Phillip Scott Ryan ’61 was born in San Francisco on Oct 18, 1939. When he was 7 years old, his father, a court reporter, took him out of school so he could watch criminal trials, and especially the work of celebrated San Francisco attorneys like James Martin McGinnis, Jake Erlich, and Vincent Hallinan. He learned two lessons: Some of the best attorneys were celebrities themselves, and that words matter. Phil developed into a powerful and successful trial attorney and cultivated a flamboyant style. When his opponent in a murder case had the victim’s family wear red carnations to court, Phil, for the defense, had his client’s friends wear white carnations. His closing arguments were legendary. After a stint in the Army, he went to the South in the last days of legal—and not so legal—racial discrimination. He said later it was the defining moment of his life. When that summer of 1964 was over, he enrolled in the Howard University law school. Howard is a historically black college and, for the first time in his life, he was a member of a minority group. He opened a law practice in San Francisco in 1970, defending drug dealers and antiwar demonstrators, and became an expert on wiretapping and LSD cases. For a time, he shared a law office with Willie Brown Jr., then a young lawyer and rising political star. Phil also helped organize antiwar marches and free rock concerts associated with marches. He got to know many top entertainers and his career turned to entertainment law. The San Francisco Chronicle called him “San Francisco’s Rock ’n’ Roll Lawyer,” and he ultimately represented celebrity clients like Robin Williams, Sylvester Stallone, Huey Lewis, Grace Slick, and the Jefferson Starship. His clients also included record producers and agents and sports stars. One of his last big cases came in 2003, when he was a member of the defense team representing San Francisco Police Chief Earl Sanders who, with nine other officers, was accused of conspiracy as a result of a brawl between cops and citizens. It was a sensational case—dubbed “Fajitagate” because the beef started over some Mexican snacks—and was Page One news for months. Sanders was the city’s first African-American police chief and an old friend of Phil’s from his days as a young lawyer. Phil was particularly proud of the result: an unprecedented “factual finding of innocence.” After the Sanders case, Ryan retired after 37 years of legal work to write. His first novel, All Sins Remembered, about a San Francisco murder case, was published in 2008. He was working on a new novel, about Belle Cora, a noted 19th-ntury San Francisco figure, when he fell ill. The book is going through the editing process. Phil died on July 20, 2018, at the age of 78. He is survived by his wife, Dina Bitton; daughter Kelly of Sacramento; son Padraic of Oakland; sisters Camille Pulsoni of Pacifica and Suzanne McLean of Oakland; and five grandchildren.

08 Nov 2018