NatLaw regrets to announce the death of Mr. Philip Alan Robbins, Chair of our Board of Directors since 1994. He passed away peacefully on March 20, 2018, after a brief illness. Phil was a 1956 graduate of the University of Arizona’s James E Rogers College of Law. After law school, Phil clerked for a U.S. District Court Judge in California, before moving back to Tucson where he eventually founded the firm of Robbins, Green, O’Grady and Abbuhl with several colleagues. In the later years of his career, Phil was a Special Counsel to Jennings, Strouss and Salmon, and to Sandweg and Ager, P.C. During his career, Phil specialized in trial litigation as well as in (domestic and international) arbitration and mediation.
Phil served in leadership roles in a number of professional, business, and cross-border organizations. He was Past Chair of the State Bar of Arizona International Law Section, Past President of the Arizona Trial Lawyer’s Association, Past Chair of the U.S.-Mexico Bar Association, Past President of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, Past President of the Border Health Foundation, Past President of the Arizona Business Alliance, and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He was a member of the Board of Visitors of his alma mater, the James E. Rogers College of Law, and a member of the Arizona Supreme Court’s Arizona-Sonora Judicial Cooperation Project. He was an election observer with former President Jimmy Carter in Indonesia and Honduras, and an observer delegate to the UNCITRAL Working Group on Arbitration. Phil was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association Hall of Fame in 2010. He mentored many young attorneys and professionals.
Phil was involved with NatLaw from its founding, serving as the Chair of the Board of Directors since inception. In the words of NatLaw’s Founder, Dr. Boris Kozolchyk:
“Phil Robbins was, and will forever remain in our hearts and minds as someone who Spanish speaking people know as “un hombre de bien,” (An honest, decent hard working, man of family and community, always concerned with the welfare of others). And, as if this were little, Phil was a superb lawyers’ lawyer. These attributes explain why he was NatLaw’s sole chairman of its board of directors since the board was created in 1994. His devotion to our institution knew no bounds; during our first years of operation, his Phoenix law office was our second home, where our visits to the governor’s office, the legislature, the Supreme Court and all of Arizona’s administrative agencies invariably had their start. Phil was our tireless advocate for state and federal congressional appropriations and he organized our appearances before our annual state legislative and bar committees. Just a few months ago, once I told him that Senator Flake had expressed an interest in our developmental work in Latin America and Africa and that I was flying to Washington to meet with him, two days later, Phil was with me on my visit to the senator.
And once NatLaw started drafting international commercial treaties and model uniform laws on behalf of the United States at the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), and the European Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), Phil was present at the start of annual or bi-annual sessions at the OAS and UNCITRAL for many years. When developing nations began to adopt our draft laws, he made it a point to visit each of the adopting countries, whether in Latin America or in Africa. In the case of Honduras, he joined our Executive Director, Dr. Marek Dubovec, in his “roadmap” interviews with lessees of Tegucigalpa’s downtown market stalls or with tenant farmers in the countryside, or joined me in meetings with banks and chambers of commerce.
One of his favorite NatLaw projects was the training of Mexican judges and practitioners in the “art and science” of “oral” or “adversarial” trials, which trained more than 1000 judges and lawyers, inter alia, on the skills of oral arguments and examination and cross examination of witnesses. And once I mentioned to him that Mongolia’s government had contacted us about drafting a “model” commercial code that included a training segment on “oral” commercial trials, his response was immediate: “Count me in.”
Many years ago, while he was still a very active legal practitioner, I asked him whether he had anticipated the degree of his involvement with NatLaw’s activities. I will paraphrase his reply as closely as I can: “You once told me that you had learned from your mentor at the University of Michigan that by comparing the commercial laws of countries in the right manner, the world had an ideal device with which to resolve the practical problems of justice. As soon as I saw the impact that NatLaw’s work was having on the lives of poor people around the world, I knew that this work was part of my life’s mission.” Dear Phil: Well said and well done!”
Phil is survived by his loving wife, Carolyn; his daughters Jennifer Robbins, Phylis Robbins, Susan Robbins (Tammy Perkins), Melanie Davis, and Lauri Jordan (Laura Somerville); by his sister, Marian Kohl; by his nephew and niece, Brad and Barbara Kohl, and their father John Kohl; and many other relatives, dear friends, and colleagues.
A Celebration of Life service will take place Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 2:00pm at Orangewood Presbyterian Church, 7321 N. 10th St. Phoenix, AZ 85020. Please visit www.almoore-grimshaw.com to leave condolence messages for the family.