The Talent

June 28, 2010 5:45 PM

Fried Frank Counsel Martin Ginsburg Dies at 78

Posted by Claire Zillman

Martin Ginsburg, counsel at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, Georgetown University law professor, and husband of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died Sunday from cancer, according to obituaries in The New York Times and the Blog of the Legal Times, an Am Law Daily sibling publication. He was 78. 

"Marty played an instrumental role in [Fried Frank's] tax practice and also played a vital role in the education of many future lawyers and in the development of tax policy," Fried Frank chairperson Valerie Ford Jacob said in a statement. "His professionalism and wit will be missed."

According to the New York Times obituary, Ginsburg, a Brooklyn native, met his wife on a blind date during their undergraduate days at Cornell. They married in 1954 and enrolled in Harvard Law School a year apart. He graduated in 1958. After two years in the Army, Ginsburg joined Weil, Gotshal, & Manges in New York. In the 1960s, he taught part-time at New York University Law School and full-time at Columbia Law School.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993, acknowledged that without the strong personal and political support of her husband she might never have risen so far, the Times reported. Justice Ginsburg described her husband as a "master chef" who often baked for other justices' birthday luncheons, the BLT wrote. (Ginsburg's Fried Frank bio notes that his spouse "was a lawyer before she found better work.")

Ginsburg started working in Fried Frank's Washington, D.C., office and the Georgetown University Law Center in 1980, the same year his wife was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. As an expert in tax law, he represented many high-profile clients, including presidential candidate Ross Perot, and served as an adviser for government tax panels, the Times said.

When Ginsburg started at Fried Frank, he was responsible for founding the firm's D.C. tax practice. Alan Kaden, a former student of Ginsburg's at Columbia, was one of the young attorneys Ginsburg recruited to join the new practice group in 1981.

"I came to Fried Frank because of Marty," said Kaden, now chairman of the D.C. tax department, "Everything I know today I learned from him, either in the classroom or at the firm."

Ginsburg officially retired from the firm in February 2009, but came into the office regularly afterward, until his health began failing. 

Kaden said Ginsburg was, at the very core, a teacher. "He would have the entire tax department squeeze into his office because he wanted to show us something, as if he was in a classroom," Kaden said. "Some people say he was best as a professor. Others say he was best as a practitioner of tax law. I would say they're both right." 

In addition to his wife, Ginsburg is survived by daughter Jane, a Columbia law professor, son James, a classical music producer, and four grandchildren.

Georgetown University Law Center has set up a remembrance page for Professor Martin Ginsburg. It can be accessed by clicking here.

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