Arlin Adams, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and an active member of the Philadelphia Jewish community, passed away peacefully in his home on Dec. 22.
Arlin Adams, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and an active member of the Philadelphia Jewish community, passed away peacefully in his home on Dec. 22. He was 94.
He was a renowned lawyer, jurist, public servant and civic leader.
He spent 18 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and three years as secretary of the Department of Public Welfare under then Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton.
Adams also managed President Richard Nixon’s 1967 presidential campaign in Pennsylvania, who then in turn nominated him to the federal bench.
President Gerald Ford considered nominating Adams to the Supreme Court; the vacancy ended up being filled by now-retired associate justice John Paul Stevens.
Before his time on the bench, he served as senior partner of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, one of Philadelphia’s largest law firms.
He returned to the firm after his retired from the bench in 1987.
He then retired from the firm in 2013 after devoting much of his time to matters of public interest.
Adams was also known for his post-judiciary roles in legal cases.
He dealt with complex litigation matters, including class action litigation and punitive damage matters.
From 1994 to 1995, he conducted the investigation of the Pennsylvania attorney general for alleged criminal activity and for Fox Chase Cancer Center for allegations of improper medical research, according to information provided.
In 1995, he was appointed as a trustee in the New Era bankruptcy case, the largest nonprofit bankruptcy at that time.
Prior, he was appointed as chair of the commission by then Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey investigating the prison riot at Camp Hill, later serving as the Chapter 11 trustee in the Coram Healthcare Corp. reorganization in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.
From 1998 to 2002, Adams served as independent counsel in the investigation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that uncovered widespread corruption.
Adams earned his undergraduate degree from Temple University and his law degree from University of Pennsylvania Law School, also earning a master’s degree in economics at each university.
He also served as editor-in-chief of the Penn Law Review.
Carol Kirshner, Adams’ daughter, said he was always hardworking whether as a lawyer or on the bench.
“His work was always extremely important to him,” she said.
“He was always on time for everything and just very aware of living a modest life. He was completely unpretentious.”
Kirshner said Adams and his wife, Neysa, met in high school and spent all of their 74 years together, except for when Adams served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Air Corps during World War II.
Aside from his monumental work on the bench, Kirshner said he was hugely dedicated to Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel — he served as congregation president for several years — and he continued to be active there all of his life.
He was also active with the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
“In spite of his huge accomplishments, he was always so incredibly modest and so incredibly concerned for other people and their feelings and just never ever wanted to inconvenience anyone in any way,” she added.
Arnold Meshkov, current president of Keneseth Israel, got to know Adams more in the past three years.
He and several other Keneseth Israel leaders organized a short film on the history of the congregation, and Adams was one of the 10 interviewees.
“All of the congregation looked up to him — not just the congregation but the Delaware Valley in general,” Meshkov said.
Adams was one of three federal judges who were members of the synagogue. The others were Jan DuBois and Edward Becker.
On the High Holidays, the three judges would participate in the service with Haftorah readings, which he said made the community proud that they were members.
Meshkov said Adams was an admirable man who devoted his life to justice and doing the right thing for others.
“He spoke a lot about his feeling that if you were fortunate enough to have an education and your health, that you were obligated to give back to the community,” he added.
“I think he was the essence of tikkun olam.”
Adams was also instrumental in purchasing the land that the synagogue occupies in Elkins Park.
“He was very committed to Reform Judaism and the belief that you can be Jewish in America and live an American Jewish life with the dual identity that didn’t have any internal conflict with itself,” Meshkov said. “I think that’s what I admired about him a great deal.”
Adams is survived by his wife Neysa, his daughters Carol, Judith and Jane, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Keneseth Israel will host a memorial service in his honor on Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.
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