Yale University

In Memoriam

Charlie Pulaski
1964 graduation

Charles A. Pulaski, Jr.

Charlie Pulaski died on June 21, 2012, after a long battle with cancer. After a fourteen-year career teaching law at Iowa and Arizona State, he had become the senior tax partner at the firm of Snell & Wilmer, based at the firm's Phoenix office. Here are several remembrances of our classmate.

Obituary, New York Times

July 1, 2012

Charlie Pulaski
Snell & Wilmer website

Charles ("Charlie") A. Pulaski, Jr., passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, at age 70, on June 21, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The cause of death was complications from lymphoma.

Charlie was born in Flushing, New York, and raised in nearby Port Washington by his late parents, Charles A. Pulaski, Sr. and Mary Ann Spencer Pulaski. He prepared at Taft, Watertown, Connecticut and the Leys School, Cambridge, England. A 1964 graduate of Yale College, he received an L.L.B. degree from Yale Law School in 1967. At Yale Law School, he was a member of the Order of the Coif and an Editor of the Yale Law Journal. While at Yale College, Charlie met and married his best friend, Linda Holden, with whom he shared his life for the next 47 years.

After graduating law school, Charlie served as a law clerk for Judge Robert Zampano at the District Court of Connecticut before entering private practice as an associate with Tyler, Cooper, Grant, Bowerman & Keefe in New Haven, Connecticut.

Charlie later served on the faculties of University of Iowa College of Law (1972-1980) and Arizona State University College of Law (1980-1986), where he won numerous teaching awards. He wrote and published a case book in 1982: Criminal Pretrial and Trial Procedure: Cases & Materials. In 1983, he co-authored Equal Justice and the Death Penalty: A Legal & Empirical Analysis with David Baldus and George Woodworth. The study examined the presence of racial discrimination in death penalty sentencing and has been widely cited by legal scholars and jurists. It was also the centerpiece of the Supreme Court's 1987 decision in McClesky v. Kemp.

While teaching at Arizona State, Charlie's focus shifted from criminal procedure to tax law. He became a tenured professor of tax law, helping young lawyers appreciate the complexity of the tax code.

In 1986, Charlie left academia to join Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was senior tax partner at the time of his passing. A substantial part of his practice was representing corporations, businesses, and individuals in controversies with the IRS or state tax authorities. At Snell & Wilmer, he continued to be an educator, mentoring many young attorneys in the tax group, whom he fondly referred to as his "tax kids."

Charlie was active in the American Bar Association Section of Taxation serving as Director of its Council from 2004-2007 and Chair of its Standards or Tax Practice Committee from 1994-1996. He was a fellow at the American College of Tax Counsels. This month, in recognition of his accomplishments, the State Bar of Arizona honored Charlie with the Henry Tom Outstanding Tax Attorney Award. Never wavering in his belief that all people deserve representation to ensure justice, Charlie served on the Board of the Arizona Capital Representation Project, a non-profit organization representing indigent persons facing the death penalty in Arizona.

Outside of the law, Charlie was passionate about many things, including politics and current events, education, economics, baseball, sailing, running, tennis, squash, spending time on Cape Cod with his family, and meals filled with good food, lively conversation, and boisterous laughter. A true academic at heart, he believed that "being bored is the worst sin" and posted another memorable quote on his dresser mirror: "I'm not retiring. Once you turn it off, you're dead. I exercise and I have my vodka. And I have a good time."

By far his greatest love was his family and friends. He was a genuine, gentle, deeply loyal and thoughtful man who always went the extra distance to make everyone feel special. He will be deeply missed for his wonderful spirit, keen intelligence, caring nature, and razor-sharp wit.

Charlie is survived by his wife, Linda, beloved daughter, Alison, and son-in-law, John Carter, his sister, Betsy Mertens, and nephews, Chris Milk and Jeff Mertens. He is also survived by his new grandson and namesake, Charles Holden Carter (b. May 3, 2012), who, since the moment of his birth, was the light of Charlie's life, bringing him great joy and much comfort.

Charlie was a loving husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, teacher, advocate, counselor, mentor, author, and friend. He lived a life worth celebrating. His family will continue to honor his life and his accomplishments with memorial services in Cape Cod this summer and in Phoenix this fall. To pay tribute to Charlie's commitment to law and justice, the family has created an endowment with the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. The Pulaski family requests that, in lieu of flowers, gifts be made in memory of Charlie Pulaski to the endowment. Donations should be sent to: The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, P.O. Box 879901, Tempe, AZ 85287. Checks should be made out to the ASU Foundation-Pulaski Memorial.

