Former chairman of Jenner & Block dies

By Ameet Sachdev
Posted Jan. 19 at 12:50 p.m.

Jerold Solovy, a distinguished Chicago trial lawyer and former chairman Jenner & Block, has died. He was 80 years old.

Solovy started practicing law at Jenner & Block in 1955 after graduating from Harvard Law School. Throughout his career, he balanced a commitment to public interest work with a practice for paying clients.

Solovy represented scores of indigent criminal defendants and devoted himself to capital punishment reform. In numerous interviews, he cited his representation of Bill Witherspoon as one of his proudest achievements.

Solovy, working with Jenner lawyers Thomas Sullivan and Albert Jenner Jr., got a postponement of Witherspoon’s execution just a few weeks before the sentence was to be carried out.

And in 1968 they convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the death sentence because prosecutors had excluded any person who opposed capital punishment from the jury. An estimated 350 people on death row were resentenced following the decision.

Solovy served as Jenner’s chairman from 1990 to 2007 and had been chairman emeritus since.

Solovy grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

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  1. Dean Skora Jan. 19 at 6:09 pm

    Mr. Solovy, as those of us who were privileged to work for Jenner knew him, was as passionate and advocate defender of the law as he was a kind, knowing and gentle presence at Jenner — at least for those of us who served in support (as I did). Even though I took no part in the legal arguments that made — and make — Jenner so famous, Mr. Solovy treated us all with respect and dignity. He always made certain that we all were called to arms to fight the good fight, but yet made it a place where I am still incredibly proud to use the word ‘we’, even after twelve years apart from the Firm.

    I only fault the Tribune’s obituary (which I am sure will be corrected at later moments) because you did not point so many other things he did for the legal system as a whole, and for indigent clients in particular. He was always a man aware of the rewards as well as the obligations of his gifts. My deepest condolences go to his family, as well as to the Jenner family.

    – from Linköping, Sweden
    Dean Skora

  2. Bill Trail Jan. 19 at 7:37 pm

    Okay, Dean Skora, you can remove your head from the old man’s behind–he is gone.

  3. Perry Mason Jan. 20 at 5:34 a.m.

    Okay, Bill Trail, what an incredibly mean individual you are. Have some respect.