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Tom Monteverde, 91, was prominent Philly lawyer

In 1951 he graduated first in his class, and was valedictorian, at the Dickinson School of Law.

Tom P. Monteverde was a prominent Philadelphia leader and lawyer – and someone who loved life, including dancing.
Tom P. Monteverde was a prominent Philadelphia leader and lawyer – and someone who loved life, including dancing.Read moreCourtesy of the family

As a lawyer, Tom P. Monteverde sought justice for clients prominent and unknown.

He was a skilled advocate, a mentor, teacher, friend, father and husband, and all who knew and loved him in those roles are now mourning his passing.

Mr. Monteverde, 91, died of natural causes Nov. 16 at home in Rittenhouse Square, having worked more than six decades as a lawyer in Philadelphia and, earlier, in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

"Tom Monteverde epitomized the traits a Philadelphia lawyer ought to embody: integrity, intellect and industriousness," said former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, who also was mayor of Philadelphia.

Mr. Monteverde specialized in commercial litigation, often accepting difficult cases for clients who had been unable to find a lawyer to represent them, his family said.

He began his legal career in 1951 as an associate working with his uncle, James J. Burns Jr., at Burns & Burns in Pittsburgh. In 1955 he was recruited to Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis in Philadelphia.

New at the firm, Mr. Monteverde asked, What were the office hours?

William Schnader answered, "From now on."

Mr. Monteverde took that to heart.

"He was the hardest-working, most intense, most-devoted-to-his-client's-cause trial lawyer I have ever known," said Dennis Suplee, a partner at the firm.

In 1970, Mr. Monteverde left the Schnader office to join the firm that became Pelino, Wasserstrom, Chucas & Monteverde. In 1977, Mr. Monteverde established his own firm, Monteverde & Hemphill.

In 2006, what had become the firm of Monteverde, McAlee & Hurd merged with McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP. Mr. Monteverde retired from that firm in 2009.

His cases offer a sense of his legal reach:

He represented the Burlesque Artists Association in a suit against the then-owner of the Trocadero Theater, when it was a burlesque house. He won a $1.1 million settlement over deficiencies in the design of the Piper Twin Comanche airplane in 1969. He later represented tenant associations in at least seven cases that resisted the condominium conversion of large Philadelphia apartment buildings, including One Presidential Boulevard.

In Mississippi, he helped strike a blow against the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1967, Monteverde spent a month in Jackson, providing pro bono legal services through the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.

Before returning to Philadelphia, he devised a novel strategy in the case of Ben Chester White, a 65-year-old African American man who had been lured to a forest and shot to death by three members of a Klan offshoot.

Mr. Monteverde saw the futility of a criminal prosecution in Mississippi state court, and correctly theorized that a civil wrongful death suit could be brought in federal court — resulting in a $1 million judgment against the Klan.

"Tom was an incredibly important mentor to me," said Jean C. Hemphill, a partner at Ballard Spahr. "He taught me how to be a careful and thorough lawyer, to focus most on the facts, and then let the legal arguments flow from there. He very much wanted me, as a woman, to succeed."

Mr. Monteverde was born in Pittsburgh to Josephine Muldowney and Joseph E. Monteverde.

He attended Mount Gallitzin Academy, a boarding school operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh.

At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Shortly after the end of World War II, he served in Austria as an editor and on-air radio presenter of news and sports, retaining a passion for the latter throughout his life and rooting for the Steelers, Pirates, Eagles and Phillies.

After receiving an honorable discharge, Mr. Monteverde earned his undergraduate degree in engineering, summa cum laude, at the University of Pittsburgh.

He considered a career in journalism and enrolled at the Columbia University School of Journalism, but changed his mind after getting lost on the New York subway system. In 1951 he graduated first in his class at the Dickinson School of Law.

Mr. Monteverde was a lifetime trustee of the law school, now the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. For years he directed its continuing legal education program. He received the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1980.

"He was a brilliant litigator," said his son Michael Scullin, a lawyer who worked with Mr. Monteverde for more than 15 years. "No matter who the client was, he left no stone unturned to render the best service for their cause."

Mr. Monteverde, who loved singing and dancing, was devoted to family, raising two of his own children and then three others, when he remarried after the 1960 death of his first wife, Catharine Stauffer Monteverde. He was married to his second wife, Dorothy S. Monteverde, from 1962 until her death in 2000.

In addition to his son Michael Scullin, Mr. Monteverde is survived by his wife, Beverly Faunce Monteverde, by his children Dorothy D. Kaplan, Robert S. Scullin, Margaret Pyne Monteverde and Susan J. Monteverde; by grandchildren Katie and Haley Turner and Jason Poore; and by many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral services will be held at St. Mark's Church, 1625 Locust St., Philadelphia, at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20. Friends may call between 9 and 10 a.m. Burial will be at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, 718 Hazelwood Ave, Pittsburgh. The family suggests contributions to charity.