YAM Notes: September/October 2021

By Marty Snapp

Well, Victor Ashe didn’t win his race for election to the Board of Trustees, but he clearly got in their heads. On the same day they announced he had lost, they ironically validated the basic premise of his candidacy – the Board’s lack of transparency – by banning nominations by petition, like his, in the future, ending a tradition that dates back to our sophomore year in 1965, when William O. Horowitz ’29 became the first person to be elected after nomination by petition. You can read all about it on our class website, Yale67.org/ (no password necessary).

But whatever disappointment Victor might have felt was quickly replaced by his excitement over another election. The next day, I got this email from him: “Mike Brooks was elected to a four-year term on the Town Commission of Jupiter Island, Florida, with 291 votes over his closest rival at 157! This the first time he has held local elected office. Hope you run this in the next issue of the YAM.” Mission accomplished, Victor. Congratulations, Mike.

Alas, the rest of the news is sad again. On December 22 we lost Terry Batty, a lawyer’s lawyer fueled by a passion for justice, fairness and equality, who died after a long struggle with Lyme Disease. Terry was a man of kindness, keen intelligence, integrity and indomitable spirit, who mentored scores of younger lawyers and college students seeking careers in law.

And he was a profile in courage who held the position of Chief of Appeals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia for 20 years and spent the next 17 years in private practice, briefing and arguing cases, while lying flat on his back confined to his bed by Lyme Disease.

Since childhood, Terry had been inspired by his grandmother’s stories about working as a court reporter in criminal cases. As Chief of Appeals in the U.S. Attorney’s office, he set a standard for no misrepresentation of fact or cases. During his tenure, the office won over 98 percent of its appeals.

Along with his appellate work, he undertook more than 100 of his own trial cases, both in District Court and the Court of Appeals. They focused on art and automobile theft, arson, and tax and investor fraud. He loved taking cases that were considered impossible to solve.

Among Terry’s early high-profile cases was the prosecution of about 60 South Philadelphia protestors who tried to block construction of the Whitman Park low-income housing project. He also handled civil and appeals work resulting from the conflict.

Over the years, he prosecuted many arson cases, including one in which a pizza shop was destroyed by a bomb. He managed to obtain a guilty plea even when there were no live witnesses.

One of his most interesting cases resulted in the recovery of fifteen paintings stolen from Andrew Wyeth’s compound in Chadds Ford, PA. He is also remembered for helping to convict Larry Lavin, the former Philadelphia dentist, cocaine kingpin and tax evader. In another high-profile case, known as the “radio ship Caroline” project, he successfully prosecuted a defendant who was enticing 39 investors in a pirate radio ship that broadcasted to the U.K. from international waters in competition with the BBC.

When his illness forced him to retire in 2004, the library in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia was named in his honor.

In the years following his retirement, Terry was surprised to find he enjoyed his new vocation as a criminal defense attorney, working from home. His desire to seek justice and fairness was just as important to him as a defender as it had been as a prosecutor. Though facing challenges to his health and confined to his bed, he inspired many by his courageous spirit and his ability to maintain a full and engaged life with an active law career.

As a defense attorney in the U.S. District Court, he wrote briefs for 16 criminal cases including two on civil rights/solitary confinement. In 2009 he argued in front of a judge via telephone from his home, and his client’s bank fraud conviction was vacated – a rare defense victory in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. At the time of his passing, he was still representing defendants in major federal criminal cases.

Terry’s passion for justice was especially evident when he played an important role in shaping the arguments and editing the written briefs for the Havlish v. Iran case in the Southern District of New York. This case proved Iran’s direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks and ultimately led to more than $100 billion in judgments for thousands of 9/11 victims.

In his free time, Terry helped his friends and his helpers, donating his time and energy to solve their legal or personal problems. He is fondly remembered for his fascination with cars, his love of classical music and Philly sports teams, and his generous sharing of books with family and friends of all ages.

“Terry was a friend as a law school classmate, part of a good size of our Yale classmates who found Penn an easier and less enjoyable experience,” says John Morris. “He was a good lawyer and a worthy opponent.

“I have a friend who is an assistant U.S. Attorney,” says Penn Glazier. “I asked him if he knew Terry. He said that Terry was a role model and a legend in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

“He and I were ebullient friends in Freshman Year,” adds Narelle Kirkland, “We and got in trouble for chanting, ‘Freshmen, we must unite!’ when we saw most of the class on the quad following the Campus Police’s stupid handling of a football that had lost its way into some tree branches, causing a classmate to climb after it. Terry was full of fun, laughter, and smarts. I miss him already.”

My sincere sympathy to Terry’s family, especially his wife Nancy, whom he fell in love with during his high school days at a summer camp in Maine.