Remembered fondly in the legal profession as a premier trial lawyer and teacher, past NYSBA President Henry G. Miller passed away on April 16 from COVID-19. He was 89.
NYSBA issued a statement that read, in part, “Henry was a brilliant advocate, a larger than life personality and a giant in the profession. For decades he was one of the state’s preeminent trial lawyers, and as a teacher he shared those skills with generations of lawyers. He was gentle and kind and patient. He will be truly missed.”
At the time of his death, Henry was the senior member of the White Plains, N.Y. law firm of Clark, Gagliardi & Miller where he practiced since 1966.
Miller was renowned as one of New York’s most distinguished trial attorneys, handling all types of cases for over five decades, including personal injury, commercial and mass tort cases.
He won many multi-million dollar awards for his clients, including the largest verdict ever in New York for a loss of nurture case in which a single mother was struck and killed by a drunk driver, leaving behind a two-year-old.
John Rand, Miller’s son-in-law who practiced law at his firm with him for the past 23 years, described his courtroom presence as commanding, controlling of witnesses, emotional on some matters and used humor when appropriate.
Rand recalled the time Miller’s opening argument during a federal trial in Westchester caused a juror to cry so hard the court had to take a break.
“His presentations were powerful,” said Rand.
Rand said the defense decided during that break “we better settle this case.” The trial never resumed.
Miller also enjoyed sharing his knowledge of the law by giving continuing legal education programs for NYSBA and many other organizations. One such NYSBA CLE course was aptly titled “The Trial.”
“His CLE’s were something you wanted to go to,” said Judge Jonah Triebwasser, a justice of the town and village courts in Red Hook. Triebwasser described attending Miller’s CLE’s as a “privilege” and said Miller was “a natural born showman” who was also generous of his time with young lawyers.
“He always said that the trial was a search for truth but had to be done ethically,” said Triebwasser. “He was almost Central Casting’s idea of being a trial lawyer.”
Miller wrote and performed many of his own plays, including his one-man show, “All Too Human,” about the life of Clarence Darrow. He performed this off Broadway at the 45th Street Theatre and originally at the White Plains Performing Arts Center, of which he was a member of the board.
Retired Court of Appeals Judge Albert M. Rosenblatt said his friend Miller’s renditions of Clarence Darrow displayed artistry and “an extraordinary humanity that embodied what Henry was all about.”
Rosenblatt said Miller was “a brilliant lawyer and a raconteur who could have after-dinner audiences falling off their chair with laughter.”
Miller wrote articles for the NYSBA Journal and was a past columnist for the New York Law Journal. His book, “On Trial – Lessons from a Lifetime in the Courtroom,” garnered national attention. Johnnie Cochran described it as a “must read.”
NYSBA Past President Justin L. Vigdor (1985-86) served as president the year after Miller did. They worked closely at times on important issues of that era for the legal profession. They were also classmates at St. John’s Law School.
“He could have been with any major law firm in New York City but preferred practicing in a small firm in White Plains,” said Vigdor. “He was an all-around fine person, very intelligent. He made a presence when he entered a room… had great people skills, very warm, caring. He’ll be missed in the profession.”
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