Lost Password

Yale menu

Daily News

Joseph John Remcho, Jr.

Died: January 4, 2003

Joe transferred into Yale from Lafayette College and, feeling his way, presented himself as uncoordinated, unorganized and bumbling. It may have been a convenient front, but it was false. Behind that assumed exterior was a quick, sharp and agile mind. And a mind that, even at that point, loved machines, large moving machines. When underclassmen were forbidden to maintain cars on campus, Joe stashed his old clunker of a Mercury in deep New Haven as he later did a barely mobile motorcycle. Then, after law school, he was bitten by the aircraft bug, which stayed with him for the rest of his life.

On the academic side, Joe was fascinated by New York City and was there on the day of the Great Northeast Blackout. On returning to school, though it was far too late to reasonably start an honors paper, he did so and succeeded in writing about the Blackout, thereby earning an honors degree in American studies the next spring.

After Yale Joe went to Harvard Law School and then taught second grade at the Roxbury Community School in Boston for a year. The following year he served as a staff attorney for the Lawyers Military Defense Committee in Saigon, where his primary work was the defense of military personnel in courts martial. He hitchhiked flights into remote areas of Vietnam on military aircraft to represent his clients. He moved to California in 1972 to serve as staff attorney and legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and went into private practice in 1976. He was a founding partner of the firm of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, where he practiced law for more than 25 years.

Joe’s primary interest was the litigation of state and federal constitutional issues, with an emphasis on the First Amendment, election law, education, and public policy. However, he also served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of San Francisco, teaching administrative law, evidence, constitutional law and federal jurisdiction.

Joe served as a commissioner of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, on the Bipartisan Commission on the Political Reform Act, on the Speaker’s Commission on Initiative Reform, and on the Bipartisan California Commission on Internet Political Practices. In recognition of his work the California Trial Lawyers Association named him Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1988.

His extensive appellate practice included two appearances before the United States Supreme Court (Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724 (1973) and Torres v. Puerto Rico, 442 U.S. 465 (1979)) and numerous appearances before the California Supreme Court.

He represented numerous elected officials, including Governor Gray Davis, Attorney General Lockyer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Speaker of the California Assembly and, later, San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. At his memorial service, Willie Brown said of Joe, “Joe was always the smartest guy in the room and the last to let you know.”

Through it all, Joe continued to love flying. In 2002, he bought and learned to pilot a small helicopter. He died in a crash of that helicopter on January 4, 2003.

Joe is survived by his wife Ronnie Caplane, their two children, Morgan Caplane and Sam Remcho, and his sister, Lois Dean.