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Obituary: Stanislaw Pomorski

Pomorski lived with his wife and three children in Haddonfield for 30 years.

Stanislaw Pomorski, who spent 33 years as a professor of law at the Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, passed away on Sunday, Sept. 17 at his home in Haddon Heights. He was 82.

Pomorski lived with his wife, Patricia Smith, and three children in Haddonfield for 30 years where he could often be seen on long walks through town wearing a favorite charcoal beret, visibly lost in thought.

Over the years, a not-insignificant portion of the Greater Philadelphia legal profession passed through Pomorski’s classroom where he taught criminal law, criminal procedure and white collar investigations among other courses, including several on Soviet and post-Soviet law. A soft-spoken man, with courtly manners and a pronounced Eastern European accent, Pomorski was known among students for his Socratic approach, high standards and engaging classroom performance. Even after his retirement in 2006, his pupils seemed always to be with him. He ran into them in Broadway theaters, on the canals of Venice and at Whole Foods.

Once, standing with his family amid a crowd of tourists atop the Eiffel Tower, he heard a voice — “Professor Pomorski!” — and turned to see yet another face from the past. One former student, his wife of 33 years, Patricia Smith, was beside him almost always.

He was an author and editor of several books, including “Economic Criminality in Cooperative Trade” and “American Common Law and the Principle of Nullum Crimen Sine Lege.” He wrote dozens of articles. “Conspiracy and Criminal Organizations,” published in 1990, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 2006 decision, Hamden v. Rumsfeld. From 1972 to 1973, Pomorski was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Comparative Law at Harvard, and he went on to become a trustee to the National Council for Soviet and Eastern European Research. During the 90s, he worked as a consultant to the American Bar Association’s Task Force on the International Tribunal to Adjudicate War Crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

Pomorski was born in Lwów, Poland in 1934 to Maria and Julius Pomorski, a homemaker and a small-town lawyer respectively. During World War II, Pomorski, his mother and his older sister, Krystyna were deported via cattle car by the Red Army. They spent the war in exile, largely in Ukraine and Kazakstan, often in harsh conditions and with limited nourishment. His father, a Polish military officer, passed much of the conflict in a German prisoner of war camp.

Pomorski began his professional life in 1956 as a journalist writing for the Warsaw legal newspaper “Law and Life.” Nearly six decades later, he continued to recall proudly an investigative series he once authored on Polish carceral conditions, which he called simply “my report from the prisons.” Pomorski subsequently earned a Phd in law from the University of Warsaw and spent several years as an attorney in a private practice in that city. In the early 60s, he traveled to the U.S. as a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School. Pomorski taught himself English largely through careful daily readings of The New York Times — a ritual he observed with near-religious devotion for the rest of his life. From 1966 to 1972, he worked as a research associate at the Polish Academy of the Sciences before moving permanently to the United States in 1972. He joined the Rutgers faculty in 1973 rising to the position of Distinguished Professor of Law, which is the school’s top professorial rank.

Marked by his wartime experience, Pomorski was attuned throughout his adult life to the effects on children of war and poverty. He gave to Amnesty International, the Fresh Air Fund and CARE, which helped support his family during their exile. In his decades working in Camden, he never developed an urbanite’s callousness. Ignoring chiding from family, he assisted the many panhandlers who plied his route from the train station to the law school; many greeted him warmly as “Professor.” After retiring, Pomorski served frequently in New York and London as an expert consultant in Russian and Polish law. He also penned an unpublished memoir of his early life titled “Amarcord” or “ I Rememberafter the film by Federico Fellini.

After his cancer diagnosis, in the spring of 2016, Pomorski’s family was struck by the degree to which he remained himself. His walks became shorter, but a day never passed when he did not take one. He stayed a generous, devoted — if often excessively-worried — father, friend and husband. He loved to talk to his children. Most days, he spent hours reading — essays by George Orwell that were new to him and Chekov short stories in the original Russian that he knew by heart. With a German-to-English dictionary at hand, he paged methodically through each new issue of the German weekly “Der Spiegel.”

In the last months of his life, Pomorski managed to concentrate his seemingly-boundless, lifelong curiosity — as well as a skeptical cast of mind and a tendency to dispense, in conversation, with certain elements of English grammar — into a kind of one-word phrase. Hearing some novel fact or a detail with which he was unfamiliar, Pomorski would fix his interlocutor with a friendly, quizzical look and ask, simply, “Is?”

Pomorski is survived by his wife, Patricia Smith, 67; two sons, Lukasz, 45 (Kyna Hamill) and Christopher, 31 and his daughter, Marysia, 28.

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