Ballard Spahr Marks the Retirement of Charlie Stillman, Defender of High-Profile Clients in White Collar Cases
It’s the end of an era for the New York white collar defense bar with the recent retirement of Ballard Spahr litigator Charles A. Stillman, whose distinguished six-decade career was marked by defense of high-profile clients as well as dedication to colleagues, family, and community.
A New York Law Journal Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Mr. Stillman stood out in the bustling, hyper-competitive New York legal market through his work as lead trial counsel for well-known clients. They included New York Mayor David Dinkins in a stock deal investigation and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon—founder and leader of the Unification Church—in his tax evasion and conspiracy trial. Other high-profile defendants who turned to Mr. Stillman for their defense included former Defense Secretary Clark Clifford; Sol Wachtler, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals; and Jose Maria Marin, former head of Brazil’s soccer federation. As a testament to his skills, Mr. Stillman also handled scores of matters that never made the news because he is so effective at averting charges for his clients in the first place.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Stillman handled an impressive number of high-profile and high-stakes cases. He represented Fortune 500 corporations and other major international business entities, as well as CEOs, senior officers, and the controlling stockholders of privately held conglomerates. In addition to state and federal trial and appellate courts, Mr. Stillman appeared before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the New York Stock Exchange, and the National Association of Securities Dealers (now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or FINRA), among many others.
Despite the demands of his practice, Mr. Stillman found time to serve as a mentor to scores of lawyers, give back to people and organizations in need, and elevate the New York legal community. He volunteered with the Legal Aid Society of New York, the New York Police Athletic League, and the Anti-Defamation League. For many years, he organized the annual legal luncheon for American Friends of The Hebrew University, which remains an important fundraiser. He was one of the founders of the New York Council of Defense Lawyers (NYCDL), which fosters dialogue between prosecutors, the bench, and defense lawyers.
Mr. Stillman received numerous awards and accolades for legal prowess as well as dedication to community and the profession. They include Brandeis University’s Louis Dembitz Brandeis Medal for Distinguished Legal Service, the Police Athletic League’s Robert M. Morgenthau Award, the NYCDL’s Norman Ostrow award, and the Anti-Defamation League's Human Relations Award.
“Charlie is, without dispute, a dean of the New York Bar,” said Marjorie J. Peerce, who worked with Mr. Stillman for 36 years and who serves as Managing Partner of Ballard Spahr’s New York office—a position previously held by Mr. Stillman. “He’s an outstanding trial lawyer—as well as the ultimate gentleman and a consummate professional. Clients love him, judges love him, and so do his colleagues.”
Mr. Stillman earned his law degree in 1962 by attending night school at the New York University School of Law—while working as a courtroom bailiff during the day. He clerked for the Honorable Irving R. Kaufman in both the Southern District of New York and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1962, he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District. There, Mr. Stillman developed his trial skills while arguing numerous cases, including major tax and securities fraud prosecutions, in trial courts and on appeal, before moving on to private practice.
At one firm, Mr. Stillman met Julian Friedman, a young associate, and in 1977 they established Stillman & Friedman, a white collar defense firm in Manhattan. Over more than 35 years, Stillman & Friedman developed a reputation for excellence, including as a firm that helped developed young lawyers into future legal leaders, such as Ms. Peerce and James Mitchell, a Ballard Spahr litigation partner and longtime colleague of Mr. Stillman’s.
In 2013, Stillman & Friedman merged with Ballard Spahr, creating Ballard Spahr’s New York office. The firm and the New York legal community mourned Mr. Friedman’s passing in August 2022. Mr. Stillman was a partner until 2018, when he transitioned to senior counsel and continued to work on cases until his retirement at the end of 2022.
In recognition of the contributions of Messrs. Stillman and Friedman, the main conference rooms in Ballard Spahr’s New York office have been renamed in their honor. A dedication and celebration of them is planned for March 2023.
“Charlie’s legacy is one of outstanding trial advocacy, honor, and integrity,” firm Chair Mark Stewart said. “When we met Charlie and Julian in 2012, we were drawn to their reputation and obvious decency. Joining forces with them to create our New York office is one of the best moves Ballard Spahr has ever made.”
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