Jenner Leader Jerold Solovy, 'Fierce Litigator with the Heart of a Public Servant,' Dies at Age 80

Jerold Solovy, a renowned Jenner & Block leader celebrated for his litigation and boardroom skills, his pro bono representation of prison inmates and the unfailing charm and courtesy with which he treated everyone from the titans of industry to elevator and newsstand operators, died suddenly yesterday morning at his home in Florida. He was 80 years old.

“He was a fierce litigator with the heart of a public servant who took great pride in the fact that much of his work was based on referrals from former opposing counsel,” Anton Valukas, Jenner’s chairman, tells the Chicago Sun-Times.

“We’ve lost one of the finest lawyers in the history of Illinois,” says Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Solovy’s son, Stephen, says the cause of death was cardiac arrest, reports the Chicago Tribune.

After graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1955, Solovy practiced at Chicago-based Jenner his entire career, a law firm press release recounts. He served as chairman of the firm from 1990 to 2007.

Among the many high-profile public interest matters on which he worked, ranging from the “Baby Richard” adoption case eventually decided by the Illinois Supreme Court to helping clean up the state’s corrupt courtrooms as chair of a reform commission, Solovy called his role in Witherspoon v. State of Illinois the biggest milestone of his life. It achieved a landmark 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that jurors with qualms about the death penalty could not routinely be excluded from capital cases.

Solovy also showed his litigation skills in small matters, too. Defending his first wife, Dolores Kohl of the Kohl’s department store family, after she was issued a speeding ticket, he persuaded a judge to dismiss it, she tells the newspaper. “He told the judge that if he lost this important case, he probably wasn’t going to get dinner that night.”

He is survived by his second wife, Kathleen Hart Solovy, four children and eight grandchildren. Arrangements are still pending.

Additional coverage:

Crain’s Chicago Business: “Jenner & Block’s Jerold Solovy has died”

Madison County Record: “Peel’s case was a last one for renowned litigator”

Updated at 1:06 p.m. to include Tribune information about cause of death.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.