportunity to do good. I am honored to have had him count me among his friends.
The five keynote addresses delivered by Professor Reed at NCBE’s Annual Bar Admissions Conferences may be found in the following issues of the Bar Examiner. Professor Reed’s keynote address from the 2011 conference, titled “On Being Watched: Modeling the Profession during Uncertain Times,” is also reprinted in this issue.
- 2004, New Orleans, LA: “Send Me,” 73(3) The Bar Examiner (August 2004) 6–11.
- 2007, San Diego, CA: “The Challenge of Change,” 76(3) The Bar Examiner (August 2007) 6–12.
- 2009, Baltimore, MD: “The Optimism of Uncertainty,” 78(3) The Bar Examiner (August 2009) 6–12.
- 2011, San Francisco, CA: “On Being Watched: Modeling the Profession during Uncertain Times,” 80(2) The Bar Examiner (June 2011) 6–10.
- 2014, Seattle, WA: “Preserving the Soul of a Changing Profession,” 83(2) The Bar Examiner (June 2014) 6–11.
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