Larry Barcella wanted a party, and his closest friends made sure that request was fulfilled last night.
Hundreds of friends, former colleagues and admirers attended a memorial ceremony Monday evening in Washington’s federal district trial court, where Barcella, the outgoing, storytelling litigator made a name as a terrorism prosecutor in the 1970s and 1980s and then later as a white-collar defense lawyer.
Barcella, a former litigation partner in Washington at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, was in private practice from 1986 until his death earlier this month from cancer. The Washington native was 65.
Yesterday evening, Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia presided, at Barcella's request, over his memorial ceremony, which was held in the ceremonial courtroom of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in downtown. Washington’s legal elite crowded the room.
Speakers included one of Barcella’s longtime friends, Martin Gale, who said he feared there are no cute, clean stories from their days at Dartmouth College. Gale noted Barcella’s attention to detail—using his ability to memorize a Budweiser bottle label to highlight the point.
Paul Hastings chairman Seth Zachary praised Barcella’s sense of humor. And his legal mind. “His legal excellence was widely respected, relied upon and treasured,” said Zachary, a partner in the firm’s tax practice in New York.
Zachary said Paul Hastings is planning to partner with the American Bar Association to establish a fund in Barcella’s name to foster collegiality among prosecutors and defense lawyers. Barcella believed vitriol between prosecutors and defense lawyers was unnecessary and counterproductive, Zachary said.
DLA Piper partner Earl Silbert, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, spoke of the “twinkle” in Barcella’s eyes, how he lived life not as an observer but as a participant. Silbert was one of a group of lawyers who regularly attended a winter ski trip with Barcella.
Silbert described Barcella as a “one-man anti-terrorist force.” Barcella was a prosecutor in proceedings that arose from the assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier, the alleged illegal sales of explosives to Libya by former CIA agent Edwin Wilson and the 1983 bombings of the American embassies in Beirut and Kuwait. The pursuit of Wilson was the subject of Peter Maas’ 1986 book, “Manhunt.”
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. called Barcella’s death a great loss, praising him as an “example of integrity and achievement.”
After nearly an hour yesterday, Friedman adjourned court in the honor of E. Lawrence Barcella Jr. Then, it was time to party. The reception was held at the Old Ebbitt Grill.