Caplin & Drysdale Mourns the Passing of Peter Lockwood

Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered

We are saddened to report that Peter Lockwood, who spent his entire legal career at Caplin & Drysdale, passed away on October 24th at the age of 77 after a long illness.

It is an understatement to say that Peter was an extraordinary and brilliant lawyer. He graduated from Harvard College and then Harvard Law School. Peter joined Caplin in 1968 after clerking in the First Circuit and then for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and remained at the firm for 48 years until he retired in 2016.

Peter was a pioneer of the firm’s commercial litigation practice. He joined the firm to practice tax law (as did most in the late 1960’s), but soon volunteered to assist a tax client in what was thought to be a limited engagement involving the client’s investment in an Oklahoma oil drilling enterprise. Peter was then appointed as a member of the committee of counsel representing plaintiffs in a related larger case. The case lasted for 23 years. In the course of the nationwide discovery, numerous settlements and a few trials, Peter became acquainted with Elihu Inselbuch and recruited him to the firm. This began a close partnership of nearly 30 years of work on some of the most complicated mass tort bankruptcies in history. Peter’s intellect and analytical advocacy skills were a core component of the firm’s litigation group and our many successes in these cases. He was a true mentor to the many lucky Caplin lawyers with whom he worked over the years.

Peter is also famous in the lore of the firm for arguing the seminal Supreme Court case of Caplin & Drysdale v. United States, where, on a 5-4 vote, the Court ruled against the firm and held that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel did not protect a criminal defendant from the forfeiture of assets used to pay legal fees. In addition, he represented many clients in other federal and state litigation matters, and appeared in front of numerous trial and appellate courts. Few people were better at parsing complicated issues for judges than Peter.

Peter’s contribution to the firm extended far beyond his client work. He served in various management roles over the years, and maintained a keen interest in preserving Caplin’s culture of collegiality and excellence. Through his innate sincerity and sense of fairness, Peter could pierce through any issue and contribute invaluable insight, while at the same time bringing the house down with laughter. Peter was someone any lawyer in the world would want as a law partner, and as a friend.

We extend our sympathies to Peter’s family.

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