South Carolina suffered a tremendous loss last week with the passing of Ron Motley, an attorney who dedicated his entire career to promoting and protecting public health. Motley was a Past President of the South Carolina Association for Justice (SCAJ) and a leading figure in the profession for over four decades.
“The significance of his loss to the entire legal community cannot be overstated. Ron’s style was unique and determined, making him a strong force in the courtroom. He helped thousands of individuals during his career as both a lawyer and an activist. Visionary and pioneer are the best words to describe Ron. His passing marks the end of an era,” said Rod Jernigan, President of SCAJ.
From humble beginnings in North Charleston, Motley first made his mark by boldly fighting for the folks who would frequent his father’s Amoco station: the blue-collar workers of Charleston’s shipyard and pulp-and-paper plants. Working on behalf of multiple Attorneys General, Motley pursued pioneering litigation to seek justice for shipyard workers who were unaware that cigarette smoke and asbestos were a lethal combination.
After his landmark victories against the tobacco industry, Motley steadily grew to become an internationally recognized U.S. trial lawyer — one known as much for his zeal and creativity as his legal skill in the courtroom. Over the years, Motley not only helped establish a complex civil litigation firm, but he has also tackled cases and invested heavily in litigation against daunting opponents, including the alleged funders of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
He was known for his fearless leadership, intolerance for defeat, and commitment to safeguarding the rights of those harmed. In the 1999 film “The Insider” he was depicted as a heroic litigator taking down arrogant corporations.
Motley was the 2013 recipient of the SCAJ Founder’s award, an award that is not given every year, and rigorous criteria must be met. His firm, Motley Rice, is one of the nation’s largest and most respected. His full biography can be found at: http://www.motleyrice.com/attorneys/view/ronald-l-motley.