Mark I. Harrison, one of the country’s most respected leaders in the field of legal and judicial ethics and professional liability, a guiding light in the Arizona legal community, passed away suddenly on January 11, 2021.
Mark was born on October 17, 1934 in Pittsburgh, PA. to Coleman, an attorney, professional musician and journalist, and Myrtle, an owner and operator of Camp Deer Creek, a well-known Jewish children’s summer camp. His much-admired older brother Selig was a journalist and scholar. Mark attended Antioch College where he met his wife of 62 years, Ellen Gier ’58. He then attended Harvard Law School.
The couple moved to Arizona in 1960, where Mark clerked for Arizona Supreme Court Justice Lorna E. Lockwood. From there, Mark embarked on 60 continuous years of law practice. He worked in several iterations of his own firm, including Harrison, Harper, Christian & Dichter before joining Bryan Cave, LLP in 1993. From 2004 until his passing, Mark was a partner at Osborn Maledon, P.A., where his practice focused primarily on legal ethics, lawyers’ licensure, professional liability, judicial ethics and discipline, risk management, and writing “reply all” emails on a wide variety of topics.
Mark cared deeply about the legal profession and access to justice, and believed it was his obligation not just to care but to act. His impact went beyond his own law practice, as he devoted his prodigious determination on behalf of local, state and national bar associations, as well as countless civic and charitable organizations. His dedication to the profession and the Arizona legal community never waned. He served as President of the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors in 1975 and was again elected to the Board at the age of 85, 40 years later. His advocacy for civil and social justice included service as President of the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood in Arizona and as the first Chair of the Board of Directors of Teach For America Phoenix.
Mark was forever fueled by his convictions about the importance of an independent judiciary. He chaired the ABA Commission to revise the Model Code of Judicial Conduct and Justice at Stake, a national non-profit organization dedicated to preserving fair and impartial courts. He helped countless lawyers and psychologists facing disciplinary proceedings. Seeing their humanity, he represented them with compassion and skill. He taught legal ethics as an adjunct professor at both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University Law Schools. Mark loved serving as a mentor to younger professionals, mindful that the experience, knowledge, and values he had acquired should be paid forward to the next generation.
Harrison received numerous state and national awards, including the ABA’s Michael Franck Award for Professional Responsibility, the Burnham “Hod” Greeley Award for contributions to understanding the role of the judiciary, the State Bar’s Walter E. Craig Lifetime Achievement Award, the Charles W. Kettlewell Legal Ethics Advisory Award, the Judge Learned Hand Award for Community Service, and the Planned Parenthood Peggy Goldwater Award.
Mark relaxed by playing jazz standards on his father’s baby grand Bechstein piano, delighting his wife and family. As in everything, he strived to improve, taking lessons throughout his adult life until the pandemic prevented it, but continuing his exercise regimen from home with his personal trainer of 31 years. He was deeply devoted to the care of his wife who suffers from Alzheimer’s. He was a loving task master to his family, friends and even strangers, urging and aiding them to achieve their potential. Mark was effusively proud of his beloved daughters and granddaughters.
Mark is survived by his wife Ellen, his daughters Lisa and Jill (David Johns), granddaughters Greer Hansen and Zoe Hansen, former son-in-law Adrian Hansen, step-grandchildren Benjamin Johns (Jill Casselman), Adam Johns (Allysa Johns), Alexander Johns, three step-great-grandchildren and a vast group of family, friends and colleagues whom he cherished. Mark was buried at Mt. Sinai Cemetery on January 14, 2021. A celebration of Mark’s life will be held later.
The family requests contributions be made in Mark’s name to Planned Parenthood of Arizona, c/o Annet Ruiter, 4751 N. 15th St., Phoenix, AZ 85014, or to the University of Arizona Law College Association, directed to the Mark I. Harrison Scholarship 1201 E. Speedway Blvd., P.O. Box 210176, Tucson, AZ 85721 or givetoarizonalaw.org/?fundID=1266 or to Hospice of the Valley 1510 E. Flower St., Phoenix, AZ 85014 www.hov.org.