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Honoring the Legacy of a Judicial Giant and Nationally Recognized Advocate for Justice, Ethics and Professionalism – a Deep Loss to the St. Thomas University Community

By February 2, 2021Law School, STU News

St. Thomas University College of Law mourns the loss of the Honorable Peter T. Fay who passed away on Sunday, January 31, 2021 at the age of 92. He will be remembered as a pillar in the legal community and a selfless leader who gave of his time to inspire those around him, including training many young lawyers.

Judge Fay was a devout Catholic who lived out his faith and leaves an impeccable legacy, including his role in the initial formation and support of St. Thomas University College of Law. Judge Fay helped establish STU Law in 1984 and continued to serve on its prestigious Board of Advisors. Judge Fay was formally honored at the December 2020 College of Law Commencement Ceremony for his leadership and dedication to the St. Thomas Law community and given an Honorary Doctor of Laws from STU. The College of Law has named its Moot Court Room in honor of Judge Fay, and the space will be formally dedicated during the May 2021 graduation ceremony.

Born in Rochester, New York, on January 18, 1929, Judge Fay received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Rollins College in 1951 and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Florida College of Law in 1956. From 1956 to 1970, Judge Fay was in private practice in Miami, Florida, where he worked as an Associate at Patton and Kanner in 1956, as a Partner at Nichols, Gaither, Green, Frates and Beckham from 1956- 1961, and as a named founding Partner at Frates, Fay, Floyd and Pearson from 1961-1970. Judge Fay was nominated by President Richard Nixon to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida and was confirmed by the United States Senate in 1970. President Gerald Ford nominated Judge Fay to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and he was confirmed by the United States Senate in 1976. Judge Fay was reassigned to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 1981 and assumed senior status in 1994.

Judge Fay was a Master of the Bench in the Peter T. Fay American Inn of Court that is affiliated with St. Thomas University College of Law. For many years, Judge Fay attended the meetings and generously shared his wisdom and experiences with the students. Judge Fay was also an honorary member of the Vassar B. Carlton American Inn of Court in Melbourne, Florida. Among his many honors, Judge Fay was rated the best-qualified judge in a Dade County Bar poll in 1987. He was named Outstanding Federal Appellate Judge by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and received the Sixth Annual William Hoeveler Award for Ethics, Leadership, and Public Service from the University of Miami School of Law. The Peter T. Fay Jurist-in-Residence Program at the University of Florida College of Law works to bridge the gap between law school and law practice. In 2018, Judge Fay received the prestigious American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Eleventh Circuit.

Judge Fay was appointed to various committees and was a member of several professional organizations throughout his illustrious career, including: 

  • Judicial Conference Committee to Implement the Criminal Justice Act, 1975-1981 
  • Ad Hoc Committee on Cameras in the Courtroom, 1983-1984 
  • Advisory Committee on the Codes of Conduct, 1979-1987 
  • Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules, 1987-1989 
  • Eleventh Circuit Standing Education Committee 
  • Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute, Faculty Member, Department of Justice 
  • National Judicial Council of State and Federal Courts, Co-Chairman 
  • Executive Committee of the Eleventh Circuit Judicial Council 
  • American Bar Association 
  • Florida Bar Association 
  • Dade County Bar Association 
  • Special Panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Independent Counsel, Member

Joni Coffey, STU College of Law Board of Advisors member and former Clerk to Judge Fay states, “We are heartbroken to hear of Judge Fay’s loss, and we convey our deepest condolences to his beloved Pat and to his entire family. His extraordinary impact went far beyond even his outstanding judicial career, as he mentored and inspired generations of lawyers by his unmatched example of integrity, respect for the profession and others, and a faith that motivated his entire life. He made an incalculable difference in my life and in the lives of countless others.”

Alumnus Bryan Sinclair (’93), who was the second STU Law graduate to clerk for Judge Fay, adds “Judge Fay was the greatest mentor I have ever worked with in my career. He was not only a great and thoughtful lawyer and judge, but launched and fostered the legal careers of many, many of us who had the privilege of working for him.”

The entire STU community extends its deepest condolences to his beloved wife Pat, his two sons, Michael (currently serving on the University’s Board of Trustees) and spouse Paula, William “Billy” (currently serving on the University’s Athletic Board of Advisors), and daughter Darcy Williams and spouse Kelly, seven grandchildren, a great-grandchild, and to all his friends and colleagues

Yamile Rodriguez

Author Yamile Rodriguez

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