Philip Alan Robbins
August 2, 1932 – March 20, 2018
Philip Alan Robbins passed away peacefully at home in Phoenix, Arizona on the evening of March 20, 2018, after a short illness. He was born on August 2, 1932, to Catharine Elizabeth (Veach) Robbins and Harold Robbins in Greencastle, Indiana. On Phil’s 5th birthday, he traveled with an aunt by train from Indiana to Arizona to join his mother, father and younger sister, Marian, after the family relocated for his father’s health. He grew up in Tucson; the “Old Pueblo” and the Arizona Wildcats have always held a special place in Phil’s heart. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1955, and completed his JD in 1956 at the University of Arizona College of Law. After clerking for a U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles, Phil’s first job as a trial lawyer was in San Diego, California, as an Assistant District Attorney, where he remembered prosecuting the only horse-stealing case in San Diego in a century. Phil moved home to Arizona with his wife and young family in 1958, after he accepted a position at the firm of Moore and Romley. In 1973, he founded, with several colleagues, the firm of Robbins, Green, O’Grady and Abbuhl, which flourished as a well-respected legal presence in Arizona over the next 33 years. Phil then spent three years as Special Counsel to Jennings, Strouss and Salmon, and served as Special Counsel to Sandweg and Ager, P.C., from 2008 until his retirement in 2017. Recently, his practice included domestic and international arbitration and mediation, although for the majority of his career he was a trial lawyer, litigating commercial disputes, antitrust cases, and torts. He was a mentor to many young professionals, demonstrating legal skills, and communicating the importance of professional respect, civility and perseverance.
Over the decades, Phil held membership and leadership roles in many law-related, business and cross-border organizations, including: Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers; and Diplomate in the American Board of Trial Advocates, where he also received the Professionalism Award. He was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association Hall of Fame in 2010; was the Past Chair of the State Bar of Arizona International Law Section; and was Past President of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association. He enjoyed a long-time affiliation with the American Inns of Court. His international affiliations included serving as Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade; Past Chair of the U.S.-Mexico Bar Association; Past President of the Arizona-Mexico Commission; Past President of the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission; and Past President of the Border Health Foundation. He was a member of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations and the NAFTA Advisory Committee on the Use of Mediation and Arbitration in Private Commercial Disputes. He was a member of the Arizona Supreme Court's Arizona-Sonora Judicial Cooperation Project, and an observer delegate with the UNCITRAL Working Group on Model Arbitration Law. One of his most treasured experiences was serving as an election observer with former President Jimmy Carter in Indonesia and Honduras. He was a faithful member and Past President of the Arizona Business Alliance for over 30 years. He was a delegate to a White House Conference on Small Business, a former Board Member of the Phoenix Opportunities Industrialization Center, was a member of the University College of Law Board of Visitors. Up until his death, he was a member of the Executive Board of Vote Smart-Facts Matter.
Phil had a passion for travel, once stating his interest in travel was piqued by Richard Haliburton’s Book of Marvels, a childhood gift from his parents. He traveled all over the world, and once noted: “If you go as a traveler and not a tourist, there are really no disappointing places, even the ugly ones with bad food and lousy weather.” He loved the outdoors, and hiking was a delight to him, from Arizona to the Andes in Peru and beyond. Phil loved the study of language, especially Spanish. He discovered a Latin cultural oasis in Phoenix at Interlingua, where he participated in the center activities and Spanish classes until he became ill in February.
Phil was a life-long lover of opera and theatre. He admired all great and honest art. He was looking forward to further developing his skills as a painter; his art studio at home was nearly complete. He had a keen interest in politics, and understood well the importance of good governance in a free society. His intellect, humor, insights, wisdom, patience and steadfastness will be greatly missed by many. Phil was predeceased by his parents, and by his daughter Melanie Robbins. He is survived by his loving and beloved wife, Carolyn; his daughters Jennifer Robbins, Phylis Robbins, Susan Robbins (Tammy Perkins), Melanie Davis, and Lauri Jordan (Laura Somerville); by his sister, Marian Kohl; by his first wife, Mary Stewart Robbins; by his nephew Brad Kohl and niece Barbara Kohl and their father John Kohl; and many other relatives, dear friends and colleagues.