Remembrance by Gerry Shea '64

Given at a memorial service at Dennis, MA, on September 8, 2012

Early on in college, I looked around at classmates and thought, or hoped for my own sake, that they were all ordinary mortals.  But as I began to watch Charlie Pulaski more closely, when we roomed together Junior and Senior year, I realized he was not.  An athlete, a scholar, a student coveted as a potential teacher by the economics department, a superb writer, destined to become, as we all now know, a nationally preeminent teacher and leader of the bar.  Charlie was also blessed, of course, with a delightful sense of humor, often self-deprecating for all his talent, and full of affection for his five roommates, as we were all for him.

Charlie could be insistent, at times, upon the strength of his own point of view, at those rare moments where his eloquence failed him, but only because the issues were thoroughly subjective ones.  One day, for example, we had an extensive, sometimes heated, discussion of the relative musical merits of Ludwig van Beethoven versus The Platters.  Charlie could be a harsh mentor too, where he was master of a subject and I was empty-handed, as on the day in our living room in Timothy Dwight College when he was trying to explain to me how economies chose between "guns" and "butter," in the old Samuelson graph that tried to make things easier for us.  But I had problems even with that simple concept and Charlie couldn't get the idea through to me.  Finally, in frustration, he said, "Gerry, see that musket on the wall?"  We did indeed have such a musket, for our roommate Brad's mother had had our suite of rooms decorated, and the musket was full of ancient gunpowder.

"Yes, I see the musket," I said.

"Well, I have a class now, but I'll be back.  While I'm gone, try to eat the gun."

"Eat the gun."

"Yes.  And after that, go to the fridge."

"To the fridge."

"Right.  And try to shoot yourself with the butter.  Then we'll talk some more."

Charlie went on, of course, to be a star at Yale Law School, an editor of the Law Journal, a consummate teacher and professor of law, an author of textbooks and other works, a superb litigator, a specialist with few, if any, equals in whatever he chose to do.  He was a writer of such grace that his words haunted Justice Lewis Powell to the extent that after he retired, Justice Powell said the only decision he regretted was a capital case in which he wrote the five-to-four majority opinion.  That decision condemned to death a man whom Charlie was, in effect, trying to save.  The work of Charlie and his colleagues had persuaded the dissenters — Justices Brennan, Blackmun, Marshall, and Stevens — to vote not to execute a man because of the racial inequities in our "system" of capital punishment.  But when Justice Powell finally saw the light, it was too late and the man was gone.

How we miss Charlie, no longer breathing the same air as we, here in his beloved Dennis, looking out as he did over the sea from the Cape's northern shore.  But we all remember him vividly and dearly, all of us here, as we look fondly upon Linda, Alison, John Carter, and Charlie's grandson, our new Little Charlie. What a great destiny awaits him!

We his roommates remember Charlie, of course, as a fellow collegian, through memory's haze, and now also as a cherished, accomplished, virtuous man — lawyer, teacher, and intimate friend — who lived his personal and professional life to the fullest.  Let us strive that ever we may live our lives as well as he. 

Remembrance by Bahar Schippel, colleague

I am saddened to report the passing of our good friend and partner Charlie Pulaski, who lost his long battle with illness this morning. As you know, Charlie served on the Tax Section Council for a number of years and is a good friend and colleague to many of the folks on your email list. Charlie joined Snell & Wilmer in 1986, following a distinguished academic career as a professor of law at the University of Iowa and Arizona State University. Charlie led our tax group with acute intelligence, humor, and sage counsel. He will be greatly missed by those of us fortunate to know him.

On a recent occasion at a firm retreat, I had the chance to pay tribute to Charlie as my mentor. I have attached a copy of my remarks which may give greater insight into what Charlie meant to me and those of us that worked closely with him. I am sure everyone will always remember Charlie very fondly.

As we wrap up the portion of our program where we acknowledge the special contributions made by members of our Snell & Wilmer family, I thought it would be appropriate to take this time to say a few words about another member of our family who means a great deal to me and to all those he has worked with over the years — Charlie Pulaski.

Charlie needs no introduction to most of us.  For those of you that don't know him, he is a partner in the tax group and a Mentor Hall of Fame member.  He joined the firm back in 1986 after teaching law at the University of Iowa and Arizona State University.

As many of you know, Charlie has been ill for some time and our thoughts are with him and his extended family. Despite being ill, I understand that Charlie is quite happy these days because of the recent arrival of Charlie Jr., which has made Charlie a first-time grandpa.

During the past quarter of a century, Charlie has given freely of his time, energy and wisdom to many of us in this room and to countless others.

