Harold Barefoot Sanders, Jr., died on September 21. 

Blawgletter admired Judge Sanders’s, well, judiciousness.  A lot. Also his humanity and compassion.  And we loved to hear that musical voice.

Barefoot Sanders embodied our ideal of a federal trial judge.  Here follows his NYT obituary:

Judge Harold Barefoot Sanders, who early saw the political utility of not using his first name and went on to play significant roles in matters from the Kennedy assassination to the desegregation of Dallas schools, died Sunday in Dallas. He was 83.

His death was announced by Chief Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

As a child, Judge Sanders bridled at his colorful moniker, actually the maiden name of his grandmother Dennie Barefoot. He preferred H. B., and, as such, was crowned Freckle King at the Texas State Centennial Celebration at age 11 in 1936. Only after graduating from high school did he decide Barefoot, however odd, was a name few would forget, and he made the most of it for the rest of his life, even if it meant new acquaintances seemed always to be gazing at his feet.

Barefoot Sanders went on to become a three-term state legislator, United States attorney for the Northern District, a high official in the Justice Department and the White House during the Johnson administration who helped push the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress, and a federal judge for 28 years who steered Dallas schools through the long process of desegregation.

His résumé does not convey his whole story, in part because it does not tell how close he came to achieving other things. He lost a hotly contested campaign for Congress in 1958, and another for the United States Senate in 1972. President Lyndon B. Johnson twice nominated him for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but he was knocked out the first time by a legislative technicality, and the second time when the newly elected president, Richard M. Nixon, substituted his own candidate.

Judge Sanders walked among the legends who once bestrode Texas politics, men like Johnson, Sam Rayburn, Ralph Yarborough and John B. Connally. Later, he lost elections to Republicans, as the once Democratic state moved rightward.

Mr. Sanders managed Dallas County for the Democratic ticket of Senator John F. Kennedy and Mr. Johnson in 1960. In 1963, Mr. Sanders urged President Kennedy to cancel his campaign visit to Dallas because the atmosphere was “very hostile,” The Dallas Morning News reported in 2006.

He was a few cars behind the president’s car in the fatal motorcade. After the assassination, he personally found and delivered a federal judge, Sarah T. Hughes, to swear in Johnson as president on Air Force One.

Harold Barefoot Sanders Jr. was born on Feb. 5, 1925, in a Dallas young enough for little H. B. to raise chickens in the backyard. He had plenty of freckles, but spent days in the sun to cultivate a new crop for the state-fair contest. He first used the Barefoot name to political advantage when he ran for cheerleader at the University of Texas.

He returned to the university after serving in the Navy in World War II. He was elected head cheerleader and student body president, advertising his campaigns with white stenciled drawings of feet. He graduated from the University of Texas and its law school and joined his father’s law firm in 1950.

He served three terms in the Texas House in the 1950s, then ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1958. Even though his mother made thousands of foot-shaped sugar cookies to hand out, he lost to the incumbent Republican.

After Mr. Sanders helped Kennedy win Texas, the new president appointed him federal attorney in Dallas. In 1965, Mr. Sanders joined the Justice Department in Washington, where he was in charge of all United States attorneys and marshals. He moved to the White House as legislative counsel in 1967.

He returned to private practice after Johnson’s attempt to appoint him to the Washington appeals court failed. In 1972, he challenged Senator John G. Tower, a Republican — this time throwing 200,000 of his mother’s distinctive cookies into the fray — but was buried in the Nixon landslide.

He was appointed to the federal bench in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. As a federal judge for more than a quarter-century, including being chief judge of his court from 1989 to 1995, Judge Sanders wore a gold footprint pin on his judicial robes. His cases included overseeing the Dallas school desegregation case. He made most busing voluntary, ordering the building of attractive, effective magnet schools to lure students across neighborhood boundaries.

Judge Sanders is survived by his wife, the former Jan Scurlock; a sister; a brother; 4 children; and 10 grandchildren.

The sad day of the Kennedy assassination had what was almost a bit of Keystone Kops comedy, at least in retrospect. No one could find a copy of the president’s oath of office.

“I was looking for it — I think half the federal attorneys in the country were looking for it,” Judge Sanders said in the 2006 interview with The Dallas Morning News. “We were looking in the statute books, and all the time, there it was in the Constitution, pure and simple.”

Rest in peace, Barefoot.

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Photo of Barry Barnett Barry Barnett

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck…

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck Redden).

Barnett is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and Lawdragon has named him one of the top 500 lawyers in the United States three years in a row. Best Lawyers in America has honored him as “Lawyer of the Year” for Bet-the-Company Litigation (2019 and 2017) and Patent Litigation (2020) in Houston. Based in Texas and New York, Barnett has tried complex business disputes across the United States.

Barnett’s background, training, and experience make him indispensable to his clients. The small-town son of a Texas roughneck and grandson of a Texas sharecropper, Barnett “developed an unusual common sense about people, their motivations, and their dilemmas,” according to former client Michael Lewis.

Barnett has been historically recognized for his effectiveness and judgment. His peers chose him, for example, to the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Law Institute. His decades of trial and appellate work representing both plaintiffs and defendants have made him a master strategist and nimble tactician in complex disputes.

Barnett focuses on enforcement of antitrust laws, the “Magna Carta of free enterprise,” in Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s memorable phrase. “Barry is one of the nation’s outstanding antitrust lawyers,” according to Joseph Goldberg, a member of the Private Antitrust Enforcement Hall of Fame. Named among Texas’s top ten antitrust lawyers of 2023, Business Today calls Barnett a “trailblazer” among the “distinguished legal minds” who “dedicate their skill and expertise to the maintenance of healthy competition in various sectors” of the Lone Star State’s booming economy. Barnett is also adept in energy and intellectual property matters and has battled for clients against a Who’s Who list of corporate behemoths, including Abbott Labs, Alcoa, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Broadcom, Comcast, Dow, JPMorgan Chase, Samsung, and Visa.

