Many Connecticut lawyers were saddened Monday to learn of the death of U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz, who lost his battle with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, at age 62.
When he revealed his diagnosis last year, Kravitz had said he was continued to appear in court and perform judicial duties for as long as possible. Although homebound in recent months, he continued to work on cases, with the aid of his court staff.
“Judge Kravitz’ death is a great loss to our court,” Chief Judge Alvin W. Thompson said Monday. “He’s been a wonderful colleague. Over the years, he’s rendered exceptional service to the court and the bar and the public.”
Kravitz is known as an even-tempered judge who came to the bench after working for nearly 27 years at Wiggin and Dana, where he rose to be chair of the firm’s Appellate Practice Group.
In a brief interview with the Law Tribune just over one year ago, Kravitz spoke clearly, but with evident difficulty. He said he was steadily losing strength in his upper body. “But the doctors have authorized me to run three miles three times a week,” he said, “so my legs are strong right now.”
He had been receiving care at the ALS clinic of the University of Connecticut Medical Center, where he participated in an experimental drug trial. Matter of factly, he explained the state of modern science: “It is what it is. There’s no cure…
“It’s not painful, and there won’t be any pain,” he volunteered in the interview in September 2011, “but it does affect my ability to maneuver around, and my voice.”
Kravitz was a graduate of Wesleyan University and the Georgetown University Law Center, where he was managing editor of the Georgetown Law Journal.
From 2001 to 2007, Kravitz was a member of the Standing Committee on the Rules of Practice and Procedure in the United States Courts, Judicial Conference of the United States. In 2007, Kravitz was named Chair of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules on the Judicial Conference of the United States.
Kravitz from 1999 to 2003 was a regular columnist and commentator for the National Law Journal, a sister publication of the Connecticut Law Tribune, and he taught law at the University of Connecticut School of Law. He was also a lecturer in Law at Yale University Law School for many years.
The Connecticut Bar Foundation recenlty announced it was planning a December symposium honoring Kravitz, which is expected to become an annual event. It had been the hopes of the organizers that Kravitz would be at the inaugural event, Dec. 4 at the New Haven Lawn Club, when a commissioned portrait of Kravitz will be presented.
“The legal community, and indeed the entire country, has lost a great mind and a great human being,” bar foundation President Timothy Fisher said Monday. “He will never be forgotten by the many people whose lives he graced.”
Jonathan J. Einhorn, a New Haven attorney who represents clients with criminal cases in federal court, said he tried a couple of cases in front of Kravitz. “The thing that stands out most, aside from being a brilliant jurist, was he also had a nice human touch, Einhorn said. “He liked people and he actually made me look forward to trying a case with him. He wasn’t a former prosecutor. In other words, he didn’t have any built-in government biases. The thing about Judge Kravitz was, he made you think.”
Judge Thompson said many judges are given memorial ceremonies, but such an event would be up to Kravitz’ family. He added that Kravitz was always exceptional judge and knew his own limitations as his illness worsened. Kravitz had been working from home since July, and his cases, starting with criminal matters, were being reassigned to other judges.
“Judge Kravitz really loved doing the work of a judge,” Thompson said. “As his illness was approaching, he was constantly adapting so that he could continue to do as much work on cases as he could and he derived enormous satisfaction from that. At the same time, he was always very conscious of his limitations and always took steps to make sure his illness didn’t interfere with his ability to do an effective job for the parties in his cases.”
Kravitz was the second federal judge in Connecticut to die this year. Senior Judge Peter C. Dorsey passed away in January.