Henry Zapruder; Advised Program Providing Legal Aid to Indigents

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 27, 2006

Henry G. Zapruder, 67, a prominent Washington tax lawyer who was a key adviser for a program that resulted in more than $1 billion for legal fees for impoverished clients, died of brain cancer Jan. 24 at his home in Chevy Chase.

Mr. Zapruder, a partner in the Baker & Hostetler law firm, was repeatedly named by his peers to the "Best Lawyers in America" publication, most recently in September. He was known as "a man with a golden tongue," colleague Roger Pies said, for his ability to synthesize and communicate tax policies and legal issues. But he was most proud of his part in establishing what is now the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA).

IOLTA programs, first started in Australia and Canada, use money, temporarily held by a lawyer, for indigents' legal services. Client funds, such as real estate down payments, that are too small in amount or held for too short a time to earn interest for the client, are placed in a pooled interest-bearing trust account.

The interest on that account provides legal help to the poor. In 2003, state IOLTA programs generated more than $133.8 million nationwide. Between 1991 and 2003, IOLTA generated more than $1.5 billion nationwide.

Arthur J. England Jr., the former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court who is usually credited with launching IOLTA in the United States, called Mr. Zapruder "indispensable" to the effort. Mr. Zapruder obtained a letter from the Internal Revenue Service that allowed the establishment of the program in Florida.

"We then went on the road, proselytizing it state by state," starting in 1981, England said.

As other states started similar programs, they sought Mr. Zapruder's tax advice. When a foundation was set up to provide guidance and when the American Bar Association took over the foundation, Mr. Zapruder was the tax counsel.

"He, as much as anybody, was Mr. IOLTA," England said. "And he did it all for free."

He tried 19 or 20 cases before juries early in his career, his colleague Pies said, and lost only one. As a lawyer, he had the ability, uncommon in modern times, to keep clients for 25 or 30 years. "Clients fell in love with him and just wouldn't let go," Pies said.

Mr. Zapruder was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in Dallas. His late father, Abraham Zapruder, a dressmaker, made the famous film of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Since the family owned the film, it controlled its use, which Mr. Zapruder found to be a burden, Pies said. The family stored the film at the National Archives and allowed scholars to use copies of the film for free and educators to use it for a nominal cost, but managing the use was costly. In 1999, after years of lawsuits and negotiation, the federal government bought the film for $16 million.

The younger Mr. Zapruder graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1959 and received a degree from Harvard University's law school in 1962. He attended Oxford University for a year. He worked as a trial lawyer with the Justice Department's tax division and as a lawyer-adviser with the Treasury Department's Legislative Counsel.

He worked for several law firms in private practice before forming Zapruder & Odell, a tax specialty law firm in Washington, suburban Philadelphia and London, in 1989. He joined Baker & Hostetler in 1998, as a senior partner.

Mr. Zapruder was among those who received the IOLTA Litigation Team Award from the American Bar Association in 2003.

He enjoyed sailing, cooking, playing the guitar and home movies. He loved science, physics, watercolor painting and traveling and was "curious about the world and people," his daughter said.

Survivors include his wife of 42 years, Marjorie Zapruder of Chevy Chase; three children, Matthew Zapruder of New York City, Michael Zapruder of Oakland, Calif., and Alexandra Zapruder of Washington; a sister; and a granddaughter.

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