Legends of the Month Nov '12
Of the many tremendously successful attorneys to graduate from Colorado Law over the decades, Moses Lasky, was one of the most successful. During his 66 years in practice, Lasky became nationally renowned as a brilliant trial and appellate lawyer, arguing numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
A Denver native and the son of Polish immigrants, Lasky entered the University of Colorado as an undergraduate student in 1922 at the age of 14. He was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society during his junior year and graduated magna cum laude and first in his class in 1926. He paid for much of his education during the depression by walking through Texas, Idaho, the Dakotas, and Colorado selling veterinary manuals to farmers. He earned his law degree from Colorado Law by the time he was 20. Lasky was too young to sit for the bar exam after graduation, so he enrolled at Harvard Law School where he completed a master of laws degree with high honors in 1929. Following Harvard, Lasky headed west to San Francisco and landed a job at the firm of Brobeck, Phleger, & Harrison where he eventually became a senior partner. Lasky founded his own firm–Lasky, Haas, Cohler, & Munter–in 1979, where he practiced until his retirement in the late 1990s.
Over the course of his career, Lasky represented many notable clients, including Howard Hughes, the Oakland Raiders, J. Paul Getty, Westinghouse, and Union Oil Company. He first came into national attention in 1946 with the Dollar v. Land case involving the Dollar Steamship Line that had been appropriated by the government during World War II. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, following which the Court of Appeals held the Solicitor General of the U.S. and the Secretary of Commerce in contempt.
He appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court 47 times and presented oral arguments in six of those cases. In a 1971 appearance before the Supreme Court, Lasky’s oral argument succeeded in changing several justices’ view of the case and relevant constitutional issue, an accomplishment so rare that it prompted a commentary piece in the Washington Post called, “The Impact of a Skillful Lawyer.” In 1979, Lasky made headlines again when the New York Times and other national papers reported on a federal appeals court ruling upholding payment of a $1 million attorney fee to Lasky in a case that settled out of court. A San Francisco judge and former partner of Lasky’s once remarked that Lasky was “the best lawyer I will ever see in my lifetime.”
Civic involvement was a high priority for Lasky. He served as a trustee of the San Francisco War Memorial, which operated the San Francisco Opera House, and he was president and a longtime board member of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In addition, Lasky served on the board of San Francisco’s Temple Emanuel, home to one of the two oldest Jewish congregations in California, and was a member of the board of overseers for Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. In the 1960s, he co-chaired San Francisco’s blue ribbon crime commission and served on the board of San Francisco’s Exploratorium. He chaired the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Advisory Board and was a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. In 1990, he received the American Bar Foundation’s Outstanding Service Award for adhering to fifty years of the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession and to the service of the public.
Lasky also remained deeply involved with the University of Colorado and the law school until his passing in 2002. Colorado Law bestowed an Honorary Order of the Coif on Lasky in 1963, and he received University of Colorado’s University Medal in 1983. In 1996, he received an honorary doctorate from CU. Lasky established the Moses Lasky Scholarship at Colorado Law, which provides support for students who make outstanding contributions to the legal profession. The Moses Lasky Professorship at Colorado Law, named in his honor, is one of the school’s highest faculty distinctions.