The Legal Aid Society Mourns The Loss Of Two Former Presidents Who Were Leaders Of The Bar
FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015

The Legal Aid Society suffered the loss of two great leaders who were former Presidents of this 139-year-old organization that has served New York City’s poor . Federal Judge Robert P. Patterson of the Southern District, whose remarkable life was devoted to public service, passed away Tuesday. Leon Silverman, a tenacious litigator who was involved in the desegregation of schools in Little Rock, Ark., was fondly remembered at a memorial service on Wednesday. Mr. Silverman passed away January 29.

The Legal Aid Society was the beneficiary of the great wisdom and devotion of these two leaders who gave so willingly of themselves. Judge Patterson served as President of The Legal Aid Society from 1967 to 1971. Mr. Silverman followed as President from 1971 to 1973. Both men devoted many decades of service to The Legal Aid Society, serving on its Board of Directors as members and as officers.

Judge Patterson was remembered as a great American who was an outstanding lawyer and a great human being. His roots to The Legal Aid Society began with his father who served as a director and officer before becoming a Federal Judge of the Southern District, who later served as Assistant Secretary of War in 1940. Young Judge Patterson grew up knowing great jurists such as Learned Hand and vacationed with their families.

Staff of The Legal Aid Society praised Judge Patterson for his rulings regarding inmates in the City jails and prisoners. Many recalled his outstanding service to the poor.

Leon Silverman proudly identified himself as an “adversarial person.” His advocacy on behalf of The Legal Aid Society is legend. “There isn’t any reason why we shouldn’t be able to give someone who is poor the feeling that he is being given the same rights as someone with money,” he would say. He represented a host of well known persons during his career. In l984 in a unanimous decision in Blum v. Stenson, the United States Supreme Court recognized the importance of The Legal Aid Society, stating that the Society “enjoys a wide reputation for the devotion of its staff and the quality of its service.” At stake was the amount of attorneys’ fees awarded under the Civil Rights Attorneys Fees Awards Act. Leon Silverman argued that case on behalf of The Legal Aid Society.