Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Today we mourn the loss of Peter Linzer. Peter was a giant within our field, an active participant in conversations about contracts law and law reform, and a contributor to this blog, e.g. here and here.
The following was shared with the Contracts Listserv. It was written by one of Peter's students, Patricia A. Bell
Obituary of Peter S. Linzer (1939-2020)
Legal scholar and law professor Peter S. Linzer succumbed to his long and courageous battle with cancer in the waning days of 2020. His keen powers of observation, analysis, and languages informed a lifetime of scholarship, commentary, and teaching. He is survived by a wife, a son, and a grandson.
Precisely slicing and dicing complicated issues that arise from the human condition (contractual agreements and the failures thereof, the civil rights of peoples to freely think, act, and communicate in the public and private spheres without harming the vulnerable among us, and a constant reassessment of “norms”), Peter Linzer was a recognized legal giant. From his status as an informed oenophile to his curiosity almost about all things and level of knowledge about so many, Linzer was also the modern equivalent of a Renaissance Man.
An only child and precocious from his youth, Linzer grew up in a tall New York City apartment building filled with intelligentsia. His mother once told him “you are the second smartest boy in our building” and she expected him to live up to that high standard. He more than did so and loved telling the story. Linzer adopted the same blunt approach in his direct communications with colleagues, students, and the press. Many successful lawyers around the world remember the eye-opening commentary received in Linzer’s classes. In a discussion about restitution, Linzer informed one student that “I could substitute the word “banana” for every other word that you just said, and it would make as much sense.” His students honed their substantive legal knowledge, and their legal practice and writing skills in his classrooms, getting their money’s worth and more. A former student reports that “when I think about how much Peter taught me on so many topics, it takes my breath away, and I am filled with gratitude.” Comments from his colleagues on the University of Houston Law Center website demonstrate more of the fondness and regard held for Peter Linzer.
Peter Linzer enjoyed being part of lively organizations in urban centers and was a loyal member of his carefully chosen communities. He was a quintessential New Yorker, despite his subsequent decades of work in other major cities. Throughout his lifetime, he kept and wore his academic cap and gown from undergraduate and law school graduations at Cornell and Columbia. After a 1960s career in “the City” at Cahill Gordon and in corporate law and finance for the City of New York, Peter Linzer became Professor Linzer and taught thousands of students at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Detroit, and a long career at the University of Houston Law Center. He enjoyed an active membership in the American Law Institute where he was an Editorial Reviser of the Restatement Second of Contracts, as well as a consultant on five other significant ALI restatements of law. His powerful public positions on ethics, consumer protection, election law, and clear jury charges will continue to shape the practice of law throughout the United States long after his passing. Despite Linzer’s long association with New York City and Houston, Texas, he was anything but a regional lawyer.
Linzer knew and enjoyed the value of having a mentor and being a mentor. He honored those who mentored him, including the late Arthur Corbin. He never abandoned those he mentored, serving as a lifelong advisor and colleague who always made himself available to discuss new and old ideas and provide reality checks for emerging best practices. He taught young lawyers the value of dialogue and the imperative of staying up to date on law and practice. His praise was effusive, both in and out of the earshot of its subjects. Linzer supervised law students, interdisciplinary students, and recently mentored and supervised a PhD student in Constitutional studies.
During his decades of association with the University of Houston, Peter Linzer supported its radio station, KUHF, including donations, constant listening and sharing, and providing quick and incisive on-air comments on events and issues. In that yet another practical way, Linzer supported the communities that he joined.
In his personal life, Peter Linzer loved to travel and read, as well as enjoy and applaud the performing arts. He was a fan of British TV and classic novels. He was generous to a fault and adored a good joke, even at his own expense. A lifelong Democrat, Linzer actively participated in public life, viewing it as his duty and his honor. Linzer’s communication and language skills were legendary, and he worked to keep those skills up to date until the last weeks of his life. He will be sorely missed by many who now celebrate his life and mourn his loss.