We Mourn the Loss of Richard Griffin

Oct 16, 2021 | News

Kavinoky Cook LLP mourns the loss of our former partner, Richard F. Griffin, who died, peacefully, on Thursday morning, October 14, 2021, in Millard Fillmore hospital, of complications of a lung infection.  We offer heartfelt condolences to his wife Jane and to all his family.

Dick began practicing law in 1957, and he spent most of his long career on a short list of the best litigators in Buffalo. He was Partner and Chairman of the Litigation Dept. of Moot & Sprague from 1957 to 1990.  During that period, he distinguished himself not only as a great trial counsel for the railroads (indeed, he was a President of the National Assn. of Railroad Trial Counsel), but also as a great civil rights attorney.  Dick was lead litigation counsel in the Buffalo school desegregation, Arthur v. Nyquist, which led to a 156-page decision issued by U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin on April 30, 1976, holding that the Buffalo Board of Education and the Common Council of the City of Buffalo had “violated the plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment rights by intentionally causing and maintaining a segregated school system.”  The evidence presented by Dick Griffin and his co-counsel Prof. Herman Schwartz was so overwhelming that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit, in affirming Judge Curtin’s decision, stated: “We are unable to imagine a set of facts, short of a public admission of wrongdoing, which would be more suggestive of intentional discrimination.” 573 F.2d 134 (2d Cir. 1978).

He received an award for his Defense of Equal Rights from the Committee on Civil Rights of the N.Y. State Bar Assn. (1963), the William G. Conable Award from the Citizens Council on Human Relations  (1975), and the prestigious Medger Evers Award from the NAACP (Buffalo Branch) (1976).  Additional awards, too numerous to list, included the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Excellence in Private Practice given by the University at Buffalo Law Alumni Assn. (1986) and a Certificate of Recognition from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for special service to the legal community (1989).

Dick continued as a litigator in private practice as a Partner and Member of the Trial Dept. at Phillips Lytle, LLP from 1990 to 2004. At the same time he also served as an Adjunct Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School, teaching a course in Alternative Dispute Resolution (1998-2005).  Dick joined Kavinoky Cook in 2004, first as Counsel and ultimately as Partner.  It was at Kavinoky Cook that Richard Griffin spent the next 15-16 years of his career on a short list of the best arbitrators and mediators in New York.  Dick was recognized for excellence in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) among the Best Lawyers in America, among N.Y. Super Lawyers, and by Buffalo Business First’s Who’s Who in the Law.  He chaired and gave presentations on ADR in numerous seminars for the N.Y. State Bar Assn., the Erie County Bar Assn., the Defense Trial Lawyers Assn. of W.N.Y. and the Ontario Bar Assn. in Toronto, as well as for 8th Judicial District Supreme Court Justices.  In addition, he served as a Panel Member on Mediation and Commercial Arbitration for the American Arbitration Assn. and for the U.S. Dist. Ct., WDNY Mediation Program.

Last but not least, Dick Griffin gave much to our community.  He was a Co-Founder and Past President of the Parkside Community Assn., fighting against blockbusting and working to keep Parkside a racially integrated neighborhood, a Life Member of the NAACP, a Director and Member of Transition Committee, Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society, and a Trustee of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.  Dick was an avid gardener, who worked to keep Buffalo beautiful and our society just.

Our thanks to Marilyn Hochfield for writing this piece.