A Celebration of Life service will take place Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 2:00pm at Orangewood Presbyterian Church, 7321 N. 10th St. Phoenix, AZ 85020. Please visit www.almoore-grimshaw.com to leave condolence messages for the family. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the "Vote Smart-Facts Matter" organization (www.votesmart.org) or a charity of your choice.
- "Vote Smart-Facts Matter"
Celebration of Life
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Philip Alan Robbins
April 16, 2018
To Phil's family & friends
I have counted Phil as a friend and colleague for 20 years through our association with NAFTA 2022 committee and the National Law Center. Phil was modern lawyer with the sensibilities of a true internationalist. He worked to use the law for the betterment of people, as I knew him, through international economic development. Phil was a gentleman and a real inspiration to all of us.
Louis De Leon
April 14, 2018
I am so sorry for your loss.
Philip was kind, humble, and an inspiration to many lawyers. My father Armando de Leon (deceased) enjoyed their friendship and professional relationship on the Arizona Mexico Commission. He was an inspiration and role model to me while I was a new lawyer and JAG officer in the US Air Force.
Thank you for his service and dedication to the people of Arizona.
Louis De Leon
April 9, 2018
Phil Robbins was, and will forever remain in our hearts and minds as someone who Spanish speaking people know as “un hombre de bien,” (An honest, decent hard working, man of family and community, always concerned with the welfare of others). And, as if this were little, Phil was a superb lawyers’ lawyer. These attributes explain why he was NatLaw’s sole chairman of its board of directors since the board was created in 1994. His devotion to our institution knew no bounds; during our first years of operation, his Phoenix law office was our second home, where our visits to the governor’s office, the legislature, the Supreme Court and all of Arizona’s administrative agencies invariably had their start. Phil was our tireless advocate for state and federal congressional appropriations and he organized our appearances before our annual state legislative and bar committees. One of his favorite NatLaw projects was the training of Mexican judges and practitioners in the “art and science” of “oral” or “adversarial” trials, which trained more than 1000 judges and lawyers, inter alia, on the skills of oral arguments and examination and cross examination of witnesses.
Many years ago, while he was still a very active legal practitioner, I asked him whether he had anticipated the degree of his involvement with NatLaw’s activities. I will paraphrase his reply as closely as I can: “You once told me that you had learned from your mentor at the University of Michigan that by comparing the commercial laws of countries in the right manner, the world had an ideal device with which to resolve the practical problems of justice. As soon as I saw the impact that NatLaw’s work was having on the lives of poor people around the world, I knew that this work was part of my life’s mission.” Dear Phil: Well said and well done!
April 8, 2018
I knew Phil casually for about 40 years and always enjoyed seeing him. He was active in the community on various issues and, in politics, I was usually on the other side but he was always gracious. I also used to see him regularly in the early morning either jogging or, in later years (for both of us), walking. He always had a friendly greeting. I passed by his home hundreds of time on these jogs/walks and I will miss seeing him.
April 4, 2018
Phil was a careful, thorough lawyer who made the adversarial process less adversarial. He was a kind gentleman, always civil, always a man of his word. A few years older than me, he was an example of how to be the right kind of human-- who happens to be a lawyer. Good man, proud to have known him. RIP, Phil.
April 3, 2018
We are very sorry for your loss. Please accept our condolences. It was an honor to have known such a great person and we will truly miss him. May God embrace you in comfort during this difficult time.
Rodrigo Novoa and Family
All the Universidad Mayor (Chile) Family
April 2, 2018
Carolyn, please accept my condolences on you deep loss. We were neighbors for 40 years and it was wonderful to get to share so many years of neighbor friendship. You and your family will be in my thoughts. May you find comfort in the many memories you have. I was blessed to know you "over the wall" for so many years.
March 30, 2018
I am so sorry for your loss.
You always spoke about him with the utmost respect and love.
March 29, 2018
Phil was, to paraphrase Sonoran attorney (and Robbins protégé) Juan Francisco Moreno, Arizona's first "international lawyer." I believe (although I was only 7 years old at the time) that Phil was involved in the 1959 founding of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, a body he worked with for decades thereafter, serving as its President for a time.
