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Legal Oral History Project

Arlin Adams



Arlin Adams, a 1947 graduate of Penn Law is a native Philadelphian. Born in 1921, and raised during the Great Depression, Mr. Adams earned an undergraduate degree from Temple University in three and one-half years while working full-time. He continued to work full-time for the first half of his tenure at the Penn Law School, although he was the recipient of a full tuition scholarship. In 1942, in response to the events at Pearl Harbor, Mr. Adams took a leave of absence from the law school, enlisted in the United States Navy and saw action in the North Pacific as a Logistics Officer. Prior to his discharge from the Navy, while stationed in Philadelphia, Mr. Adams attended evening classes at Penn and Temple earning a Master’s Degree in Economics awarded by both Universities.

Upon returning to Penn Law, Mr. Adams was elected Editor-in-Chief of the Penn Law Review. After graduation, he became Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Horace Stern. Immediately following his clerkship, Mr. Adams was offered a teaching position at Penn Law as well as an Associate position at the law firm now known as Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, developing a relationship with that firm that continues today.

Mr. Adams has a long history of public service. In 1963, he was appointed Secretary of Public Welfare for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In 1968, President Richard Nixon appointed Mr. Adams to serve as a Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Mr. Adams maintained his position on the Third Circuit for seventeen years. In 1990, he was named Independent Counsel for the investigation of HUD, a position that he held through 1995. He served as Trustee in the bankruptcy of the New Era Foundation, the largest bankruptcy of a non-profit organization to date. He served on the American Bar Association’s Joint Committee to draft regulations for arbitration in the health field and maintains a membership in the American Arbitration Association. Mr. Adams currently serves as President of the American Philosophical Society and is a member of Pennsylvanian’s for Modern Courts an organization dedicated to the improvement of Pennsylvania’s courts.

Since his graduation, Mr. Adams has maintained an active association with Penn Law. In addition to numerous teaching engagements, Mr. Adams served as President of the Board of Overseers and was selected as the Owen Roberts lecturer in 1987.

Mr. Adams’ dedication to public service has been widely recognized. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including honorary degrees from Penn and Villanova. In 1997, he received the Philadelphia Award for service to the community and in 1999 he received the Bar Association’s Gold Medal Award.

Mr. Adams, currently employed by Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis continues to devote 25-30% of his time to public interest issues.