Death of a Friend – David Shrager

I just learned that David Shrager, a fine gentleman and lawyer from Philadelphia, has died. David is a former President of ATLA and a man I greatly admired. He always took the time to talk to young lawyers and remind them of their responsibility to their clients and the public. He was a giant of the trial bar.

Ken Suggs, the current ATLA President, has sent out a email about David’s death. It is set out fully below.

“ATLA, the legal profession and the vulnerable families we represent have lost an outstanding leader and friend.

David S. Shrager, ATLA President in 1983-84, died this morning in Philadelphia.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his loving family – his wife Joan; his children Deborah and Jay; his stepchildren, Stuart and Steven Gold; and his grandchildren, Ethan, Hannah Nicholas and Alexander.

The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Eastern Time at Ner Zedek-Ezrath Israel-BethUziel Synagogue, 7520 Bustleton Ave. in Philadelphia. Burial will follow at Roosevelt Memorial Park.

I feel a special loss, as David had agreed to my request that he serve on the ATLA Executive Committee this year, where he once again was serving this association with the same dedication and skill he displayed throughout his decades as a member and leader.

It says a lot about someone who asked that he be remembered simply as “an honest lawyer who just tried to help people.” That he was. But David was more than a trial lawyer’s trial lawyer. He never said no to ATLA or its members. He was always available to provide sage advice and invaluable counsel to those of us he generously mentored.

Often he was the first to step up and volunteer to help when help was needed.

When ATLA responded to the tragedy of 9/ll by establishing Trial Lawyers Care, the largest and most successful pro bono legal services program ever undertaken, we frankly didn’t know how we would make it work.

David Shager not only was one of the first volunteer lawyers to answer the call, but also he knew that the project would be expensive. So he convinced his firm, Shrager Spivey & Sachs, to cancel its annual holiday party and contribute its cost to Trial Lawyers Care. Other firms followed his lead.

When ATLA established the Robert L. Habush ATLA Endowment to help assure that the fight to preserve the right to trial by jury and access to the courts would have the resources necessary into the future, David didn’t hesitate.

When the Leaders Forum was created to provide stronger ongoing financial support for ATLA’s mission, David and his firm signed up.

Because he knew that support of candidates who stand up for the civil justice system is essential, he was an ATLA PAC Eagle.

When I asked him to serve on the Executive Committee last summer, there was not the slightest hesitation.

A founder and President in 1971-72 of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, David Shrager also served as President of the Roscoe Pound Institute, 1985-88, and for six years as a member of the Board of Overseers of the RAND Institute of Civil Justice. He was a founding member of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, Chairman of the Civil Litigation Section of the Pennsylvania State Bar Association and a member of the Civil Procedural Rules Committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme court. And, he helped modernize ATLA’s governance as Chairman of its Organization Review Committee.

Teaching and learning were always important to David, who was a 1957 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a 1960 graduate of its Law School. He was a frequent lecturer at law schools and bar associations, as well as an author and editor. David’s commitment to helping his fellow trial lawyers better serve their clients is evidenced by his frequent contributions to ATLA education programs as a Diplomate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

He earned two of the most prestigious awards ATLA confers-the 1995 Harry M. Philo Award for leadership in safeguarding the rights and dignity of individuals through the civil justice system and the 2004 Leonard M. Ring Award for distinguished service in advancement of the mission of the association.

David Shrager was a stalwart in every respect. A stalwart for ATLA. A stalwart attorney who cared for every client and the integrity of the profession. A stalwart family man, husband and father. A stalwart friend.

We shall miss him terribly.


Ken Suggs
President, Association of Trial Lawyers of America”

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