Reuben B. Robertson III, 60, a lawyer who directed studies of federal regulatory agencies at Ralph Nader's Center for the Study of Responsive Law and who was chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States in the last year of the Carter administration, died of colon cancer Jan. 4 at his Washington home.
The Administrative Conference, which was launched in 1968, promoted conflict resolution among warring federal officials and searched for ways to help agencies function more fairly and efficiently. Mr. Robertson was a senior fellow with the office until Congress abolished it in 1995.
As an attorney with the Public Citizen Litigation Group in the 1970s, Mr. Robertson was founder and legal director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project, a group that became a major force in airline safety and consumer protection matters, including the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.
During that period, Mr. Robertson represented Ralph Nader in a lawsuit against Allegheny Airlines, after Nader was bumped from a routinely overbooked flight to Hartford, Conn. As a result of the case, the airline industry changed its practices on overbooked flights, offering passengers willing to take later flights free or discounted tickets.
Mr. Robertson was a native of Cincinnati and a graduate of Yale University and its law school. He did additional graduate work at the London School of Economics.
He worked at Covington & Burling after moving to the Washington area in 1966 and then joined the office of the chief counsel of the Federal Highway Administration. He later worked for the Interstate Commerce Commission and was director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Civil Aeronautics Board.
Over the last two decades Mr. Robertson was a partner in two District law firms, Ingersoll and Bloch and Hydeman, Mason, Burzio and Lloyd. More recently, he was in sole practice, representing clients who included financial institutions. He was of counsel to Mehri, Malkin and Ross.
He was a member of the Administrative Law Section of the American Bar Association and committees of the D.C. Bar.
He was also a fund-raiser for Yale and a governor of the Beauvoir School in Washington. He was a director of an ecological organization, Cacapon Institute in High View, W.Va., and a member of the Clan Donnachaidh Society of Scotland and had completed a history of the Robertson family.
Survivors include his wife of 31 years, Victoria Robertson of Washington; four daughters, Laura Robertson of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., Hope Robertson of New York and Margaret Robertson and Cynthia Robertson, both of Washington; three brothers; two sisters; two stepsisters; and a stepbrother.