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October 30, 2009

John O'Quinn, R.I.P.

John O'Quinn The Houston legal community remains in shock over the death yesterday in a car accident of famed trial lawyer, John O'Quinn. He was 68 years old at the time of his death.

O'Quinn was a remarkably talented plaintiff's lawyer and became one of the wealthiest attorneys in the country as a result. And a controversial one at times, too (also see here).

But those who only knew John through news reports never knew the man. John had a heart as big as Texas, as reflected by his generous donations over the years to the University of Houston, Texas Medical Center institutions and numerous other charitable organizations.

Moreover, John's big heart extended into legal cases, too. Most recently, John took on the case of former mid-level Dynegy executive Jamie Olis, whose criminal case epitomizes the brutal nature of the government's criminalization of business in the aftermath of Enron's demise.

After taking on the case, John told me that his review of many of my blog posts on the Olis case was one of the reasons that he decided to take on the case. He never received a dime for the work he did on the case, but he didn't care a lick. He simply was appalled by what the government had done to a decent young man and his family, and he was intent on doing something about it.

My most recent contact with John was at University of Houston Law Foundation board meetings, which he attended faithfully for many years (he was the law school's largest benefactor). John was a delight to work with at such meetings, intensely interested in what was going on at the law school, but always wonderfully good-natured about the inherent limitations of such boards to do much more than raise money and encourage the Dean to hire good people.

My lasting memory of John will be leaving our last such meeting together, talking about the Olis case as we walked to our cars. We observed to each other on just how difficult it had become to be a wealthy businessperson in America. He cracked that it was almost enough to turn him into a criminal defense attorney.

Make no doubt about it, John O'Quinn was one of the most talented trial lawyers of his time. His preparation regimen for trial was legendary, and his ability to connect with jurors was the best that I have ever seen in the courtroom.

I will miss John very much.

Funeral arrangements for John O'Quinn:

Viewing Tuesday, November 3, 4:00pm to 8:00pm
George H. Lewis Funeral Home
1010 Bering Drive
Houston, Texas 77057
(713) 789-3005

Funeral Wednesday, November 4, 11:00am
Second Baptist Church
6400 Woodway
Houston, Texas 77057
(713) 465-3408

Update: Links on Q'Quinn's life and death:

John Council and Brenda Sapino Jeffreys

Rick Casey

Observations of colleagues

O'Quinn and the medical community (see also here)

Q'Quinn's environmental legacy

Q'Quinn's real estate investments

O'Quinn's car collection with Tim Spell's anecdotes

O'Quinn's obituary

Mary Flood on O'Quinn's funeral

Posted by Tom at October 30, 2009 12:01 AM |



My understanding is that the accident occurred this morning. I had the intriguing and wonderful opportunity of being a competitor in the final round of the John Black Moot Court Competition at UHLC. John O'Quinn was the judge; 20 minutes of being interrogated by him. What an experience!

It is hard to believe he is gone.

Posted by: Daniel Goldberg Author Profile Page at October 29, 2009 9:23 PM

Giving him credit for the good things you say he did, I still consider him and his legacy a net negative.

Posted by: steve sturm Author Profile Page at October 29, 2009 9:52 PM

"We observed to each other on just how difficult it had become to be a wealthy businessperson in America."

John O'Quinn may have been a well meaning man. But it's time for a reality check. He did enormous damage to the American economy. O'Quinn donated vast sums of money to the anti-capitalist Democratic Party. This harsh fact cannot be overlooked.

Posted by: David Thomson Author Profile Page at October 30, 2009 10:49 AM

Thanks Tom. Nice post. To know OQ was to respect him for his passion and intellect. He stood up to monied interests for those who lacked the resources. He will be missed.

Posted by: plhughes Author Profile Page at October 30, 2009 7:09 PM

Tom you're very kind.

"...his ability to connect with jurors was the best that I have ever seen..."

His wife thought so.

Posted by: Kevin Author Profile Page at October 30, 2009 10:11 PM

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