Ralph Spritzer, emeritus professor at Penn Law, died January 16, 2011, at age 93.
“Ralph epitomized the very best of the legal profession,” Penn Law Dean Michael A. Fitts said. “He was a gifted teacher, a generous mentor to generations of law students, and a superb lawyer renowned for his elegant, quietly persuasive presentation style. He will be greatly missed.”
Professor Spritzer joined the Penn Law faculty in 1968 and retired in 1986. He taught courses including civil procedure and antitrust, served as faculty advisor to the Keedy Cup Competition, oversaw applications for judicial clerkships and directed students in the Indigent Prisoner Litigation Program.
Before he became a law professor, Professor Spritzer had a distinguished career in government service. From 1962 through 1968, he served as the Solicitor General’s Office first assistant, the equivalent of chief of staff. He also was general counsel to the Federal Power Commission (1961-62), assistant to the Solicitor General (1953-61), an attorney in the Antitrust Division (1950-53) and to the Office of Alien Property (1946-50) at the US Department of Justice, and served from 1941-46 in the Judge Advocate General’s Department for the US Army.
Professor Spritzer’s career before the Supreme Court began in 1951, when he argued three cases as an attorney in the Alien Property Division of the Justice Department. He argued more than 60 cases before the US Supreme Court, prevailing over the majority of them.
Among the most notable of Professor Spritzer’s Supreme Court advocacy efforts were the widely publicized “sit-in” cases of 1964, which involved convictions under state criminal trespass laws of African American men who had been refused service in restaurants or lunch counters and then remained on the premises after being asked to leave. Convinced that the Court was not prepared to issue a broad ruling, Professor Spritzer argued for reversal of the sit-in convictions on narrow grounds. His advocacy proved effective in three of the four cases and has been credited with helping preserve the momentum of the civil rights movement until Congress could address the public accommodations issue in its 1964 legislation.
Professor Spritzer received his bachelor and law degrees from Columbia University. He co-authored the casebook Introduction to Legal Method and Process. After his retirement from Penn Law, he moved to Arizona and became a visiting professor at Arizona State University College of Law, where he taught until recently.
Professor Spritzer is survived by his son, Ron, L’81; daughter, Pam; and granddaughters, Kathleen, Rebecca and Ade.
Contributions may be made in his memory to the Arizona State University College of Law at law.asu.edu/give