When A. Harold Datz made remarks following his acceptance of the PNC Achievement Award, he thanked people, talked about his life growing up and his commitment, passion and service to the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention and Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association’s board of directors. Having dedicated almost 28 and 30 years, respectively, to both of these groups, it is very difficult to summarize that level of commitment into a six-minute speech. Datz’s speech, funny and heartfelt, gave the audience only a small glimpse of who he really is.
During the speech, Datz explained to colleagues not only what the Commission is, but also his deep appreciation to his fellow Commission members for their role in his receiving this prestigious award. Datz also gave the audience some background about himself and his life growing up in South Philadelphia. He told of being a first generation American, whose parents both dropped out of high school in the 10th grade.
He spoke about how his parents instilled in him and his brother the value of education and service to the community. During my interview with Datz, he spoke about attending grammar and junior high school as a Jewish kid in South Philadelphia; and the prejudice and struggle he faced as being one of the only Jewish kids there. He spoke about his father who grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City worshiping Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, who was a champion of the less fortunate in society.
From these stories and experiences, Harold developed a strong sense of justice and “fighting for the underdog or the ‘have nots.’” That sense of justice underlies why Harold is so willing to help his fellow man.
Last year during the 2015 Chancellor’s Reception, I spoke to a former legal assistant of Datz’s who relayed a story of how he encouraged her to attend law school. Eventually she decided to attend law school and is today a high-ranking attorney for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Her passion in telling the story, demonstrated the effect that Harold had on her life.
Datz was a natural fit to become a trial lawyer and to chair the Commission. He has the ability to see through a haze of issues and personalities and get to the root causes. Datz has been involved with these committees for many years, and has been instrumental in proposing and having enacted significant rule changes to enable the Commission to do its work more efficiently and fairly.
When Datz was asked for a couple of words to describe himself and conclude the interview, there was a pause. He said that with his belief in causes, belief in the success of individuals, particularly the common man, he has the best interests of the Association, family, friends and fellow man at heart.
Maureen M. Farrell (firstname.lastname@example.org), of the Law Offices of Maureen M. Farrell, is a member of the Board of Governors and an associate editor of the Philadelphia Bar Reporter.
This article originally appeared in Philadelphia Bar Reporter, October 2016.