The Honorable Benjamin R. Civiletti '61

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Maryland Carey Law mourns the passing of the Honorable Benjamin Civiletti ’61, who died in October 2022. 

Civiletti was U.S. attorney general from 1979 to 1981. In that role, he argued before the Supreme Court for the right of the government to denaturalize Nazi war criminals and before the International Court of Justice on behalf of the American captives in Iran during the Iran hostage crisis. He also investigated presidential brother Billy Carter in his dealings with Libya. Perhaps his most enduring contribution to the profession, however, was his issuance of public attorney general guidelines with policies and procedures that guide government investigations and prosecutions to this day.

After leaving the Justice Department in 1982, Civiletti returned to Baltimore to rejoin the firm currently known as Venable LLC, where he had been a partner prior to his service in Washington. Civiletti focused his practice on commercial litigation, banking, white-collar crime, government regulation, and corporate governance. Moreover, he developed a practice in alternative dispute resolution, working as a mediator, facilitator, master, and arbitrator in many commercial and tort disputes. When Civiletti retired from Venable LLC in 2014, he was a senior partner and chairman emeritus. 

A leader in the Maryland legal community, Civiletti served on several local and state-wide task forces and investigations, including the Governor’s plan for Welfare Reform in Maryland and, following the death of University of Maryland, College Park, basketball star Len Bias, the Governor’s Task Force to Investigate Student Drug Use in higher education in Maryland. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley ’88 appointed Civiletti as chair of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment in 2008. In November of that year, the commission recommended abolition of the death penalty to the Maryland General Assembly.

His community work also included serving as a member of multiple bar associations, chair of the Section of Litigation of the American Bar Association, and a fellow of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation.

Upon his retirement, Maryland Carey Law established the Benjamin R. Civiletti Scholarship Fund through the generosity of Venable LLP, along with family, friends, and colleagues of Civiletti. The purpose of the fund is to provide endowed scholarship support for students who have a record of high academic achievement, demonstrated financial need, characteristics of leadership, and a commitment to public service.

Born in 1935 in Peekskill, New York, Civiletti earned a degree in psychology from Johns Hopkins University in 1957 and graduated Order of the Coif from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1961. The law school honored him with the Distinguished Graduate Award in 1980. Civiletti’s papers are held as a special collection at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library.