Barnett commands a courtroom with calm and credibility and “is the perfect lawyer for bet the company litigation,” said Scott Regan, General Counsel of former client Whiting Petroleum. His performance before the Supreme Court in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend prompted the Court to withdraw the question on which it had granted review. The judge in a trial involving mobile phone technology called Barnett “one of the best” and that his opening statement the finest he had ever seen. Another trial judge told Barnett minutes after a jury returned a favorable verdict against the county’s biggest employer that he was one of the two best trial lawyers he’d ever come across—adding that the other one was dead.

A versatile trial lawyer, Barnett knows how to handle a case all the way from strategic pre-suit planning to affirmance on appeal. He’s tried cases to verdict and then briefed and argued them when they went before appellate courts, including the Second, Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and (in the case of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend) the Supreme Court of the United States.

Barnett is a sought-after public speaker, often serving on panels and talking about topics like the trials of antitrust class actions and techniques for streamlining complex litigation. He also comments on trends in commercial litigation and the implications of major rulings for outlets such as NPR, Reuters, Law360, Corporate Counsel, and The Dallas Morning News. He’s even appeared in a Frontline program about underfunding of state pensions, authored chapters on “Fee Arrangements” and “Techniques for Expediting and Streamlining Litigation” (the latter with Steve Susman) in the ABA’s definitive treatise on Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts, 5th, and commented on How Antitrust Enforcers Might Think Like Plaintiffs’ Lawyers.

Clients and other hard graders have praised Barnett for his courtroom skills and legal acumen.

A client in a $100 million oil and gas case, which Barnett’s team won at trial and held on appeal, said Barnett and his team “presented a rare combination of strong legal intellect, common sense about right and wrong, and credibility in the courtroom.” David McCombs at Haynes and Boone said Barnett “has a natural presence that goes over well with juries and judges.”

Even former adversaries give Barnett high marks. Lead opposing counsel in a decade-long antitrust slugfest said “Barry is a highly skilled advocate. He understands what really matters in telling a narrative and does so in a very compelling manner.”

Barnett relishes opportunities to collaborate with all kinds of people. At the Center for American and International Law (CAIL), founded by a former prosecutor at Nuremberg in 1947 and headquartered in the Dallas area, he has served on the Executive Committee, co-chaired the committee that produced CAIL’s first-ever strategic plan, supported CAIL’s Institute for Law Enforcement Administration and other development efforts, and proposed formation of a new Institute for Social Justice Law. CAIL’s former President David Beck said “Barry is extremely bright” and is “very well prepared in every lawsuit or professional task he undertakes.”

Barnett is also a Trustee of the New-York Historical Society, a Sterling Fellow at Yale, a member of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Governing Board, a winner of the Class Award for his work on behalf of his college class, and a proud contributor to the Yellow Ribbon Program at Harvard Law. Barnett’s pro bono work includes leading the trial team representing people who are at greatest risk of severe illness and death as a result of being exposed to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 while being detained in the Dallas County jail—work for which he received the NGAN Legal Advocacy Fund RBG Award.

At Susman Godfrey, Barnett has served on the firm’s Executive Committee, Employment Committee, and ad hoc committees on partner compensation, succession of leadership, and revision of the firm’s partnership agreement. He also twice chaired the Practice Development Committee.

Barnett understands that clients face many pressures. Managing the stress is important, especially in matters that take years to resolve. He encourages clients to call him whenever they have a question or concern and to keep the inevitable ups and downs in perspective. He wants them to know that he will do his level best to help them achieve their goals. He also strives to foster trust and to make working with him a pleasure.

Cyrus “Skip” Marter, the General Counsel of Bonanza Creek in Denver and a former Susman Godfrey partner and client, said Barnett is “excellent about communicating with clients in a full and honest manner” and can “negotiate for his clients from a position of strength, because he is not afraid to take a case through a full trial on the merits.” Stacey Doré, the President of Hunt Utility Services and a former client, said that Barnett is “an excellent trial lawyer and the person you want to hire for your bet-the-company cases. He is client focused, responsive, and uniquely savvy about trial and settlement strategy.” A New York colleague said, “Barry is a joy to work with as co-counsel. He tackles complex procedural and factual hurdles capably, efficiently, and without drama.”

Barnett’s wide-ranging experience and calm, down-to-earth approach enable him to connect with clients, judges, jurors, witnesses, and even opposing counsel. He grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas. He co-captained his high school varsity football team as an All-East Texas middle linebacker while also serving as the Editor of Key Club’s Texas-Oklahoma District, won the Best Typist award, took the History Team to glory, and sang in the East Texas All Region Choir. As Dan Kelly of client Vistra Corp. put it, Barnett is “a great person to be around.”

Barnett is steady and loyal. He has practiced at Susman Godfrey his entire career. He and his wife Nancy live in Dallas and enjoy spending time in Houston and New York. Their daughter works for H-E-B in Houston, and their son is a Haynes and Boone transactions lawyer in Dallas.

As a member of Ivy League championship football teams in his junior and senior years at Yale and a parent of two Yalies, Barnett has no trouble choosing sides for “The Game” in November. And he knows how important fighting all the way to the end is. On his last play from scrimmage, in the waning minutes of The Game on Nov. 22, 1980, he recovered a Crimson fumble.

Yale won, 14-0.