My father passed away early in my life. As a result, Charlie became, in essence, much like a second father to me. He was always armed with a fresh box of Kleenex when I would arrive at his office in tears with what I believed was a personal or professional crisis. And as with any good father, he always helped me realize that the problem was not as bad as I had thought, steered me in the right direction towards a solution, and stressed the importance and value of trusting my own instincts and judgment.

With no offense intended to any Bruce Springsteen fans in attendance today, Charlie is known as "The Boss" within our tax group. And we all strive for "favorite tax kid" status from our leader. I cannot speak of Charlie without mentioning his calm, patient manner; his meticulous approach to the needs of his clients; his uncanny ability to uncover unique solutions to complex matters; and his devotion to colleagues, friends and family. Those who work closely with him are familiar with his "heavy red pen" and while it is in our attorney DNA to question any critique of our communications, I feel safe in speaking for others when I say that his comments and insight always improve our work product and make us stronger and more effective attorneys.

Charlie, the friend and mentor, has made me a better attorney.

Charlie, the person, has made me a better human being.

And while Charlie is not able to join us this weekend, I know he would want all of us to have fun, to catch up with old friends, to forge bonds with new contacts, and to learn from one another. Good advice for this retreat. Even better advice for life.

We love you Charlie.

Thank you.

Remembrance by Terence Cuff, friend

I pass along Bahar's note with considerable sadness. I met Charlie Pulaski differently from Bahar.

I met Charlie when he deposed me in a rather acrimonious real estate case in Arizona. I suppose that you are not supposed to particularly like the other side's litigation counsel — particularly the counsel who deposes you. Charlie, however, was irresistible — and totally professional. I grew to know Charlie as a friend afterward. He was a true gentleman of the old school of tax lawyers — an old school that soon could disappear if we are not careful.

Charlie was an absolutely lovely guy. You just could not dislike him. Charlie also was a highly esteemed tax professional. I suspect that Charlie also was important in helping Bahar and others at Snell & Wilmer grow in the profession of law. Charlie showed that you could be both a first-rate tax professional and a wonderful person.

Those who knew Charlie will miss him. Those who did not know Charlie missed a class act.

Remembrance by the Arizona State University's College of Law

Charles A. Pulaski Jr., a former faculty member at the College of Law and senior tax partner at Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, died on June 21, following a lengthy illness. He was 70.

Pulaski had a distinguished career from 1980 to 1986 at ASU and, before that, as a law professor at the University of Iowa. ASU law professor Robert Bartels taught with Pulaski at Iowa, where each taught large sections of first-year students in two classrooms connected by a door. The pair often competed for laughs from students, door open.

"He did disgustingly well," recalled Bartels, the Charles M. Brewer Professor of Trial Advocacy at the College of Law.

When Pulaski interviewed at Iowa, Bartels remembered one of his colleagues remarking, "He was great, but we are going to have to rough off some of the smooth edges." Reflecting on his longtime friend's life, Bartels noted: "The smooth edges never got roughed off."

In addition to being a fine teacher, Pulaski was a dedicated scholar. In 1983, he co-authored a study examining the presence of racial discrimination in death-penalty sentencing. Bartels called it "one of those truly seminal pieces, the first really good study of its kind, which is still an influential model for how people study these kinds of issues."

Dean Douglas Sylvester said he hadn't had the pleasure of meeting Pulaski, "but he was obviously beloved by many, and his passing is a tremendous loss for his family, friends, and the legal community. We are developing an appropriate way to honor him here at the College of Law, and details are forthcoming."

Robert Clinton, the Foundation Professor of Law at the College of Law, also taught alongside Pulaski at Iowa in the 1970s.

"He was a superb professor, absolutely dedicated to students, teaching, and scholarship," Clinton said. "He was well-liked by everyone, and he had a very analytical mind. He gravitated from teaching criminal procedure at Iowa to tax at ASU, I think, because he liked the complexity of the tax code."

Pulaski left academia in 1986 to join Snell & Wilmer, where he was senior partner in the tax group at the time of his death. A substantial part of his practice was representing corporations, businesses, and individuals in controversies with the IRS or state tax authorities.

But he continued on as an adjunct professor at the College of Law for many years.

John Bouma, chairman of Snell & Wilmer, said in an announcement, "Charlie led our tax group with acute intelligence, humor, and sage counsel. He will be greatly missed by those of us fortunate to know him."

Pulaski is survived by his wife, Linda, a daughter and son-in-law, and a grandson, Charlie. Details about memorial services are forthcoming.