I met Phil many years ago, on opposite sides of a case I scarcely remember. Years passed and, in 1999, Phil and I went to Chile together. Invited by Professor James Cooper, of San Diego's California Western School of Law, we represented the school’s Proyecto ACCESO – ‘Abogados Creativos Colaborando para Encontrar Soluciones Óptimas.’ We gave a few speeches about arbitration and mediation, attended several meetings, met a lot of people, traveled to several cities and began to get to know each other.
The Chile trip started an association that included ACCESO trips to Costa Rica to train lawyers and judges, to Mexico to see clients, working together on the Board of Directors of the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade (which Phil chaired for many years) and co-counseling on a few hefty, cross-border litigation matters. I watched as Phil worked hard to revive and grow the U.S.-Mexico Bar Association, serving as its U.S. Chair for a couple of years. A longtime member of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, Phil’s profile as a truly international, Arizona lawyer is unmatched.
Deeply respected as an advocate, Phil was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association Hall of Fame in 2010. From circulating at high levels in the international legal community, to acting as an overseas election monitor, to serving on the NAFTA 2022 Committee, to attending U of A basketball games (Phil remained a lifelong Wildcat fan despite spending his legal career too close to Tempe Normal), Phil always exhibited precisely what all of us saw: quiet, humble wisdom, leadership, good humor, common sense and insight.
March 28, 2018
Phil was an alumnus extraordinaire at the University of Arizona College of Law. He was on the Executive Committee of the McCormick Society --once saving the day by retrieving Senator Mitchell at Phoenix Airport and getting him here just 15 minutes before the annual lecture. He was on the Board of the National Law Center for many years. He was a staunch supporter of our international law program and its offerings. He was a widely respected lawyer and mentor. He loved the Wildcats, and came often to Tucson to root for the UA. He was a true friend of the University and the College.
Phil looked for the good in the world, and he helped make it happen. He was curious, warm, smart, thoughtful, kind, and interested in others.
All of us here send heartfelt sympathy to Carolyn and the family. We too thank you all for the time Phil gave to so many worthy causes. May you now find comfort in each other, and in the many friends and colleagues whose great respect and affection Phil earned.
Friends at the University of Arizona College of Law and the J. Byron McCormick Society
March 28, 2018
Phil was a long-time member of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations (PCFR). During his long tenure, he was considered a "Founder" and held much of the institutional knowledge of the organization. He filled many volunteer roles including serving on the Board of Directors and was an integral part of the Program Committee, using his insight and connections to help us bring great speakers. This photo was of him receiving a visionary award at our 40th anniversary. He truly was a visionary and one of the great champions of international and he will be sorely missed by the PCFR and by its many members. Carolyn, thank you for sharing him with us for so many years. Your friends at the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, and Conni Ingallina, Executive Director.
March 26, 2018
I am writing this with a very heavy and sad heart. I have known Phil for almost 40 years. Phil was a friend, co-worker, and boss. It was a pleasure working with him at Sandweg & Ager. Phil's sense of humor was priceless. He would tell me about his travels with Carolyn. We would discuss the state of the world and politics and agree to disagree, but were always respectful of the views of each other. I will miss him sitting in his office across from me and hearing his voice when he would call to check on his mail and just to see how everything was going at the office. My thoughts and prayers will always be with him, Carolyn and each of their families.
March 25, 2018
Phil Robbins was my first mentor in the practice of law in 1983. Over the 7 years we worked together in Phoenix I came to have a profound respect and appreciation for him. He was an excellent attorney but more than that, he was a good person. He wanted to do and did the right thing. My family and I left to the DFW Metroplex in 1990 and Phil and I did not cross paths for some time. However, through the US-Mexico Bar Association he and I had the opportunity to work together again. I was honored to have been with Phil and his sweetheart, Carolyn, in San Antonio last month and to be able to renew our friendship. Phil was the US Chair of the USMBA and led the organization extremely well. He will be missed by all. I am grateful to have known and worked with him. I pray the Lord’s tender mercies to be with Carolyn and Phil’s family.