Remembering Antitrust Attorney Kurt Shaffert

By District of Columbia Bar

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Reflection submitted by Attorney Don Resnikoff

My old friend and lawyer colleague Kurt Shaffert passed away on July 31. He was a trial attorney with the USDOJ Antitrust Division, not a Section Chief.  But he deserves to be remembered as a very significant professional with the agency, and a credit to the Bar -- a model of the decent and diligent lawyer that keeps a government agency afloat. Kurt was deeply proud to be in the service of the U.S. government, and was in turn deeply respected by his colleagues.

Hays Gorey recalls: “I had the pleasure of working with Kurt on a patent-antitrust case that we tried before Judge Aubrey Robinson in the US District Court in DC. We won the case, but that is not what made the experience worthwhile. What made it worthwhile was being able to learn at the knee of the master.

Kurt was a truly gifted lawyer, enormously confident and calm in the face of adversity, prodigious in his output, when necessary, and well organized, down to the decimal point. And, what made the experience of working with him even more worthwhile was getting to know him as a person. He was solid at the core, kind and engaging -- a real mensch. Godspeed.”

Gail Kursh, who was Chief of a Section in which Kurt worked for many years, said “I worked closely with Kurt at the Antitrust Division for many years and knew him as a man of great integrity and compassion.”

Chuck Schwidde said: “We were active together in the Antitrust Professional group of the Antitrust Division. Kurt was an excellent president of that group. He will be missed, but we are all better off for having known him and been the recipients of his wise counsel."

Kurt's family asked for memorial support for a group that helps refugees, which brings that aspect of Kurt's history to mind. He would recall, a little reluctantly, how at 10 years old he became a refugee from Nazi Austria. He and his family struggled to make a new life in the US. He was very grateful and proud to be an American, and felt that working as a lawyer for the USDOJ was a great honor.

As a friend I knew of Kurt’s diverse interests, including a devotion to attending the Washington Opera dressed in a tuxedo. His devotion to his family and friends was great.

I worked with Kurt as he generously organized a USDOJ sponsored series of memorial lectures for Lew Bernstein, a revered Section Chief at the Antitrust Division who was a friend and mentor to Kurt. Kurt knew that Lew’s widow wanted the lectures as a gesture of respect for Lew’s work.

My role was to facilitate D.C. Bar Section financing for the pre-lecture reception, which for the initial year of the event was limited. That first year Kurt and I saved money by catering the reception ourselves, without professional help. Kurt was not entirely comfortable with his role presiding over the reception, but he was his usual gracious, stately, and unflappable self.  

Brilliant and accomplished, Kurt Shaffert was simply doing whatever was needed to make a success of the event to honor his old friend. He succeeded in bringing a positive experience to Lew Bernstein’s widow, who was in the audience.

Kurt Shaffert followed in the public service tradition of his friend and mentor Lew Bernstein, and deserves to be revered in the same way.