Published October 04. 2012 4:00AM
Mark Kravitz was a judge of exceptional wisdom, a lawyer of great skill and a human being of exemplary kindness and consideration. U.S. District Court Judge Kravitz, of Guilford, died Monday after a courageous, but futile battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. To the end, he loved the law and the bench and did everything in his power to keep working. He was 62.
As a lawyer, he especially defended free speech and the First Amendment that provided it to Americans. Throughout his law career at Wiggin & Dana in New Haven, he could always find time to take on good causes pro bono, especially when the cause involved the rights of citizens to know what their government was doing.
The Day owes a particular debt of gratitude to Mr. Kravitz. In a close case, he was the brilliant lawyer who saved The Day in federal District Court from the over-reaching aggressiveness of the Internal Revenue Service. Had The Day lost that tax case the company would have likely been sold to a chain, depriving the region of its independent newspaper.
In the 1984 case then Attorney Kravitz argued in Hartford before federal Judge Jose Cabranes. The IRS claimed that the newspaper could not legally benefit from the income of The Day Trust when the trust consisted simply of the stock of the newspaper. Mr. Kravitz persuasively argued that the late publisher, Theodore Bodenwein, set up the trust in this fashion to protect the newspaper from predatory purchasers, care for his immediate family during their lifetimes and return some of the newspaper's profits to regional charities thereafter. The judge ruled that it was clear Mr. Bodenwein's intent was not to dodge taxes, but to protect the newspaper so it could fulfill its purpose of serving the community.
The Day was fortunate to have such a skilled attorney acting in its defense. Honors came early to Mr. Kravitz when he was selected to clerk for Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court (later Chief Justice Rehnquist). He similarly was honored when the current chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., appointed him to head the federal Advisory Committee on Civil Rules. But it was in the everyday ho-hum of life that Mr. Kravitz distinguished himself as a human being who respected and aided others.
Former Day Editor and Publisher Reid MacCluggage said of Mr. Kravitz, "I always held him to my heart. He was a gentleman and a great First Amendment champion."
Mitchell Pearlman, retired executive director of the state Freedom of Information Commission, remembers him this way: "There was no better lawyer, no better judge and no better person."
Colleen Murphy, the current executive director of the state Freedom of Information Commission, said of Judge Kravitz: "I will forever admire Mark Kravitz and be glad that our paths crossed, even briefly, in life. As others have commented, Mark was exceptionally smart - you knew that after spending one minute with him. But, he was so much more. He was always dignified, thoughtful, gracious and unassuming. We were fortunate he was in our midst."
Mark Kravitz was generous, thoughtful and gracious to everyone. His was a life well spent.